Pleated Pants Vs. Non-Pleated Pants

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Pleated pants are considered a more-traditional trouser fashion. Historically, the English wore pants where the folds of the pleats faced inward and were tucked inside of the pants. Outward pleats were considered inelegant. An ongoing concern when buying trousers or a suit is whether to choose pleated or non-pleated (also known as flat-front) pants. Although both have been worn throughout history, one over the other tends to dominate depending on the styles of the time.

Fashion History

In the United States in the 1950s and 1960s pants were usually worn without pleats and were more form fitting. In the 1970s and 1980s looser, baggier looks became fashionable and more men began wearing their pants with pleats. In the late 1990s flat-front trousers again became the norm as they were assumed to make one look slimmer.

The Case for Pretty Pleats

Pleated pants usually come with either single or double folds. With double folds, the pleat nearest to the zipper is usually longer and deeper. The fold directions usually face outward, towards the pockets, but inverted pleats are also available. Pleated pants are made for both casual and formal wear. Wear pleated khaki pants for more casual situations. Wear pleated slacks or suit pants for formal occasions. If you are a larger person, wear pleated pants to help make your front look flatter as flat-fronts will go inward below the waist and accentuate your belly. If you have a larger rear-end or are an athlete with large thighs, choose pleated pants for looser top ends and a more comfortable fit. Also if you are physically active if in your job or daily life, the looser, more comfortable feel of pleated pants can help allow for greater movement. Pleated pants will often add unnecessary bulk and bunching to slimmer and shorter people.

The Case for Non-pleated and Slimming Slacks

For a smooth, straight silhouette, wear pants without pleats. Choose non-pleated pants for a more form-fitting look and for accentuating slimmer figures. Khakis and dress pants both come in non-pleated styles. Wear non-pleated khakis with a T-shirt for casual dress or wear them with a button-down shirt tucked in for something a bit dressier. Many people shy away from flat fronts because they find them uncomfortable and too tight around the hips. That makes it important to buy flat-front pants that are nicely tailored, a bit looser around the waist and a good fit for your body type.

How to Style and Wear Your Pants Perfectly

Pleated pants are designed to be worn higher, above the hips. Wear pleated pants around your natural waist. The natural waist is just above the hipbones. Pleated pants are meant go out to fit around the hips and stomach and then make a smooth, slight transition inward at the top of the legs. The pleats should fall evenly down the front of your hips and should not bunch up or poof out. This will happen if you wear your pleated pants too low. Wear flat-front pants lower and looser, just on or below the hipbones. Suit jackets can be worn with either style, as long as the colors and fabrics go together. Also, when deciding between pleated vs. non-pleated pants, pay attention to the cut around the ankles. If the cut tapers inward it can cause an extra bulky appearance in the leg, especially with pleated pants. It can also cause your feet to look too large and out of proportion. For a nice straight look in the legs, find pants that have a straight, non-tapering cut at the ankle.

The Proper Care and Treatment of Your Pants

Ironing pleats can be tricky at first. Make sure your iron is set to the correct fabric setting. Lay the pants flat and face-up on the ironing board and arrange and smooth down the pleats with your hands. Run your fingers underneath each pleat to make sure that the fold is properly tucked under. Iron starting from the top of the pleat working downward. As you run down each pleat, lift the iron off the pants at the point wear the crease of the fold ends. The nose or the front tip of the iron can also be used to iron underneath each pleat.

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