Take note, iron-averse style watchers: pleated skirts are the only ones that pass fashion muster right now – they’re everywhere from the catwalk to the red carpet to your iPlayer catch-up session. Like denim hair, big logos or contouring, pleats’ popularity is partly down to the fact that they’re really photogenic. They might not be desk-job-friendly (those wrinkles from sitting down do tend to spoil a pleat’s line) but when snapped moving – as on a Vogue editor on the way to a fashion show – or wafting through a waltz, they have a pleasing three-dimensional quality that an A-line mini or pencil skirt just can’t claim. In this brave new world of skirts, the pleat semantics are a minefield. Here’s our guide to six pleats and what they mean in 2016.
The knife pleat
Beyoncé showed her fashion mettle in the opening outfit of Formation – wearing a monogrammed knife pleated skirt and shirt by Gucci, a brand with the power to bring on palpitations in any even vaguely fashion-conscious woman. Starlets like Zendaya have since followed suite with the knife pleats, wearing them on the red carpet. As any hitmaker knows, when you have a chart-topper like this, you have to keep one-upping yourself. Gucci designer Alessandro Michele showed he was a master of the pleat in February, when he brought another version of the knife pleat into the Gucci autumn/winter show. If this all sounds like the difference between Blue Steel and Magnum, such pleats might not be the ones for you. But, suffice to say, Gucci pleats will be taking their place in the front row at fashion shows in September.
The metallic pleat
A picture says a thousand words, and one of Alexa Chung in a Gucci skirt and jumper, at a dinner for the brand late last year, speaks volumes, mainly about the fabulousness of wearing a metallic, pleated midiskirt with a jumper. This look – which Chung has repeated since, as seen here – is already a bit of a cult reference among fashion editors, as a way to do dressed up but not too much. Fashion blogThe Man Repeller even created a whole post dedicated to Chung’s look. It’s the swishiness and shine of the pleats, paired with a nerdy jumper that makes it pop. The ripples of this image will be making their way through fashion throughout 2016. A case in point: Chung’s upcoming collection for Marks & Spencer, which includes a pleated midiskirt.
The retro pleat
While many of the female advertising employees in Mad Men wander around in miniskirts and love beads in the final series, copy chief Peggy Olson wears the kind of clothes that might be suitable for a job as a flight attendant. See cravat ties, boxy jackets, white gloves, and lots of pleated skirts. These come with a dropped waist on some dresses, for a little bit of 20s style in the late 60s. Wear them now – in 2016! – and you’ll be covering both eras, thereby signalling to everyone that you’re a total fashion-history nerd. And when has that ever been a bad thing?
The micro pleat
The springy, super-tight pleat was originally created by Issey Miyake with his Pleats Please line in 1993, using a machine that heat-presses fabric. Similar pleats have made their way into the work of other designers in recent seasons – see Proenza Schouler and Hugo Boss – and they are worn by fashion insiders such asKatie Hillier (who has a penchant for Miyake’s pleated fisherman’s trousers) and sussed celebrities such as Solange. Very Frieze art fair, this is a pleat for the high-minded. Bonus: the micro pleat is so springy, it travels very well; all the better for jetset arty types.
The Strictly pleat
Sure, Lupita Nyong’o in Gucci’s green wafty dress on the Cannes red carpet last year is great, but the kind of accordion pleats used here – not to mention the sparkles – is totally ballroom, as seen on Saturday night favourite, Strictly Come Dancing. Forgot Chung down-playing the glamour, this is all about using a pleat to take it up a notch. The more sparkles, the better. Time to channel the likes of Georgia May Foote, Helen George and Anita Rani with a dress just asking for a waltz. In style terms, it’s four 10s from us.
The prep school pleat
The kilt is pleated, apparently, to show off the sett – the pattern of the tartan – just so. While it has come a long way from its Highland beginnings, this principle still holds – especially in fashion. The neatness of lines appeals, as does the association with school uniforms. See London label, Le Kilt, designed by Samantha McCoach. The autumn collection was fabulously bratty – Chanel Oberlin meets Blair Waldorf with a dash of Marmalade Atkins. These pleats are made of stiff stuff to keep up with the after-dark adventures of their eye-rolling wearer. Note: this pleat is Mrs Prada approved. The designer often wears a midi-kilt for her post-show bow.