Sewing the strappy dress: front pleats.

Pleats are attractive  and functional. Pleats add fullness and movement without bulk.

When I made the first version of the Strappy dress, the front was flat and looked unfinished and lacking. Then idea of pleats occurred to me and it all changed in an instant. Light, airy fabrics need some volume to truly shine, it’s undeniable.

Finished pleats on the front neckline
Today we’ll sew the pleats on the Strappy dress.

As with any garment, I prefer to start with small and “fiddly” operations, something that will be much easier to execute with less fabric under the machine. For example, I sew bound buttonholes in unattached jacket fronts, and fly fronts into two fronts, before any other seams are sewn. In case of this dress, pleats are a decorative element, and as anything decorative, they have to be absolutely perfect.

Pleats and their location

So here we have front pleats consisting of one box pleat at the centre front and two knife pleats on each side of the box pleat. The direction of the pleats is marked on the pattern.

Direction of the pleats on the pattern

A reminder: fold your pleats with the fabric facing up.

Sewing the pleats

I found it easier and cleaner to fold the box pleat first, then fold the knife pleats on top of it.
This way they look nice and tidy inside and outside.

When I first started sewing, I used to baste or pin my pleats, which then would slide sideways and open under the pressing foot. I didn’t put up with this nonsense for long, though, so here is my tip:

If you want your pleats to be very sharp and precise, temporarily stitch (not baste!) them shut. Do not backstitch these seams and use slightly longer machine stitch, so you can easily remove this thread later on.

If you are working with silk, test it first: some silks do not “heal” and the needle puncture marks will stay. In this case, basting is the best option.

pleats temporarily stitched

Once you have your pleats stitched and pressed, stay stitch the neckline, securing the pleats even further. Place your stitch 0.3 cm (1/8”) from the cut edge and pay attention to direction of your pleats while you are stitching – they have an amazing ability to flip to a wrong side.


Stay stitched neckline and secured pleats
Now you are all set for the next step – we will be sewing bust darts and side seams, using french seams for the latter. To buy this pattern, click the picture below.


Lena Merrin
Lena Merrin

A dressmaker of many years, I enjoy drafting patterns and create custom garments.