Then And Now: Pleats

Designers have long found inspiration in pleats, from Mariano Fortuny’s “Delphos” dress to Stella McCartney’s standout AW2011 collection.

Box, Accordion, Inverted, Honeycomb, Knife – there are as many types of pleats as there are plausible explanations for when and where they first originated. From evidence of plissé style pleats found in Viking graves in Birka as far back as 10 B.C.. to Mariano Fortuny’s stunning art nouveau “Delphos” dress in 1920 to Stella McCartney’s directional use of stiffened micropleats in her standout AW2011 collection – it’s clear pleating enjoys both a long tradition of inspiring ethereally classic style, and is set to enjoy a roaring revival in 2012.

Save for school uniforms and Disney animated female leads, the use of pleating had all but disappeared from modern wardrobes. And here’s why: unless you’ve got the trim tummy of a school girl or figure disproportionate answering to the name of Ariel or Belle, you’re unlikely to want to wear what is easily the least flattering item in the history of clothing.

A tricky look done right via Harpers Bazaar’s Street Style Blog. Cinch in the waist and wear a darker hued top to contrast with the fullness of the skirt.

It’s true. The very reason for their invention – to give cloth an elastic quality that will cling to the curves of the body without the need for darting or shaped panels – is precisely what makes pleats so widening and aging. But with the trend for twenties deco hitting spring fashion like Gatsby‘s big yellow buick hit Myrtle Wilson, it’s time to mount a full scale rescue of the pleat from frumpdom.

And, as always in fashion, there’s a trick to pulling it off. The best advice to wearing the style this time around is to have them start at the hip, not the waistband. Cinch-in the waist and then do double due diligence by wearing with a black top to contrast with the fullness of the skirt.

Rowena Ritchie

Rowena is EcoSalon’s West Coast Fashion Editor and currently resides in San Francisco, CA.