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In Fashion, what is a Lettuce Edge?

By Adrien-Luc Sanders
Updated May 21, 2024
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A lettuce edge is a type of garment trim that creates a ruffle at the neckline, hem, or cuffs. The name is derived from the trim's similarity to the ruffled, crinkled edge of a lettuce leaf. The similarity is most apparent in the irregularity of the edge. These edges can be single or double layered, thick or thin, and made of various fabrics. Although they can be hand-stitched, most find it more efficient to stitch a lettuce edge using a sewing machine or serger. Garments that commonly feature these trims include baby clothing, wedding gowns, or girls' fashion designs, though they can also be found on items like doilies, socks, and handkerchiefs.

This finishing technique is especially useful for creating a quick, simple, and decorative garment border without using additional fabrics, which can fray at the seams, be difficult to attach, or create problems with washing. The lettuce edge was first made simple by the advent of the overlock sewing machine in the 1800s, which enabled automated overlock stitching and serging. This type of stitching involves sewing over the edge of the garment to finish it, while serging occurs when the sewing machine cuts the fabric as it is fed and sewn.

To create a ruffle without adding lace or some other decorative fabric, the lettuce edge hemming technique uses stitching to not only finish the rough fabric edge, but to force the hemmed edge to fold, gather, and crinkle. This employs a tight zig-zag and complex overlock stitching to create a uniform fabric border. The fabric must be stretched and fed in a precise fashion to ensure proper, uniform ruffles without distorting the main garment.

Stretchy, pliant fabrics are generally best to create lettuce edges, especially fabrics that snap back and easily retain their original shape, rather than stretching permanently. The technique also works well on woven fabrics with a bias edge. Both normal and fine threads can create a ruffled hem. Many sewing enthusiasts use thread in one or two colors that either complement or contrast with the fabric. Varying stitch lengths can also create unique designs.

A double lettuce edge features an underlayer of fabric, usually a quarter of an inch (.63 cm) to an inch (2.54 cm) longer than the primary garment. When both layers are hemmed using the lettuce edging technique, this creates a double ruffle. One popular design is to choose different colored fabrics with matching thread, and then stitch the lettuce edge on each layer with the contrasting thread color for a distinctive pattern.

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Discussion Comments
By Sara007 — On Jan 12, 2012

My daughter absolutely loves lettuce edging on her clothing. She likes everything that is really frilly and cute. She's only 4 now but when I take her clothes shopping she always insists on getting t-shirts and shorts that have some sort of ruffled edge.

I figure if my daughter manages to choose clothes that she likes and that aren't too expensive I am happy to buy them for her. It seems a lot of the Disney Princess clothes these days have a distinct lettuce edge. I am sure there is a designer somewhere who fondly remembers the design from when they were little too.

By animegal — On Jan 11, 2012

I have some really nice peasant style clothing that utilizes a lettuce edge to give the clothing a more feminine look. I think that the edging is especially nice because it seems to make the edges of the clothing flow more.

One shirt I have has lettuce edges on the draping sleeves and is in three different tiers. I have received a lot of compliments on the look and am now looking to start making my own lettuce edges when I sew. I am hoping the process won't be too difficult. I am a intermediate level sewer but haven't really tried out any of the fancy edging yet.

By wavy58 — On Jan 10, 2012

This style of hem reminds me of my garden lettuce. I have never grown iceberg lettuce, because I find it flavorless. I grow green leaf lettuce, and it has super ruffly edges.

You will find a lot more folds and dips along the edges of green leaf lettuce than the other kind. I have a blouse that reminds me so much of this lettuce that I crave salad every time that I wear it!

The blouse is a deep green color, and it has been lightly tie-dyed with a lighter green. The sleeves are long and flared, and they have lettuce leaf edges. The bottom of the blouse and the neckline have these ruffles, too, so every time I put it on, I feel like I'm wearing one big piece of lettuce!

