Tutorial halp: Pleated Skirts that don't want to pleat

Do your pleated skirts end up looking more like this:

When your goal is to have something more like this:

Maybe I can shed some light on this for you! I’m going to proceed under the assumption that you’ve worked with numerous pleated skirt patterns and the results you’re getting, regardless of how well you follow the pattern, are not quite what you’re hoping for- despite what you’ve tried (and tried again).

Both of these skirts I made within two years of each other. Previously,  I’d always had a hard time making anything other petticoats or pencil skirts, and the first one (from a Persona 4 costume) started my crusade on finding out how to make the perfect skirt where the pleats won’t just auto fall out when I walk. (Which I finally obtained for that Fairy Tail costume in the second photo)

Things you’ve probably already tried?

  1. Following the pattern instructions
  2. Starch
  3. Stabilizer/fusible interfacing 
  4. Hairspray
  5. Unicorn tears

If you’ve done all of these things and you’re still not having success, AND you’ve tried multiple patterns, I’ll let you in on my two secrets: 

  1. It’s the fabric, not you.
  2. You can add some ninja stitching to the pleats!

It’s really hard to see in that first photo, so I’ll out line it here (I am so sorry for my really bad photoshop, lol):

The light blue lines are my pleats in the skirt. The red is the box I had sewn with clear thread after the skirt was assembled. This does two things for the skirts, if you have a tiny waist, you can choose to style the skirt to show that off a little more and it will flare out at the hips nicer; but also, it helps the pleats keep their shape- even when you’re walking!

For the fabric! In the first instance, I was attempting to use suiting fabric- that really thick stuff? I figured why not at the store: It looked nice, it felt nice, but… it sure didn’t pleat nice. The best fabric I’ve found for pleats is your basic cotton, some cotton blends or twill, you can use other stuff, but I’m just personally a big fan of how those kinds of fabrics iron. Anything that (sadly) wrinkles really easily is probably going to pleat and keep it’s pleats.

[Side note on using thick fabric: I’ve read online tutorials on how to make “pleats” with thicker fabrics, such as fleece, but that won’t get the same look as say a school girl uniform would. It’s possible, yes, but it all depends on what look you’re going for.]

After you’ve made your skirt, added your ninja!stitches, Best thing you can do is iron it! Ironing is key to finishing any project sewing before you wear it, but I can go on about that forever… and may just do so in another post!

I hope my misfortune-turned-into-discovery will help someone out there who may be having the same issue. As always, my ask box is open for questions/conversations and I wish you the best, fellow cosplayers!