Pleats don't always enjoy the most illustrious of associations--they conjure up ideas of puffy men's pants, schoolgirl skirts, and kilts--but this spring, these fabric folds are getting a much-needed makeover. In the aforementioned examples, pleats tend to be big and boxy, ill fitting, or crafted out of thick, heavy fabrics, but this season we've noticed a slew of slim and chic iterations that are both feminine and fabulously flattering. Plus, these petite pleats are turning up on noteworthy dressers like Olivia Palermo and Rose Byrne--and stylish civilians galore--which is why we're putting them in the spotlight today!
One of the things we love about the current style of pleated skirts and dresses is the fact that they are so ethereal. No matter if the item in question is embellished with zippers and completely sheer, like the Silk Chiffon Skirt ($2782) seen at Givenchy or a dizzyingly gorgeous, printed maxi skirt, such as Suno's Pleated Long Skirt ($800), these pleats are formed from lightweight material and always seem delightfully delicate. They also are quite versatile, and can be styled for the weekend, workday, or a dressier occasion with ease. Regarding the former, we love the way stylish civilians are using American Apparel's Long Accordion-Pleat Skirt ($62) in Spruce and Pumpkin, respectively, to create noteworthy daytime ensembles. For example, Mia of Marionette paired her green skirt with a semi-sheer sweater and ankle boots, while Dylana of Color Me Nana opted for a chunkier, neutral sweater, vintage leopard belt, and gold Coach sandals for a perfect between-seasons, casual look.
These slim pleats work for the office too, as Fearne Cotton shows us. The fashion plate was snapped leaving the BBC in London last month wearing a very of-the-moment ensemble comprised of a neon pink skirt from Whistles paired with a white button-up from her eponymous collection for Very.co.uk, black H&M sweater, vintage jacket, and Topshop wedges. Though her skirt is obviously quite vivid, the rest of her outfit is quite sober and grounded, which is why this ensemble works for the office. You could also look to Rose Byrne for a day-to-night example of how to wear these pleats. The wildly talented actress (we just adored her in Bridesmaids!) looked so polished at the New Museum Gala in New York last month when she wore a delicate, taupe Calvin Klein Collection Pleated Long Sleeve Dress ($1995, 212.292.9000) from the Pre-Fall 11 collection. While she accessorized with minimalist, strappy Calvin Klein Collection Leather Sandals ($1950, 212.292.9000) and a Clutch ($1095, 212.292.9000)--both pieces are from S/S 11--we could also imagine this dress with a structured bag and a boardroom-ready pair of heels.
Of course, you can definitely pick a pleated dress or skirt for your more formal events too, as Julia Restoin-Roitfeld and Olivia Palermo demonstrate. Snapped during Paris Fashion Week at a Chanel dinner honoring Blake Lively, the lovely Restoin-Roitfeld completely obliterated our association of pleats with schoolgirls when she showed up in a plunging Alexander Wang scarf dress from a few seasons ago. The mid-thigh hemline and spaghetti-strap bodice are seriously sultry, especially when paired with black patent leather mary-jane heels (another schoolgirl twist!) and a small animal-print evening bag. More recently, Olivia Palermo also opted for a pleated evening look, though she created a more whimsical ensemble by mixing prints. For a Net-A-Porter party at Christie's celebrating the online shopping destination's Runway To Green collection, Palermo styled a one-of-a-kind outfit by wearing Rachel Roy's Amaranth Jet Feathered Sweater Dress from the designer's Pre-Fall 11 collection as a top. Palermo then added a pleated skirt from Topshop, Alexandra Neel heels, and a bag and belt from Reiss. The embellished top really makes the overall look appropriate for an evening event, while the additional prints give Palermo her signature fashion flair.
If you are ready to take the plunge into pleats, we are here to make sure everything goes swimmingly! In addition to the American Apparel maxi skirt we mentioned earlier, we also adore ASOS' Pleated Maxi Skirt ($83), which comes in a number of gorgeous hues, including a must-have violet. We are also completely obsessed with Alice + Olivia's Shannon Printed Long Skirt ($484), which combines accordion pleats with a bright rainbow print, making for the most amazing spring/summer option ever. Rag & Bone's gorgeous cream Maxi Desert Skirt ($450) is another outstanding example and a fashion-insider favorite, or you could go for Whistles' Erica Pleated Midi Skirt ($203), which has a shorter hemline and is available in a rich taupe. On that midi note, we also recommend Tucker's Pleated Knee Length Skirt ($440), which comes in a black and white spotted print--Palermo would totally approve! We also think she'd like Topshop's Purple Colour Block Pleated Skirt ($75), which combines two of the season's top trends (pleats and bright colors). And finally, if you're seeking a pleated dress, don't miss Halston Heritage's Pleated Lamé Dress ($595) in a party-friendly metallic silver hue or ASOS' Waisted Dress with Pleat Skirt ($74), which has a very Versus-chic sort of vibe.
Photo of Julia Restoin Roitfeld, courtesy of Getty; Photo of Fearne Cotton, courtesy of Pacific Coast News; Photo of Olivia Palermo, courtesy of Billy Farrell Agency; Street style photos, courtesy of Marionette and Color My Nana