The Art of Pleating

As you look into your wardrobe, browse through an online catalogue or flip through items on a rail you may not know the intrinsic history of the piece you have selected. Each garment has its own unique story as involving individuals who have dedicated their lives to improve its existence.  For example the name origin of tweed derives from a misunderstanding of a London clerk transcribing the Scottish word ‘tweel’. Pleated fabric is among these items of interest as its process is as convoluted as its origin.

The History:
Pleats are a wardrobe staple whether in the form of a skirt, blouse, dress or scarf. In the UK there is an intrinsic link between Scottish kilts and pleats. However, the history of the design actually dates back to ancient Egypt.

Before Anno Domini the Egyptians used the technique to decorate the ruler’s tunics and pieces were only created from natural fibers such as silk, cotton and wool. Pleating was made by hand and once the garment was washed the pleats disappeared, meaning the process had to be done all over again. Because of the time-consuming process and the luxurious materials used pleated clothing was a symbol of power and wealth.

They remained an emblem of status into the Elizabethan Era, very much representative of the period; being seen in portraits of Queen Elizabeth and other nobles who were adorned in pleated collars known as a Ruff.

The existence of pleats extends beyond the attire of royalty in Egypt and the UK. The fustanella, similar to the Scottish kilt, is a costume worn by the Greek National guard for military and ceremonial occasions. Its origins date back to 3rd century BC, evolving into its modern form from the later part of the Byzantine Empire. It is also theorised that the Albanians reintroduced the wear to the Greeks in the 14th century.


The Now:
Today our pleats remain in place wash after wash due to the modernisation of fabrics as well as the invention of heat treatments. The ‘Permanent pleat’ was developed after the second world war to exploit the thermoplastic nature of the newly invented nylon and polyesters. Pleating machines have also simplified the process and enabled mass production, although there are still many pleaters who create the molds and pleat by hand.

The process:
There are three main processes to creating pleats: hand, pattern and machine pleating.
Each method enables different shapes to be created, as well as varying volumes, textures, colours and designs. Shades and patterns are wide-ranging from the way the material is manipulated, for example, when a piece of fabric is pleated it could become too striped, dark or light. This occurs as the pleating process highlights aspects of the pattern within the fabric which is why the material and process is carefully chosen to ensure the optimum result.

Here at Cotswold Collections, many of our pieces tend to be designed with ‘fine pleats’ such as the accordion or sunray pleat. Although these designs require a large amount of cloth in their production the final piece is classic, elegant and provides wonderful movement when worn. Read on to discover the top seven popular pleat designs and see our current selection.


Take a look at our current pleat offering from our Spring 2019 collection:

Our check wool woven skirt is fantastic for summer or winter wear and a perfect example of the accordion pleat.


For a more contemporary take on the sunray pleat, our Italian knit skirt is beautifully flattering and can be worn with the matching pointelle detailed polo top for a gorgeous outfit.


Our fabulous satin crêpe pleated skirt adds a little fun to the classic graduated pleat with its pretty pastel blue and spot design.


Similar to the graduate pleat, the bias pleat provides a lovely soft pleat which is wonderfully figure flattering and flaunts an elegant drape. Opt for either our delightful brushed cotton liberty print or our subtle striped floral skirt.


Which pleat pattern is your favourite? Let us know in the comments.


  1. Bias pleat
    By Christine Luhr - February 5, 2019
    1. Hi Christine, thank you kindly for your comment, it's great to learn your favourite pleat! Best wishes, The Cotswold Collections team.
      By Eve, Cotswold Collections - February 5, 2019
  2. Very interesting to read your explanations. I have sewn many skirts with all kinds of pleats and made blouses with them down the fronts and collar. BUT I have never seen the explanations before. Well done!
    By Elizabeth Floyd - February 5, 2019
    1. Hi Elizabeth, thank you for your wonderful comment. It is amazing that you sew your own pieces with pleats, what an incredible skill to have! Best wishes, The Cotswold Collections team.
      By Eve, Cotswold Collections - February 5, 2019
  3. I found your description and background story of 'pleats and pleating' very enlightening having enjoyed various styles through my long life from girlhood to now. I'm so glad they are coming back into 'life'. i shall keep your email for further reference as I'm sorry I won't be buying just at the moment . Many thanks.
    By Dorothy Fielding - February 7, 2019
    1. Hi Dorothy,
      Thank you for your lovely comment, it's wonderful to hear that pleats have been a part of your life and wardrobe from a young age.
      Best wishes, The Cotswold Collections team
      By Eve, Cotswold Collections - February 7, 2019

Submit Comment

* Required Fields

You are currently on our GB store and we can see you are visiting from US, would you like to switch to our US store?