The Simple Solution to Perfect Pleats

1873 Teal Bodice with pleats

1873 Teal Bodice with pleats

Want to know the secret to keeping your finely pleated trim and garment areas looking crisp and perfect for years? Use this simple tip and you’ll soon say: “Oh that’s how they made it look that way!”

The above bodice is an 1873 reproduction made from a mix of a Truly Victorian bodice pattern with the sleeves from an Ageless Pattern and the trim modeled after a Godey’s plate. The bodice was made in March 2003 with the photo taken in February 2011.

And look at those pleats on the sleeves and neckline! Perfect after all those years and numerous wearings.

About this time I got my hands on a Perfect Pleater. Oooh! for beautiful, perfectly spaced pleats. And how absolutely ideal for bustle trimmings.

My first set of those teal sleeve ruffles was challenging to say the least. After fiddling with the fabric in the grooves of the Pleater, I pressed then removed.

… And all my pleats came out. What the heck?

So I then carefully tried to reconstruct the pleats by pinning the strip to my ironing board and pressing again. Better, but still I could see the pleats loosing their straight pressed edge after bouncing around in the dress for a few hours.


Turning to my bookshelf I perused my general sewing books and came across a gem of a tip that has completely changed my sewing of pleated things.


Yep. That common household liquid that cleans and freshens everything from vegetables to toilets. The sewing tip was to use white vinegar when pressing garments. huh, Really?

So into a spray bottle with water and a bit of vinegar I poured then squirted it right on my fabric pinned to my board. I pressed again. Then let cool.

…OMG! Look at those pleats! Those aren’t going anywhere.

Sleeve knife pleats set with vinegar

Sleeve knife pleats, made in cotton, set with vinegar

I then began using this simple solution on every pleated thing – even older projects. I couldn’t believe the results and that I never knew of this secret solution.


To get your pleats to come out fantastic too:

  • Use anywhere from a 2:1 to 10:1 ratio of water (more) to vinegar (less amt.)
  • Fill a spray bottle first then add the vinegar.
  • The strength of the scent of the vinegar will depend on how much you use but the smell will fade over time and within just a few hours.
  • Pleat up the fabric or trim in the Perfect Pleater, with pins or cards.
  • Spray solution directly onto cottons or linens.
  • Spray solution onto a press cloth and lay the cloth over the pleats.
  • PRESS pleats with iron on the fabrics heat setting; do not ‘iron’ the pleats by moving the iron – press down and hold
  • LET COOL! This is the one best hint to pay attention to.
  • Move trim out of the pleater and/or unpin the pleats; press again if desired
  • Apply to your costume and look beautiful!

Leave a comment on how this simple solution has worked for you.


What projects have you used a vinegar solution on?

Perfect Pleated Collar in Silk Organza

Perfect Pleated Collar in Silk Organza

(If Annie’s doesn’t have the Pleater, try Amazon, Etsy and eBay.)


  1. Jennifer Rosbrugh says

    Oh, you definitely want more water, even if it’s only a little more. (Sorry, my wording was incorrect in the post which I changed.)

    The ratio of 2:1 is, say, 2 cups water to 1 cup vinegar. Of course that’s a lot of liquid in a spray bottle, so 1 cup water and a 1/2 cup vinegar is the same.

    You can go as little as a tenth or so. Like 1 cup water with a tablespoon or so of vinegar.

    Hope that helps!

  2. J says

    I ironed the pleats in the Perfect Pleater, let them cool then I used masking tape on the pleats while it was still in the Pleater then, I rolled the pleater over the edge of the table so it opened the pleat slats so I could pull the pleated fabric out of the P.Pleater more easily. Worked like a charm.

    For a wide skirt flounce I used masking tape across the top, below what would be my stitch line so I could sew it with the tape still on, middle and bottom.

  3. Erin Aileen says

    I’ve used vinegar to press creases out of a garment as well. I sew an extra 4″ on the hem of my girls’ dresses, then let them down as they grow and use vinegar to get rid of the old hem line, then again when I sew it back up for the next little one.

    • Jennifer Rosbrugh says

      Silk is ok but spray lightly. Wool, being a soft textile that doesn’t hold peats, the vinegar solution won’t do much for it.

  4. Sarah C says

    THANK YOU!!! I am making pleated skirts for a costume in which the girls will be dancing in and I needed those pleats to stay in place. You are like an angel, thank you for sharing this information!

  5. Caroline Krull says

    Thank you so much for your tips and tricks!
    I am sewing a Truly Victorian-pattern and I am now in the stadium of decorating…….it is taking up more time than the actual sewing! But it is big fun, and I love it.
    After ordering the Perfect Pleater the dress looks more and more historical.
    Thanx for your detail-foto’s on Pinterest, they are very helpful for sleeves and neck-line decorations.
    From a happy follower in the Netherlands, keep it up!

  6. Kathlene Bradford-Marks says

    I remember my mother having us press the pleats in our skirts for school by pinning down the pleats onto the ironing board, spritzing w/ vinegar and water, then placing a pressing cloth over them and ironing them down. They lasted even after sitting on them at school for a day. Great idea and in use for ages!

