Pop Quiz: Tucks vs Pleats pt.2

tucked_vintage_dressI have the idea people aren’t going to like the answer to the quiz very much; like I said, wars have been started under flimsier pretexts.

Let’s focus on what we can agree upon. Judging from comments, no one would disagree that

  • a full length stitched fold is a tuck.
  • a full length unsewn fold (released) is a pleat.

The grey area is when it comes to partial stitching and partial releasing.

At this point I had intended to write:
“You can’t pick up a pattern book that does not describe partially sewn folds as tucks”

But no! I picked up Armstrong -the most popular book these days (note I said popular, not best)- and a quick look resulted in much sighing on my part because I see she is the likely culprit for today’s ambiguity because she only shows fully sewn tucks. Worse, she hedges by describing them as “pleat tucks”. The result? I have an idea from whence this rampant confusion has come.

So now I have to revise my intended statement to:
Pick up any professional drafting book published since the dawn of time -other than Armstrong- and you will see partially stitched and fullness released folds being described as “tucks”. Connie Crawford goes into much more tuck detail and instruction.

So the difference is, if there is stitching however limited to hold a fold into place and whether that stitching is from the wrong side or is top stitched, it is technically a tuck. Unsewn folds (their fold held in place by a cuff, yoke, waistband, heat or chemistry) are pleats.

This could mean that the pleat/tuck on the end of men’s dress shirt sleeves could technically be both tucks or pleats depending.  The fold would be a tuck if the fold were partially sewn into shape before the cuff was added. The fold would be a pleat if the fabric was not sewn, merely folded as it was joined to the cuff.

Note: the photo at right is of tucks. Photo courtesy of Vintage Detail.

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11 Comments on "Pop Quiz: Tucks vs Pleats pt.2"

4 years 2 months ago

Mary, I like Connie Crawford’s book. Here is a head to head comparison of the two.

4 years 2 months ago

What in your opinion is a better text for patternmaking than Armstrong?

4 years 4 months ago

David S,
I’m not sure that C16 counts as ancient, but thanks for those points. “Pleat” is presumably from French, or possibly Italian. “Tuck” would be the original English word.

Still, once two words exist for the same thing they become more useful if they can be assigned niche meanings. (The classic example here is animal names post Norman conquest. The ruling French only had cause to talk about livestock when they were eating them, so today we use the French “beef” and “pork” to talk about meat. The working English cared for the livestock, so today we use the English about “cow,” “cattle,” “pigs” and “swine” to talk about living animals. The French “art” is still more high-falutin’ today than the English “craft” and “skill.” All three words meant the same thing in their original languages but have taken on different meanings in modern English.)

There are also differences between casual language and technical jargon. You are never going to sell the general public on “tucked pants” because in casual language “tuck” has so many different meanings (do they tuck your tummy in? do they help you keep your shirt tucked in? is there a narrow tuck the length of the crease line?) but “pleated pants” are clear. If you’re a pattermaker though, the potential meanings are much more restricted so it makes sense to assign each word a specific technical meaning.

Kathleen’s technical definitions for “tuck” and “pleat” are specific to pattern-making and are helpful for designers to know.

David S
4 years 4 months ago

Pleated front trousers are referred to as pleated fronts in 19th century tailoring texts; so are kilts, for that matter. Both “pleat” and “tuck” are ancient English words (The oed provides a citation of pleats — with stitching — in 1529. Tuck is in Chaucer.) I suspect the difference has variation from time to time to time and place to place.

4 years 4 months ago

Oh joy! It’s what I thought it was.

I have to just put in a little aside. We still laugh at my mother’s all-purpose ‘fix’ for any fitting problem. She always said, “Can’t you just take a tuck in it?” Thus engendering a whole new problem usually, but a fond memory nonetheless.