How to Wear Pleats When You Are Over 40

Pleats are back again for spring 2020, and you are going to see a lot of them! Most notably, you will recognize knife pleats or accordion pleats on skirts, dresses, tops and blouses. These tiny knife pleats are just what you need to update your wardrobe for spring. If you are over 40, I know this is a trend that you lived though before, but you definitely can (and will want to) wear pleats again. You’ll be happy to learn that they fit extremely well and are made even better than before. Here are some tips on how to wear the latest pleats trend when you are over 40.

Pleated Skirts, Dresses and Tops Over 40

knife pleat skirts fountainof30
Coach 1941 Mix Pleated Skirt, now $297 | Rejina Pyo Kiera Pleated Midi Skirt, now $399 | Tibi Knife Pleated Skirt, now $197.50

Pleated Skirt Trend

When you’re over 40, you may want to sidestep mini-skirts. Luckily mid-length and maxi skirts are totally on-trend and they are sophisticated and flattering in pleated styles. Look for sunray pleats, which are basically accordion pleats that start out smaller at the waist and get larger toward the hem. These are very slimming because they stay flatter near your waist and grow fuller towards the hemline. The same line is created when pleats are cut on a bias, or stitched down from the waist to the hip. The last thing you want is more fullness at the waist!

What are the best fabrics for pleated mid-skirts? Stick to soft fabrics, like silk or chiffon because they will lay better than stiff fabrics such as woven cotton. Most of the skirts I have seen for spring are made with these softer fabrics. Shop for solids or florals, or try slimming vertical stripes. Have fun making a statement with interesting geometric patterns, too. These are not your parochial school-girl pleated skirts – they have grown up!


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What should you wear with a knife pleat skirt? Pair it with a t-shirt and a soft bomber jacket for a runway look. You can also contrast the hard edges of knife pleats by wearing your skirt with a soft blouse. The beauty of pleated skirts is that you can tuck in a top, or wear one out to hip length. A thin v-neck sweater can work over a knife pleat skirt for a more casual look.

pleated dresses fountainof30
IORANE Striped Pleated Dress, now $556.50 | Tory Burch Printed Long Sleeve Dress, now $299 | A.L.C. Peyton Tiger-Print Paneled & Pleated Dress,  now $159.45

Pleated Dresses

There are plenty of age-appropriate pleated dresses to choose from this season. Avoid skinny straps, halters, girly styles, tent styles and mini lengths. Instead, opt for pleated midi-dresses or maxi-dresses. A wonderful option is a long-sleeve shirt dress or wrap-style dress that has a knife pleated skirt. You may like dresses that are pleated from top to bottom, but I recommend that you try them on or order a few sizes before you buy one online. Pleats on a dress need to lay together, skim the body and not open up. You could find you need to try a size up for the proper fit.

Some designers have designed what I am calling “pleat blocking.” For example A.L.C. created this Peyton Tiger-Print Paneled & Pleated Dress with areas of smooth fabric to create a mixed-media effect. These dresses are modern, original, loose fitting and perfect for women over 40.

pleated tops and blouses 3 styles fountainof30
Etro Pleated Paisley-print Crepe de Chine Blouse, $1,320 | ENGLISH FACTORY Lace Boho Blouse, $69 | Chloé Ruffled Silk Crepe de Chine Blouse, $1,595

Pleated Tops and Blouses

Maybe you don’t get dressed up in skirts or dresses very often but you can wear the pleats trend in the form of a top! Look for tops with all-over pleated fabric, which are loose and forgiving. Make sure these tops fit well because you don’t want them to overpower you, or you might look like you’re wearing a muumuu. A safer alternative is a blouse or top that is only pleated on a few of the elements, such as the cuffs or sleeves.

How will you be wearing the newest pleats trend this season? Will you get a skirt, dress or top?

Carol Calacci

You may also like to read more of Carol’s style posts for women over 40 like  How To Wear A Tie Neck Blouse When You Are Over 40 and The Best Joggers and How to Style Them Over 40.

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how to wear the pleats trend blouse skirt dresses

4 thoughts on “How to Wear Pleats When You Are Over 40”

  1. I like the cornflower blue dress that’s a floral print with the empire waist line. I have no waistline (even as a kid; it’s just my build), My wedding dress had an empire waist. I usually thrift shop all of my clothes, so I haven’t seen that pleats are back. Cool! With the virus, I’ll be doing more online shopping, so these are good leads on some great looks.


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