    Thanks for reminding me….nice memories.

    Kathlene :o)

  7. Barbara says

    A vinegar and water mix is wonderful for getting creases out of cotton fabrics…especially muslins that you might be using for your mock-up patterns.

  8. Varika says

    Coming back to this article, I spoke to my father who uses acetic acid (distilled vinegar) in his daily work as an engineer, he says that the vinegar actually binds to the fibers and causes individual fibers to kink, and that’s what makes it hold so well. It’s also why you can iron folds OUT with vinegar so well, too. It also tends not to work as well on synthetic fibers because they’re slipperier and the acetic acid can’t affect them as easily.

    Ever since first reading this article, I’ve kept a spray bottle with vinegar and water with my iron, and I use it regularly to get those perfect creases in trousers as well as getting rid of bolt folds in my textiles and even for setting cross stitch, once. The threads didn’t want to sit neatly when I laid the material out…until I hit them VERY lightly with the vinegar water spray, just barely as a mist. It worked beautifully!

    I have to say thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for this article!

    • Rebecca C says

      Brilliant! Thank you so much for sharing that. Understanding why something works helps me remember the actual idea to do something a certain way. :-)

  9. Katie says

    I don’t have a pleating tool, so I do it mostly by hand and then pin the fabric to the ironing board. I have found that it is also even better to leave it in place until it dries, not just until it’s cool, except for one small problem: my pins keep rusting and leaving marks on the fabric. This happens even when I don’t wait that long to remove them. Any suggestions?

  10. Laura says

    I’m ordering a perfect pleater tonight and wondering what your preferred method of hemming is prior to pleating? I’ve done tiny rolled hems in the past, but for this next foray with the pleater I was wondering if I should just fold the fabric in half so that the folded edge is the hem. What methods would be period correct and press the best?

    • says

      All methods are period correct actually: small 1/4″ machine hem, doubled fabric, cut on bias, etc. I’ve done both the machine hem and doubled hem with working with the Pleater. You have to be careful with the double layer as it may shift on you while shoving fabric into the louvers. The machine hem is easy but may give you ridges from all the top pressing you have to do. Bias is bias. Depends on your fabric and the look you want (heavy vs. light).

  11. Susan says

    Works perfectly. Folks stopped me to look at my pleats at CoCo. Vinegar does the trick. My pleats were double thickness and the fabric is fairly heavy. It still worked fabulously.

  12. Sam says

    I totally didn’t look at your ratio for water to vinegar and used a half and half solution on a pleated skirt I’m making for a cosplay…it worked, but the smell of vinegar was overwhelming…this skirt looks fabulous compared to some of the previous skirts I’ve made thanks to this trick…

    • says

      The sharp vinegar smell will dissipate over time but not take too long. Also, make sure to use white vinegar (rather than apple cider vinegar) as the smell is not so strong and fades quickly.

  13. Nona Famous says

    Wow. This is the coolest site I’ve visited in a while. I just inherited my older sister’s little black Singer and have tons of plans for it. I remember pinning my wool pleated skirts in the 60s following by a covering of a damp pressing cloth and a very hot iron. The pleats were still rather loose. Guess I wasn’t listening to my mother when she covered the topic on vinegar. Very excited now that I’m upcycling quite a few vintage Pendleton wool pieces whose pleats looks military crisp. I want you all to know how exciting it has been to read this topic. Thanks so much.
    Annie ( haven’t figured out how to do a website yet)

    • Janine says

      So, the vinegar did work on the wool fabric? This would be great news to me as I have a CW dress with a pleated bodice which could really use some type of trick to keep the pleats in. :-)

  14. Nyla collis says

    Thank you so much for the ideas. I am making theatre costumes and that was my latest question re pleats. Off the get my stock of white vinegar and getting to work!

  15. jessie RAtledge says

    Thank you for this helpful tip I have made an 1881 Charles Worth gown and like you to my horror the pleats did not stay even though I followed the instructions on the pleater. I have removed the pleats and will now try your tip I will post with the results.

  16. Rebecca C says

    So what happens after the garment is washed–all the vinegar benefit washed out? Or, does it leave at least a remnant of the crease to work with?

    • says

      I generally don’t fully wash my costumes. Sometimes I dry clean (especially silks) and the vinegar-set pleats held up just fine. Just a simple re-press. Cottons would behave differently though. Depends on how they’re set/sewn. A guideline of creases might be visible to help you re-press along with how the pleats are held in place with stitching or seams.

  17. KAthleen smothers says

    Hello, I’m wondering if the vinegar works for all fabric types. it looks like you’re using cotton fabrics. Any input would be great. Thank you,

    • says

      You’d have to be careful on silk but linen would be just fine. Wool, by its nature, doesn’t pleat well unless hard pressed (literally). Vinegar would help, but I’m not sure of long term crisp pleats in wool. I’ve used vinegar on silk but would suggest you do a test scrap to see if it changes the properties or color.


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