Types of PLEATS seen on clothes

There are many different types of pleats but the types given below are the most popular and the most commonly used pleats.

pleats in sewing

What are PLEATS ?

Pleats are basically folds formed in fabric, usually as a means of containing a wide piece of fabric to fit another one of narrower proportions. Pleats contain the fullness of fabric and create new silhouettes for your garments and elevate the look to a new level. Pleats make the perfect embellishment for girls’ clothing.

They are different from gathering in that the folds in pleats are wider, and they are formed and pinned in place before sewing. 

Pleats, those folds we make on clothes are said to have originated from the Egyptians. Today they are a very popularly used functional and decorative fashion design element. 

When you sew your own clothes you are creating your own couture and have the luxury of making these coveted pleats. What you get in store brought clothes are machine made pleats but now you can hand pleat to glory.

Different names for Pleats in fabric

Knife-pleats (Flat Pleats)

knife pleats

These are firmly pressed hand made pleats, which are all facing one direction.

One side of a knife-pleat will usually be shorter than the other; ie the pleats have one side (usually over pleat) longer than the other (Under pleat). The under pleat will usually be half of the width of over pleat and this way the whole thing will lie flat.

Knife-pleats are the most used pleats and are mostly seen all around the waistband of skirts.

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Read more about knife-pleats here.

Accordion Pleats


Accordion pleats are symmetrical pleats ie sides of each individual pleat will be of the same width. These are usually machine made knife-pleats. The pleats formed by the machine remain permanent even after washing and ironing. 

Graduated Pleats

Graduated pleats are flared knife pleats – the width of each pleat increases as it goes down, resulting in a flare. Sunburst pleat is a graduated pleat.

Sunburst pleats (Sun ray pleats)

sun ray pleats - names of pleats

These are beautiful pleats (graduated pleats) which are narrow at the top and get bigger as it goes down to the hem and will be made with a semi circular piece of fabric; these pleats give a nice flared effect and is very popular for making skirts.

Sunburst pleating is called that because the pleats will turn out to look like the rays of the sun.

Crystal pleats


These are very fine knife-pleats usually found in tuxedo shirts. These are narrow, sharply pressed pleat set at 90-degree angles from the fabric – and will measure just 2 or 3 mm on both sides.

Box pleats

box pleats

Box pleats are basically knife-pleats formed towards opposite directions. They can also be formed one on top of the other (stacked) forming double box pleats. These pleats are full length pleats which are rectangular in shape. Read more about box pleats here.

Inverted pleats

inverted pleats

These pleats are formed by placing two knife-pleats facing each other. You can also call it a box pleat inside out.

Learn more about sewing inverted pleats here.

Kick pleats

kick pleats

These are inverted pleats joined along the fold edges a short distance from the top. In skirts the kick pleats are joined till the hips and released at the lower edge. Learn more about kick pleats here.

Mushroom pleats

Very narrow pleats like those seen on the underside of a mushroom or the kind you make for smocking.

Fluted pleats

These are the puffy voluminous pleats. Usually refers to those seen in long skirts.

Fancy Pleats

fancy pleats

Pleats in fancy shapes ofcourse.

Cascade pleats/ Sari pleats

These are thin pleats (Sun ray pleats) which are formed from one point and flares towards the bottom of the fabric. They fall like waterfall/cascade. Sari pleats are usually placed in the center of the garment.  

There are many kinds of pleating which I think is best attempted by professionals. Some of them like pinch pleating, contortion pleating all create interesting effects. But as of now if you are a beginner, start with these pleats and they will not disappoint you.

Tips on sewing pleats

Always mark the pleats and sew. The pleat lines should be marked with chalk at the fold and center mark. You can draw 1 inch mark for this.

Pin all the pleats – Use plenty of pins to pin the pleats together.Use the pins vertically. If there are two folds together as in an inverted pleat, use one each on either side o the folds.

Press the pleats in place after pinning. Pressing will keep them in place and you will be able to sew neater pleats because of the crispier folds you get after pressing with a steam iron.

Basting is an optional step which you should do if you feel even a small doubt that you will bungle when sewing. Basting stitches can be easily removed (use a stitch length of 4-5) and saves you lots of time that you will be spending removing the stitches if somehow the pleats shifted despite of the pins. The basting stitches should be done 1/4 inch from the fabric edge.

Learn more about basting stitches here.

Related posts : How to sew pleats – 10 tipsDifferent types of pleated skirts; How to sew a box pleated skirt; Prepleated fabric.

7 thoughts on “Types of PLEATS seen on clothes”

  1. Hi Connie
    Re pleating damaged pre-pleated fabric is a very expensive job as far as I know. If you have professional pleating companies in your area they will do it but at a cost- because they will press it flat and then re pleat it which is quite laborious and involves specialized machines like industrial steamers.

  2. hi Angeline
    I am afraid I do not know. Do you mean how to use a knife-pleat or kick pleat on a pencil skirt?

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