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What is an Inverted Pleat?

By Gina Ritter
Updated May 21, 2024
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Commonly used in draperies and clothing, the inverted pleat is a popular sewing technique that keeps the bulk of the pleats' structure hidden from sight. A typical box pleat, or double pleat, has the bulk of the pleats showing on the outside, also called the upper folds. An inverted pleat is essentially a backward box pleat.

To shape the pleat, fabric is doubled onto itself, forming a loop that’s creased where the fabric meets. This may look like the backside of a pleat, but actually is the front, or upper fold, while the bulky under fold is hiding beneath. The loop of fabric is then pressed evenly into two side creases, facing away from each other, becoming the under fold. The whole pleat is then stitched permanently into place.

Typically, an inverted pleat is sewn horizontally along the top edge of the fabric to hold the pleat. The rest is left to fall open at the bottom. Sometimes contrasting fabric is slipped into the middle of the pleat from the front. The fabric is then turned over and a hidden stitch is sewn vertically down the ironed creases to hold the extra fabric piece in place.

In fashion, the inverted pleat often adds a third dimensional look to the garment while permitting the clothing to drape smoothly without adding bulk. When used for skirts and jackets, the inverted pleat can comfortably open for much more movement than a garment without pleats.

Advanced sewing skills are not necessary to complete an inverted pleat drapery project or to learn the technique. Sewing reference books and online tutorials can offer simple instructions and pictures or videos. Tutorials often offer recommended pleat measurements, but it may be best to hold a length of practice fabric sewn or pinned into several pleats against the area in which they will hang. This method offers the opportunity to get a feel for the width of pleat that works best in that space.

When starting a project, it is recommended to leave plenty of time, start with practice fabric, and expect to purchase extra material. Some sewers may prefer to use recycled materials, which usually can be found at neighborhood yard or garage sales and consignment shops. This project may also require one to sew through many layers of material, so carefully choosing the fabric and proper sewing foot can help get the project off to a good start.

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Discussion Comments
By anon293658 — On Sep 26, 2012

To make an inverted pleat a different color, you would simply insert the new fabric between two pieces of regular fabric (outside the skirt fabric) before you begin sewing your skirt. This might involve some extra math on your part, as you would have to measure the distance between the darts as well as any necessary closures, and cut precisely the amount needed to be inserted, including seam allowances. As soon as you have your two colored flat fabric pieces, you can begin to insert your pleats.

By animegal — On Oct 23, 2011

Does anyone know how to make inverted pleats with two colors of fabric?

I saw this really cute skirt online and I would like to try making it. It looked a bit like a A-line business skirt, except that it had small inverted pleats that showed a hint of a different color underneath. It was really an attractive look.

I would love to be able to make that skirt myself but I am having trouble figuring out how they did the two colors. Does anyone have any tips? If possible I would even spice it up more by adding three or four colors, all in slightly different shades.

By manykitties2 — On Oct 23, 2011

Inverted pleat curtains add a lot of texture to a room without looking too busy. If you are making your own drapes and curtains, an inverted pleat is also one of the easier things to sew if you are have a decent sewing machine at your disposal.

When I first started making inverted pleat drapes I found that the easiest way to make sure my pleats were spaced evenly was to mark and measure my fabric before hand. Once I knew how many pleats I wanted the rest was easy.

If you are unsure how much fabric you're going to need, just measure your window and tell your fabric store what you're planning on doing. They can be a huge help.

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