What Are The Different Types of Pleats? (Box vs Knife Pleats)

When you want to spice up your look, you can always go to pleats. These little design features may take a little time in creating but once they are done, your fashion look would enhance your figure and draw attention to your sense of style and good taste.

What are the different types of pleats? There is the accordion, the knife, the box, kick, rolled, forward, cartridge, honeycomb, organ, plisse, and Kingussie style of pleats. Some may be similar to others while others have a unique look to them. Box and knife pleats would fall into the latter category.

To learn more about the different types of pleats just continue to read our article. It has the information you need to know and not everyone agrees to the exact number of styles of pleats there are. Keep reading to find out more on this subject.

What Is a Pleat?


A pleat can be defined as a folded piece of fabric that creates an accordion-like look to the skirt or even the pants you are wearing. The use of pleats actually is not new or even modern. Their use goes back thousands of years into ancient Egypt and possibly other ancient societies.

One pleat style is called a tuck and those are created when you sew the pleat into place. These are used mainly for decorative purposes to upgrade the look of a skirt. Then pleats can be folded material or ironed fabric, as well as different lengths.

They do not have to run the full length of the skirt to be considered a pleat. All that means is that you have some good choices to select from to make sure your sewing project looks its best.

How Many Types of Pleats Are There?

If you believe the experts, then there are about 10 different styles of pleats you can use in any given project. But if you believe the different websites talking about fashion and written by anyone, then you may think there are only 7 or less than 10.

We will go with the experts on this one and say 10 is a good number. After that, you may be recreating the same pleat design using different fabric or color and that is not a different style.

Some styles may look similar to others yet be considered different for many reasons. How many there actually are will depend on the number you accept. With the fashion industry, the numbers seem to be fluid and can change from year to year depending on declarations made by fashion designers.

What is The Most Basic Pleat?

The most basic pleat style that we came across and did not list in the sections above is the regular pleat. It is a simple folded pattern having the fabric doubled up at the top and then secured.

In looking at the image accompanying this description, this form of pleat is simplistic and seems to be the basis for every other pleat design. It is a very simple fold technique that does not require a lot of skill to create.

The regular pleat seems to be the design used in most pleated outfits that go on sale each year. Where you draw the most attention when wearing this design, depends on where the material was pleated.

You have different options, for example, the hip, the waist, the bottom, and so on. You get to decide where you want people to look when you wear this style of pleat.

What Are The Different Types of Pleats?


1. Accordion- this style has a uniform look with the width of each pleat between 3 to 13 mm. All the pleats will be the same width and the same length. The latter option is usually full length from top to bottom of the skirt.

2. Box- this style adds a little shape to the waist area and the pleats are formed by folding two lengths of fabric away from each other. Those folds go in opposite directions.

3. Rolled- when you opt for this style make sure you have lots of fabric in to use. The folds create a tube and add body and volume to the skirt.

4. Forward-these are found in khakis and dress pants. Their purpose is to add dimension and shape to the front of the legs. The design has the pleats open toward the zipper.

5. Cartridge- When you want a very voluptuous look to your skirt, blouse, or shirt, this is the style to use. You gather the fabric instead of folding it using two loos threads to pull the fabric together.

6. Honeycomb- these pleats form a honeycomb shape, hence its name. The technique is usually used with smocking and helps create designs on different clothing items.

7. Organ- if you have seen a pipe organ, then you have seen this style of pleats. The fabric mimics those pipes to create a unique look. There is an even rolling nature to the material.

8. Plisse- made by wetting the material and then drying it under some weight. This technique creates flat, narrow pleats.

9. Kingussie- named for the pleats used in Scottish kilts. The name of the pleat is the same as a Scottish town and its look is a combination of knife and box pleats.

10. Knife- you may see these on cheerleader uniform skirts. they are shorter, narrower than other pleats, and go in the same direction. They also overlap each other. Two folds of equal width and sharp pressing create their look.

Honorable mentions

Other possible pleat styles are the-- sunray, the bias, the fluted, the pinch, the inverted, reverse, the crystal, and the Godet. Each has its own look to them while also being similar to other pleat styles.

