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Vintage Pleating

July 18, 2015

Pleats are big this season for spring and summer, and there is a variety of different ways you can wear them. You’d also be surprised to know that pleats go as far back as the Vikings. They’ve been around a long time, played their part in our school uniforms, sat nicely on a Scottish kilt, and been worn as part of a stunning evening gown during the Art Deco period of the 1920s.Here we briefly explore vintage pleating from the 50s to the 90s.

Vintage Pleating

Of course pleats aren’t for everyone, they aren’t particularly kind to those of us, and I include myself in this, who don’t have a skinny frame. Pleats can show up bellies or larger hips rather unkindly, so it may not be a look you wish to emulate this season.
Pleats cling to the body, have no darts and no particular shaping – it can look old fashioned and quite frumpy, so the question is, can you wear Vintage Pleating and still look good?

Can you wear pleats?

You need to follow a few basic rules. Don’t buy a pleated skirt that goes over the belly, as with high waisted jeans, you’ll draw attention to your tummy. Buy one that sits at your waist and wear something darker on top to give yourself a more elegant silhouette. Silk pleats are best and far more luxurious, and they fall well, much better than the heavier fabrics on some pleated skirts and dresses that are likely to make you look like Miss Marple. There are some beautiful silk pleated skirts out there that can be worn with tees or polo necks, they can be worn mid length or to the knee.

Vintage Pleats

If you’re looking for Vintage Pleating, then don’t go for wide pleats or heavy fabric, it’s too aging. You can go 50s, 60s, 80s or 90s Vintage Pleating, there’s a wide range from which to choose, but try not to go for the high waisted skirts. 1970s pleats may be too dowdy, unless you’re young enough to get away with it. Any older and you could look like you’re channelling Miss Jean Brodie.

1980s Vintage Pleating

Some of the 1980s skirts with Vintage Pleating are exquisite, and as you can imagine, with far more detailing on the actual skirt. Some come with pleats that have patterned fabric on the inside of the pleat and plain on the outside of it.
Try to avoid elasticated waists if you can, it’s going to add a rather frumpy addition to your ensemble if you carry a little weight. A nice thin waistband is sufficient and you can always jazz it up with an obi or a mid-width belt.

1950s Vintage Pleating

The fifties is also a really great time for Vintage Pleating, especially if you prefer to wear a dress with a pleated skirt rather than a skirt alone. A black 1950s dress with matching belt and pleated skirt is an exquisite vision and don’t always come with a flared bottom. Of course a lot of 1950s pleats do come with flared skirts and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, they can come in dirndl versions with a very full skirt or as part of a party dress with a cinched in waist and tight bodice. A lot of pleated skirts in fashion for this year do come with thinner waistbands and fuller skirts, although a fifties pleated skirt will almost always be stiffer and fuller.


The pleated skirt will always come and go out of fashion, however while it’s here, if you want to wear pleats, then go for it and enjoy it while it lasts.

Shop Women’s pleated clothing


Dovima wearing a dress and hat by Balenciaga, in a 1950 photo by RIchard Avedon


50s Rose Lace and Pleated Silk Party Dress with a Full Sweep

50’s pleated skirts