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Ask Belle: How to Care for Pleated Clothing

Dear Belle,

I own a few dresses/skirts with knife pleats like this D&G dress.  However, I notice that the knife pleats have “smooshed” (for lack of a better term) and are no longer crisp after one wear, usually when I have to sit a lot.  This doesn’t happen to knife-pleated skirts made from heavier material, like wool.  I only notice this “smooshing” in skirts made from lighter material, like silk chiffon. 

How can I restore the pleats to their original, beautifully crisp glory?  Steaming?  Dry cleaning?  Please help!  I want to wear these skirts and dresses again!  (I spent way too much on them to be one-wear outfits.)

Thanks, Cynthia

According to Real Simple, there are two kinds of pleats, heat set and stitched-in, and they are cared for in different ways.  If you need to know what kind of pleats your garment has, spray a little water on the pleats, if they weaken they are heat set.  

If you have a heat set pleat, you should send it to the dry cleaner to maintain the pleat.  However, if the fabric is a synthetic or a cotton, you can safely steam it.  Stitched-in pleats can be returned to their original shape with an iron and some know how.  

Step 1) Lay the skirt on an ironing board and attach a paper clip to each pleat’s fold to keep it in place; clip about three at a time

Step 2) Place the iron at the top of the pleat and burst the steam. Pick up the iron and set it down again farther down the pleat. (Don’t drag it across the fabric or the pleats will pucker.)

Step 3) Repeat on the rest of the pleats. Avoid ironing over the clips.

Step 4) Don’t be the skirt right back in the closet, give the pleats time to cool so that they set properly.

Happy Pleating!


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  1. jmb says:

    Lesson from my mom: If you use an iron on silk, use a pressing cloth! Silk is delicate and using an iron on it directly can damage the fibers. (I ignored my mom’s advice just once and destroyed a gorgeous blouse.)

    January 21, 2010/Reply