Kick pleats- These work with A-line skirts as they provide room for movement. There is also some flexibility in these pleats but still, add fullness. Another name for this style would be the inverted pleat.

Easy Pleats

We did not find any pleats named easy but we did come across a lot of instructions on how to make pleats in the easiest method possible. The easiest pleats to make are actually not involving any clothing items.

They are used with different styles of drapery and you can make these pleats through a variety of methods. The easiest may be the grommet style as they are usually clean and uniform.

Another curtain style that would be easy to create pleats is the flat curtain option. No pleats are sewn into the fabric, you just move the curtains to where you want them and the pleats appear.

The rod pocket is also an easy pleat-making option as you simply push the curtain to either side of the rod to create the narrow or thin pleats you like to look at.

Side Pleat

These can go by another name. They are often called rear knife pleats and they are made to go under the yoke and out towards the end of the shoulders. They are not normally used for skirts or dresses but for shirts and blouses.

The pleat width is about 1/2 an inch and you need to factor in about 2 inches of extra material to make sure you have enough fabric to create them. That 2 inches go into the upper back of the shirt while not changing the yoke or chest width measurements.

According to some experts, every pleat is a variation of the side pleat, including the ones used in skirts and dresses. The way to make this style is to simply fold the material to create a flap and then iron it to a side and you have your side pleat.

Box Pleats vs Knife Pleats


Box pleats are used to create a little more shape to the skirt or the shirt. For men, one box pleat is used in dress shirts in the back at the center of the neckline. For women, it is a simple fold to two different pieces of fabric and those two pieces are folded in opposite directions to add a little shape to the skirt.

The knife pleat, on the other hand, is very small in size and they are turned or pressed in the same direction. While a box pleat will go all the way up, the knife pleat may only extend from the hem to midway up the skirt.

Then the knife pleat gives the wearer a slimming look with a touch of class to the overall design. The flexibility or versatility of the knife pleat makes it a more popular style to use over the box option.

Inverted Kick Pleat

To make this style of pleat, you just reverse the box pleat and that is about it. If you have a skirt that has a box pleat in it, look on the other side of the skirt and see what the inverted style will look like when you place it on the exterior of the fabric.

When you do this style right, you should see an upside-down V form between the pleat sides. This shape takes place on an A-line skirt. If you have seen a kick pleat on the back of a pencil skirt, then you should have an idea of what that V looks like.

There is the option to cut the inverted pleat straight or you can choose to fare it out some.

Difference Between Box Pleat and Inverted Pleat

The biggest difference you will see between these two pleat styles is that they are exact opposites of each other. If your skirt was reversible, you could wear the box pleat one day and then the inverted pleat the next, without raising too much alarm about wearing the same clothing item two days in a row.

The box pleat design has two parallel creases looking in opposite directions and creating a raised section in between the two sides. The inverted style has the same two folds but reaching more towards the center and it can be placed at the front or the back of the skirt.

Both styles can be worn from either knee to waist length or ankle to mid-thigh length. How you wear either will be up to you and your sense of style.

Types of Pleats for Curtains


There are several types of pleat styles for drapes or curtains. Some are very easy to create and do not need any sewing to make them appear in your living room. There is the rod pocket which may be the easiest one to create pleats in.

Then you can choose the flat panel where you simply rearrange the drapes to create those pleats and you can form them in different widths. Next up will be the grommet style and the only real difference between these and the other two styles are the grommets.

There is also the inverted pleat style for curtains or drapes. This style requires some tailoring at the top while losing its lines the further from the top you get. In addition to those options, there is also the cartridge style.

These pleats form a more rounded look when done right and have a very good structure to them. Also, there is the french pleat which uses a three-fold fan shape at the top and continues down to the hem. It is used for more traditional looks and has a fullness to it.

Finally, there is the Parisian pleat and it is just a variation of the french style. Its application is more for modern drapery looks but can be used for traditional styles as well.

Types of Pleats for Dresses

You can use just about any type of the previously mentioned pleat styles with a dress. It may take a little work to get the look right but the end result may make that effort worth it.

