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Box pleating

Box pleats are flat, usually deep, pleats, often found in jackets and tailored clothes. They were very popular in the luxurious, draped gowns of the 18th century. Box pleats, described in the Basic Method, have the pleat on the back, while inverted box pleats have the pleat on the front.

Material and Design Notes

  • The pleat is made in two halves: each side of the pleat is half of the total required pleat width.
  • When measuring the pleat, use a ruler with a sliding marker/ sewing gauge.
  • Make sure the fabric is cut on the straight grain – making pleats on off-grain fabric is more difficult as it will not crease neatly.

1). Working from the front of the fabric, mark the centre point of the pleat. Place the ruler so the required width is at the centre point.


2). Fold the fabric over the ruler and fold it back again at the marked centre point. Pin in place, making sure the crease is straight and that it follows the straight grain of the fabric. Press if required.


3). Flipping the ruler over, repeat step 2 to make the other side of the pleat.
4). Sew the completed box pleat down following one of the two methods illustrated in the sample.


The box pleat can be secured in one of two ways. The top of the sample shows stitching straight across simply to hold the pleats in place. The bottom of the sample shows stitching along the inner folds to create a neater, more refined finish; this keeps the pleats flatter and is often used on garments, although the pleat would be stitched at the top only to allow the pleats to open out.

Box pleat variations

Manipulated box pleat

This is made in the same way as the Basic Method, and stitched with straight stitching top and bottom. The folded edges of the pleat are then folded back and either pressed or stitched in place to create a decorative finish.

The manipulated box pleat could be made in a contrasting colour by adding a strip of fabric into the main fabric before making the pleat. The strip should be the width of the finished pleat plus seam allowances.


Manipulated box pleat.

Inverted box pleat

An inverted box pleat is made in exactly the same way as the box pleat described in the Basic Method, but this time working from the back of the fabric.


Inverted box pleat: in this sample the stay stitching is made on the outer edges of the pleat on the front of the fabric.

Double and triple box pleats

Add extra pleats to the box pleat by repeating step 1 of the Basic Method, once for a double box pleat, as shown in the sample, and twice for a triple box pleat.


Double box pleating works well with medium-weight fabrics. You could also combine it with the ribbon-edged pleat technique (see Knife Pleats).


Narrow inverted box pleats can be placed close together. In this sample they have a half-pleat width between them.

Fabric Manipulation
150 CREATIVE Sewing Techniques

Ruth Singer