By orangey03 — On Jan 10, 2012

I remember growing up in the late eighties and early nineties, when bold colors and ruffles were all the rage. I was about eleven when I got my favorite ruffle shirts and socks, and all my friends loved them.

I remember one shirt that was neon green with a hot pink underlay. It had a v-neck that let the hot pink show through, and the neck had a lettuce edge.

It also had lettuce edges around the hem of the short sleeves. This let more of the hot pink surface.

I felt really cool and fashionable while wearing this shirt and matching socks. Yes, the socks were neon green and pink with lettuce edge cuffs, too. At the time, it was all the rage.

By seag47 — On Jan 09, 2012

@golf07 – I know what you mean. I have several shirts in my closet with lettuce edges that would be nothing more than casual shirts to wear around the house without them.

Because they have that added touch, I can wear them to work and even to formal business meetings. I would equate putting a ruffle edge on a plain shirt to accessorizing with beautiful jewelry. Suddenly, you introduce elegance to something bland.

I love my lettuce edge shirts for another reason: they never wrinkle. They are made of some special stretchy material that can't seem to wrinkle, even if you crumple it up and throw it in the corner. This is perfect for my hectic lifestyle.

By Perdido — On Jan 08, 2012

@feruze – I catch myself absentmindedly feeling of the ruffles on my lettuce edge shirt sometimes, too! I guess we all have a baby-like fascination with texture lurking in our subconscious minds.

Often, I get really bored in meetings at work, and I need to do something with my hands. Fidgeting with the lettuce edge of my burgundy dress shirt helps me focus, somehow. This shirt buttons up the front, and it has ruffles along the bottom and the cuffs, so my fidgety fingers have plenty of ground to cover!

In fact, I have been known to purposely wear this shirt when I know I will have to endure an extra boring meeting on a certain day. It's weird how touching lettuce edges helps my mind focus.

By SarahSon — On Jan 08, 2012

My daughters don't wear very many clothes that have ruffles on them. If they do, these are clothes that have been given to them and not ones that I have bought for them.

I have never liked ruffles and would feel silly if I wore clothes that had ruffles on them. Because of this, the clothes I buy for my girls are cute and stylish, but without ruffles.

When they are a bit older and begin choosing their own clothes, I will let them wear ruffles if they want. Who knows, both of my daughters may end up loving ruffled clothing.

They just won't find any of it in my closet!

By bagley79 — On Jan 07, 2012

@golf07 - I like clothes with a ruffled, feminine touch too. My favorite pair of pajamas has a lettuce edge ruffle on them. There is a small ruffle sewn around the neck, the sleeves and the bottom of the top and pants.

In fact these ruffled edges are what sold me on these soft, comfortable pajamas. Maybe it is because they are so cozy, but I feel comfortable and a little bit dressed up with the added ruffles.

I also have some dress clothes that have a small ruffle on them. The ruffles can add some softness to the outfit without being too girly.

By golf07 — On Jan 07, 2012

I have always loved ruffles on clothing. They add a feminine touch that I think look nice for all ages.

You see a lot of lettuce edge clothing for babies and young girls, but there are many times when they are appropriate for adults as well.

A simple lettuce edge ruffle can make an ordinary, plain outfit look extraordinary. There is a big difference though between a simple ruffled edge and layers of ruffles.

I know it is a matter of personal preference, but I can't handle an overabundance of ruffles - that is a little over the top for my style.

By bear78 — On Jan 07, 2012

My baby girl has a lot of clothing with lettuce edge. She has little dresses, nightgowns, shirts and even socks with it. I don't know why I prefer this style over others. I think lettuce edge is really popular in baby and toddler clothing in general. I also think that it looks very sweet and girly.

I especially love the baby socks with lettuce edge. It's really adorable and I see my daughter looking at them and feeling them with her fingers a lot. I think the texture and appearance of it is really interesting for her. Sometimes when she's upset, I'll put her lettuce edge socks on and she will become quiet and will start feeling the edges.

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