Pop Quiz: Tucks vs Pleats

pleats_and_tucksHave you noticed that “tuck” and “pleat” are increasingly being used interchangeably?

I don’t know which is worse; a tuck being described as a pleat or a pleat being described as a tuck.

So the question is, do you know the difference? Why does it matter? Pray tell.

I believe wars have been started under flimsier pretexts.

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  1. Angelica says:

    A tuck is secured it’s entire length, as in a pin-tuck. A tuck is fixed.

    A pleat is only secured at one end (unless it is smocked) it is loose, it can fold and unfold. A pleat is malleable.

    I had not noticed that tuck and pleat were being used interchangeably.

  2. Theresa in Tucson says:

    Pleats and tucks have been getting confused for quite a while I think. If they are sewn the entire length, either vertical or horizontal to me they are tucks. A dart is a shaped tuck. They add decoration and sometimes shape; not wearing ease. If the fabric is folded over and fastened at one end, or at the both ends and loose in the middle or underneath, it is a pleat. They add decoration plus wearing ease since the pleat gives way to body mass. Top stitch it down the entire length and you turn the “pleat” into a “tuck”.

  3. marilyn says:

    My pet peeve is using the French term ‘ruche’ to describe gathers or gathering. The terms are not equivalent (I believe ruche means beehive in French) but the fashionisti seem to think it makes them sound more professional.

    To Ruche or ruching is a hand-sewing technique most often used as a gathering technique to create decorative ribbon. It involves gathering, but is hand-tacked to hold its shape. An alternative method used in millinery is to create a beehive or honey-comb look by using the needle to catch and tack small increments of flat fabric (1/4” to ½” increments) to a base creating the effect of a beehive or honeycomb. Velvet creates a plush, luxurious look. This handwork differs dramatically from a simple line of stitching that is pulled along the bobbin thread to create “gathers.”

  4. Lesley says:

    I always thoought that a tuck was small and unpressed, for a softer, fuller look while pleats are larger, more structured and pressed to create a defined line.

  5. lakaribane says:

    I’m very interested in this discussion because I’m thoroughly confused. English isn’t my first language and I’ve noticed this too! Well, I’ve noticed that I don’t understand the difference since most users (usually bloggers or sewing forum members) use one for the other.

    Can’t wait to find out which is which (without Googling it, of course! ;) )

  6. Chris V says:

    Sorry Marilyn, but Websters disagrees with you (copied from Webster’s free online dictionary):
    ruche – noun \ˈrüsh\
    Definition of RUCHE
    : a pleated, fluted, or gathered strip of fabric used for trimming
    — ruched \ˈrüsht\ adjective
    Origin of RUCHE
    French ruche literally, beehive, from Medieval Latin rusca bark
    First Known Use: 1827

    Having no formal training, I tend to agree with Theresa. Pleats can be pressed or not, but they are not secured down the entire length. Tucks are secured there entire length. I am, of course, willing to be wrong :)

  7. Chris V says:

    …Please ignore the fact I type too fast, and therefore missed a homonymic error: Tucks are secured *their* entire length.

  8. Yvonne says:

    My understanding of tucks is that they are typically narrow decorative folds that can be stitched along all or part of their length and provide no wearing ease. The fold is generally formed on the outside of the fabric, like you would find on the front chest of a tuxedo shirt. Tucks can be used to control fullness and shape a garment, the fold of these tucks are generally formed on the inside of the fabric. Pleats on the other hand also decorative come in a variety of wider folds of fabric , knife pleats, box pleats, inverted pleats, accordion pleats they provide control of fullness plus wearing ease and are not stitched down the entire length, to hold in place, but could be edge-stitched on the fold of the pleat to form a more crisp pleat.

  9. Thanks for enlightning me on the difference between gathers and tucks or pin tucks. That makes much more sense to me now. All the more so than my mother tongue is french.
    Maybe I can be of some help concerning the term ” ruche” in french. IMO it is a technical term describing fabric manipulation to turn a flat piece of fabric into the equivalent of canadian smocking http://www.padawansguide.com/padme/nightdress/lattice.jpg. This is the most sophisticated aspect. Sometime, it is a strip of fabric whose pleats a stitched to obtain a decorative aspect to be used as trimhttp://www.mercerie-de-poupee.fr/img/p/901-3724-large.jpg. In most cases it has a dated or vintage connotation.

  10. Reader says:

    Thank you, Kathleen. I asked a somewhat haughty sewing teacher what the difference was and she acted as if I was an idiot. Then she said that pleats were “structural,” at least that’s what I think she said; it’s a bad memory. :-)

  11. Reader says:


    I have definitely noticed the two terms being used interchangeably; Kathleen is not making this up. :-)

    • Ann says:

      Yes. Just listening to the hosts on a t.v. channel like Evine, HSN or QVC drives me crazy. They point to gathers and call it ruching. In the next sentence they will call the same type of smaller gathering pin tucks. I am sure they have no idea which is which and they need to. They’re supposed to be the experts. Another mistake they make that bothers me is calling lace crochet and crochet lace. One thing I know how to do is crochet and I think I know it when I see it.

  12. Sabine says:

    I always thought that a Ruche is gathered lace, obviously it’s a little more then that, thanks for the explanation :)
    oh, and i agree with everyone else about the pleat and the tuck thing….pleats are those evenly folded folds that are held on place by a seam going across them, tucks are something like darts, they are sewn lengthwise.

  13. Michael Deibert says:


    I posted on your blo, which I also am following btw, but thought the comment was applicable here too.

    Those images are excelent examples, but if you take a strip of fabric, gather or pleat it down the center (or the sides) to create a unique trim, apply it to a garment like a trim – then it would still fall under ruching. Note – this is what I have learned and could be wrong!

    While the perfect image I have is in a book of mine, and I am not home to even snap a photo of it, there are plenty of examples. Just do a search for 18th century watteau court gowns. Some gowns have elaborate ruchings, while others are simple strips of gathered fabric sewn on as a trim.

    To touch on the pleat vs. tuck issue – yes, I even see them confused with each other. But IMHO, it is as many have said on here. The pleat is stitched at one end to allow the fabric to move outward and expand. A tuck is stitched through and cannot open or expand, ergo the elegant pin-tucks.

  14. Laurie says:

    One helpful distinction is that the term “stitch in the ditch” can only be done on a seam’s valley. Therefore, if you were quilting, the tuck’s seamline or ditch is much like a French seam – enclosed – and unlike a seam pressed open and flat. If you sewed into this valley you would perhaps attached beads or sequins. This is the opposite of a pintuck or French seam that appears perpendicular to the fabric. Both a Tuck and a pintuck are perpendicular to the fabric. The tuck on the inside would poke into your skin. The pintuck lays like a toothpick in the front of the fabric. But a plear lies flush with the fabric.

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