10 different types of PLEATS to stitch on your clothes

Different names for Pleats in fabric

Pleats are classic, there is no two way about it. They look very feminine and enticing. I think pleats make the perfect embellishment for girls’ clothing. 

Pleats are basically folds formed in fabric, usually as a means of gathering a wide piece of fabric to fit another one of narrower proportions. They are different from gathering in that the folds in pleats are wider, and they are formed and pinned in place before sewing. 

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

Knife pleats (Flat Pleats)

knife pleats

These are firmly pressed hand made pleats, which are all facing one direction. They are the most used pleats and are mostly seen all around the waistband of skirts. Here 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.


Accordion Pleats

These are 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 pleats (Sun ray pleats)

These are beautiful Accordion 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.

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. 

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.

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. Learn more about kick pleats here.

Fancy Pleats

Pleats in fancy shapes ofcourse.

Sari pleats

These are thin pleats (Sun ray pleats) which are usually placed in the center of the garment and which flares towards the bottom of the fabric. 

Pleats are said to have originated from the Egyptians. Those Cartridge pleats around the necks of the English queen is testimony that pleats have been in fashion all along. Can you imagine a kid’s dress or skirt without a pleat. Blouses without pleats or gathers look so plain.

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 post : Prepleated fabric.

7 thoughts on “10 different types of PLEATS to stitch on your 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.

    1. 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?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *