What are Pleats? What kind of Pleats are there?

Pleats are basically folds in fabric that are formed by folding a fabric onto itself. There are a few types of pleats out there… the main categorization comes from whether or not the pleat is “pressed.” If the pleat is pressed, this will mean that the fold will be a lot sharper. Similarly, if the pleat is unpressed, the fold will be more rounded. If pleats are sewn down throughout their length, they are known as tucks.

There a few types of pleats out there and we’ll try to go through most of them here:

Accordion Pleats

This is a very common type of pleat. It essentially involves folds of equal width that alternate in direction. If you were to press these pleats in one direction, then you would be turning these pleats into knife pleats. This type of pleat is not very common for clothing per se but is more common for accessories such as purses or even table clots. Take a look at the purse below to get an idea of what this type of pleat looks like (sorry about the woman’s purse on a men’s blog – couldn’t find another image that showed the pleats as well):


Box Pleats

Box pleats typically have a 3 to 1 ratio and are like knife pleats back-to-back. These pleats will tend to give you a bulkier look. Take a look at the dress below to see an example of this (couldn’t find a more manly picture here either):


Cartridge Pleats

Cartridge pleats mainly serve the purpose of gathering a lot of fabric into a small space – this type of pleat is commonly seen in curtains and also in the waist section of skirts. See image below of curtains with cartridge pleats:


Fluted Pleats

Generally just very small pleats – can be rounded or pressed. See the fluted pleats used in the pillow below:


Fortuny Pleats

Fortuny pleats are pleats set in silk. These pleats were originally invented by designer Mariano Fortuny in the beginning of the 20th century. See dress below for an idea:


Honeycomb Pleats

Honeycomb pleats are plain strange and actually look like honeycombs. This type of fabric is usually used as a basis for smocking. See image below:


Knife pleats

This type of pleat is commonly known for having a 3 to 1 ratio, being pressed, and pointing in one direction. The 3 to 1 ratio basically just means that roughly 3 inches of fabric is gathered into a 1 inch pleat.


Organ Pleats

Organ pleats are larger rounded pleats resembling a pipe organ. See the skirt below for an example:


Plissé Pleats

These are narrow pleats that are created by gathering fabric, wetting it, and then letting it dry under its own weight. See purse below:


Rolled Pleats

Rolled pleats are essentially long tubes that are formed by using a rolling action to create the pleats rather than a folding action. See image below to understand the “rolling action”:


Watteau Pleats

You won’t hear this term much anymore but it is essentially a single or double boxed pleat typically worn on the back of the neckline in older style gowns.


  1. 1

    Noma Foltz

    September 28, 2010

    1:28 pm

    I am trying to determine the age of a dress that is 2 piece, full length and Fortuny pleats the full length of the dress. It is very plain and looks like it would have been worn by an older women. Can you help me or direct me to someone who can? Thank you…..

  2. 2

    Lisa Richards Hone

    November 2, 2010

    9:24 am

    Fortuny pleats were popular in the 1920s and again in the 1980s and 90s. If it is synthetic, it is definitely newer. I would check the condition of the label and the seams. But if it fits and looks good, who cares how old it is, or who wore it before?

  3. 3

    Lynne Coomans

    January 14, 2011

    9:03 pm

    I am trying to find instructions to make ‘starburst pleat’, ‘mum’ pleat and ‘xpleat’. Can you help?

  4. 4

    sade charles

    March 21, 2012

    10:38 am

    i am trying to make a dress 4 my sba and i find the pleats here are very lovely

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