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The world of pleats - explained!

Put simply, pleating is a way of folding fabric to create fullness, ease or texture in a garment and your choice and placement of pleat can have a dramatic impact on the shape and style of your handmade garments (no pressure!). There are probably a billion kajillion different ways to pleat your fabric but here is an introduction to a few of the basics to get you started…


Knife pleat

Knife pleats are probably the most commonly used in the entire pleat kingdom. They consist of two folds of equal width – an outside fold, which you can see, and an inside fold hidden behind – all of which face in the same direction and are sharply pressed.  You’ll find knife pleats on an array of skirts and kilts, and on the wrap skirt of our Kim Dress.


Accordion pleat

Accordion pleats are mini knife pleats and they are usually no more than ½” wide. If you want to get even teenier, there are Crystal pleats that sit around 1/8” wide. These fiddly kinds of pleats are often made by professional pleaters and heat-treated to keep their shape.


Sunray pleat

Sunray pleats are fine like accordion pleats, however, though they are narrow at the top of the pleat they widen towards the bottom – these guys are also usually a professional heat-treated job.


Box pleat

Box pleats are made up of two (usually wide) knife pleats facing away from each other. The inside folds of this kind of pleat don’t necessarily always meet and they are often used as stand alone pleats, as in the skirt of our Flora Dress.


Inverted box pleat

Inverted box pleats are a standard box pleat but in reverse! Two knife pleats, facing towards each other are brought to a centre point to create fullness behind, as can be seen in the skirt of our Elisalex Dress:

Inverted box pleats are sometimes used on sleeve heads to create a full sleeve. They are also be seen on the bodice of our Anna dress, however in this case, the start of the pleat has been stitched to create a fitted waist that then opens up to allow fullness at the bust.



Although you may not have suspected as such, a godet can be classed as a type of pleat, however panels are inserted instead of the fabric being folded. A godet is a (usually triangular) panel inserted into a seam to create extra fullness, with the most fullness at the hem. These panels are most commonly found on skirts, much like that of our Sophia Dress.


So, there are just a handful of the techniques and styles out there to get you playing pleat scientist. Why not experiment with different widths and fabric combinations or stick a waistband and an invisible zip on your experiments for some easy-peasy pleated skirts to bulk up your wardrobe!

Comments on this post (6)

  • Feb 08, 2021

    My mother had in the late 50’s early 60’s a fabulous fine pleated skirt in a metallic chartreuse gold colour. The hem had points that were pleats in a chevron pattern ( with cutouts like in a Christmas foil star decoration) try as I might I cannot describe it sufficiently to get a search online – amazingly she managed to find the exact colour in a fitted v neck top that truly made this spectacular skirt into the next level dress. Sadly we had a fire in 1970 and it was lost for ever – but it remains in my 10 year old brain for ever – I still have her red velvet coat bought in 1956 though! Wendy

    — Wendy Rosamond

  • Feb 05, 2019

    Very helpful, thank you. Who new there could be so many types of pleating!

    — Eliza

  • May 14, 2018

    Thanku so much for explain….that is very good.. I’m 100% satisfied

    — Nisha sen

  • Aug 19, 2016

    Hi Carol, to line a pleated skirt all you really need to do is cut your lining in the same way as your main fabric, baste it to the main skirt and pleat the two layers of fabric together before attaching the waistband. I hope this helps! ~Elisalex

    — Elisalex - By Hand London

  • Aug 07, 2016

    I was hoping to discover how to line a skirt with inverted box pleats. Any ideas??

    — Carol Whitehead

  • Nov 15, 2015

    Oh, thank you for haring this in one very informativ post!

    — Nina

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