Pleat dresses, the complete package

Pleat dresses, the complete package: They never crease, flatter the figure and look super-smart in the office

  • Dinah Van Tulleken shares advice for embracing pleat dresses this season
  • She advises that pleat dresses have burnt slowly but are now the height of cool
  • Also says that pleat dresses are high fashion and should be worn brightly

The trusty pleat has been on a slow burn — shaking off those prim and proper headmistress connotations has taken a long time, but this year they’re positively cool.

Japanese designer Issey Miyake has been at the cutting edge of pleat technology for decades but his designs are as expensive as they are avant-garde. He’s not the only designer playing with pleats. 

Oscar de la Renta’s silk blend lamé dress with sunray pleats is almost too beautiful to wear — which is fine, because at £8,000 it’s also way too expensive for mere mortals to even dream of. Prada sent floral dresses with accordion pleats down their catwalk and Valentino’s light silk chiffon with knife pleat will look great for your next gala dinner, but at £6,000 is less suitable for the school run.


Maxi dress (left), £74, debenhams. com; platforms, £89, kurtgeiger.com; earrings, £14.99, zara.com and dress (right), £49.99, and heels, £79.99, zara. com; earrings, £24.99, tkmaxx.com


Dress (left), £380, Pleats Please Issey Miyake at fenwick.co.uk; heels, £29.99, zara.com and Dress, £126, karenmillen. com; heels, £159, kurtgeiger.com; earrings, £8, boohoo.com (right)

The good news is that what happens on the catwalk always filters through to the real world. The High Street has been having a fling with pleat skirts for a couple of seasons, but now it’s all about statement dresses. And the brighter the better — January is grim enough.

These folds are forgiving and easy, instantly elegant, there’s a freedom of movement and they’re never clingy. Post-Christmas, they aren’t just wonderfully comfortable, they’re flattering and timeless too.

The best bit? They don’t crease. The material springs back perfectly, meaning the pleat wearer always looks elegant.

Yes, these dresses may be beautiful, but they’re practical too. All bar the Karen Millen design are machine washable — and they don’t need to be ironed. They come out of the machine ready to wear again. Heaven!


Dress, £515, isseymiyake. com; heels, £79.99, zara. com; earrings, £29.99, tkmaxx.com (left) and Dress, £225, Pleats Please Issey Miyake at fenwick.co.uk; heels, £79.99, zara.com; earrings, £125, merola.co.uk (right)


Dress, £49.99, and heels, £29.99, zara.com (left) and Dress, £176, jigsawonline. com; shoes, £130, dunelondon.com (right)

If you had a frugal Christmas, treat yourself to something from the iconic Issey Miyake’s Pleats Please collection — the pale-blue stripe and striking pink are equally spectacular. 

Not feeling flush? The high-necked blue sleeveless number from Zara belts beautifully at the waist and is perfect for when you need to look pulled together. If it’s an eye-catching design you’re after, Karen Millen with its floral print should be your first port of call.

And if you really want to stand out, nothing says power dressing more than scarlet pin-tucks with statement sleeves.

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