One good option will be the sunray or the sunburst pleat style. The bodice of the dress is normal with flat fabric, then from the waist down, there is a nice array of uniform and narrow pleats that look like a burst of sunlight. To keep the shape of these pleats you should use synthetic fabrics.

The box and the inverted are two other types that would look nice on a good dress. They are simple designs that are not hard to include in your sewing project.

Types of Pleated Skirts

In this category, you also have several types of pleated skirts to choose from. There is the medium kick pleat skirt which will highlight your long legs. Next up is the inverted pleat skirt and you know already how that skirt will look.

The plain pleated midi skirt uses the accordion style and possibly the knife type to enhance your figure. For those that like to be modest or need to be formal, the maxi box pleat type will fit your preference or need.

Or you can be a little creative and go with a black pleated skirt or a tutu pleated style. These looks are not for the shy person but more for those who do not care how they look. The Godet type is very good for those who need a more traditional style of skirt.

Or you can go with one of the many different pleat styles listed at the beginning of this article. Length is totally up to you.

How to Make Different Types of Pleats


The key in making pleats is in the fold and the direction you fold the material in. Different styles require different directions as well as different widths in those folds. When you go to make a pleat, you are simply doubling the fabric back onto itself and then pinning the folded section in place.

For the knife pleat, you need two equal folds with one on the inside and the other on the outside. Then sharply press the pleats to create your look. The accordion pleat is similar to the knife pleat but machine-made so that they are permanent.

Sunrise, sunray, or sunburst pleats are just a variation of the accordion style and have more of a zig-zag style and are heat set. Each style will have its own method of construction

How to Make Pleats on a Dress

To make pleats, you are simply folding material over itself and creating a nice square, edged or rounded look to the rest of the fabric. When getting ready to make one of these styles, you need to add in extra material in many cases so you have enough fabric to create those folds.

Also, when you want a uniform look, you need to measure each pleat to make sure they are all exactly the same width. There is no real leeway here for most of the pleat types. You can use loosely stitched thread to help you gather the fabric at the waist to make your pleats.

How to Hand Sew Pleats

Hand sewing techniques will vary depending on the style of the pleat and if they are going into clothing items or drapes. To do a pinch pleat, you need to fold the fabric into three folds and push the front in to form those three folds and make them even.

Then flatten the folds at the base of the pleat and hand sew through those folds. This spot is called the buckram and you want to be just underneath it. A spot tack would work here or you can sew a short line of stitches through the folds.

To get a different look use a different technique to sew those pleats together.

Making Even Pleats


The simplest and easiest way to make even pleats is to take the time to measure each one. People will tell you to use a fork and use the same spots on the fork but that is just measuring in a different format.

Use a clearly marked ruler and mark your spots then fold the fabric. Usually, those marks should be about an inch apart but use your own judgment for the type of pleat you are making.

After folding press the material so you get a nice sharp crease. Use the steam function if that will help you get a nice sharp crease.

How to Fold Pleats

Folding is similar to making the pleats even. make your marks and some people say to use a seam gauge to make those marks. Then turn the seam gauge so it is running in the same direction as your pleats will and fold the fabric over the gauge with your fingers.

Once you get the fold right, press each pleat as you get them done. After sliding the gauge out pin the folds together and then press. This will make sure you do not lose the width or make a mistake in the folding.

You should go slowly and carefully for both steps in this process as one mistake will throw the uniformity off.

Making Small Pleats

There are lots of sewing items you need to make small pleats. Lots of pins, marking chalk, an iron, and some interfacing. The fabric you use for this task should be 2 1/2 times larger than you want the pleats to be.

The size depends on where you make your width marks and once you do, fold the fabric to that size. Then you will have to pin every pleat and press the fabric. Try to avoid pressing over the pin.

Next stitch on both sides of the pleat and press again. To hold the pleats in place, use iron-on interfacing and add it to the wrong side.

Some Final Words

Pleats can make or break an outfit. As long as they are done right, they provide a great look, extra body, and shape to the outfit you have on. The style of pleat is up to you.

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