Without a doubt, pleats are having a moment… They’ve been lending elegant fluidity to spring and fall fashion. However, I’d argue this trendy architectural look isn’t a passing phase—it’s here to stay! Why? When styled correctly for your body type, pleated fabrics are incredibly flattering. Having flashbacks of baggy, ill-fitting pleated khakis from your school days? Don’t let that stop you! Pleats have grown up a lot since then. In fact, modern retailers are offering pleats to flatter every shape.
Whether in a flowing skirt or sculptural sleeve, pleated fabrics add major interest and femininity. And no, you don’t have to be model tall or stick thin to pull them off. Sure, the wrong pleat can add weight… but the right silhouette/style will have you feeling impossibly elegant! This post shares a few figure-flattering ways to wear pleats. In addition, we’ll dive into pleated styles for each body type.
Hmm… Where to begin? Honestly, in 2021 a closet isn’t comPLEAT (sorry I couldn’t resist) without at least one pleated style. Pleats add an element of texture that can instantly spice up an outfit. They are versatile and work-appropriate. Furthermore, they are easy to dress up or down. Have a white t-shirt, black turtleneck, or crisp button down in your closet? You’ve already got 3 pleated outfits!
For instance, you can rock a pleated midi skirt with a simple t-shirt, sandals, and denim jacket over your shoulders to run errands. Then, swap in a pair of heels and turtleneck/leather jacket for an edgy date night look. Layer a cozy sweater over your pleated skirt with some ankle booties and you are ready for fall. Pleated skirts also move beautifully, giving your walk a bit of added elegance.
While there are pleats to flatter every shape, styling does make a difference. Typically, you want to balance the volume of your pleated piece with a more fitted style. For instance, a pleated cami with slim-cut jeans.
I wear a lot of pleated skirts and always like to define my waistline by tucking in my tops or using a belt. However, the beauty of pleats is their range. You can style these pieces so many ways. Start a Pinterest board and begin saving examples of outfits you like. You can really do so much with pleats…
Click on any of the images below to shop these styles
From Top Left: Boyfriend Blazer | Pleated Cami | Pleated Midi Dress | Pleated Cami | Cardigan | Navy Dress | Mustard Maxi | Pleated Wrap Top | Pleated Shift Dress | Striped Skirt | Leather Jacket | Pleated Dress
If you have an oval figure type (less distinction between bust/waist/hips, with a slightly fuller middle), seek out pleats that don’t add fullness to your midsection. Thinner accordion pleats are a great option. For example, a floaty pleated dress belted just under your bust will define your waistline while also drawing attention away from your midsection. A fun pleated camisole paired with a classic blazer or long cardigan will achieve a similar result.
If you are looking to create a more feminine silhouette, pleated styles may just be your secret weapon — particularly pleated tops. Many have beautiful sleeve detailing and wrap styling that creates the illusion of curves while disguising a smaller bust. Another pleated option for straight figures is a maxi dress with ruffled detailing on top or something with dynamic sleeves, like my red dress (pictured below). Pleated neckline detail will also add curves. The cerulean blue dress I’m wearing in the cover image is an example of this. It downplays my small bust with its floaty, flowing fabric.
Sometimes pear shapes (those with hips proportionally larger than your bust) eschew pleated styles, fearing they will add bulk. However, there are pleated styles to flatter every shape. In fact, a pleated shift dress can minimize the hip area in a big way. The pleated fabric skims away from the body, creating beautiful movement and drawing attention away from your hips. Experiment with layering by tossing a cropped jacket over a pleated midi. This on-trend look is sophisticated and figure-flattering. Another option for pear shapes is a structured high-waist skirt paired with a tucked-in and fitted top.
Want to look taller? Trust me, your petite frame won’t get swallowed up by pleated styles. There are pleats for every shape! The trick as a petite is making sure you maintain proportionality and a defined waistline. Another trick is keeping your pleated look monochrome. When you match your skirt with a similar (or same) colored top, you are visually creating a long, unbroken silhouette. In contrast to styles that cut you off at the midsection, monochrome dressing elongates your frame. Shop around for pleated dress/skirts that hit you in the right place. Even better, find a retailer that carries petite lengths. Chicwish is one example. It carries this mustard pleated gown and this Ombre stunner (which I own) in petite sizes.
Have you tried pleated styles before? What is your favorite way to wear them? Let me know your thoughts and questions in the comments below… And I’ll leave you with a few additional pleated styles you might love…