Ironing a Pleated Skirt

The last minute is not the best time for ironing a pleated skirt.
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Whether it's a wool plaid schoolgirl skirt with razor-sharp pleats or a soft fabric with billowy, pleated folds, proper ironing is the key to a pleated skirt that looks as good as the day you brought it home. Read the garment care tag before you touch the fabric with an iron because some fabrics don't tolerate heat. To prevent a pleated skirt disaster, don't attempt to iron a dry-clean-only fabric. Take the skirt to a professional for cleaning and pressing.

Fill the iron with water to the fill line. Preheat the iron safely away from the skirt before you begin. In the process of heating, some irons spit and sputter, causing permanent water stains.

Set the iron on the steam setting and the appropriate heat for the fabric, as noted on the garment care tag. A hot iron on the cotton setting is fine for some fabrics, such as most cottons and linens, while most wool fabrics require a moderately hot wool setting. Iron silks and other delicate fabrics with the low, or gentle, setting. Be extra careful with nylon, polyester and other synthetic fabrics, which are likely to turn into a puddle of melted goo if you touch them with a hot iron. These fabrics usually require the iron's coolest setting and often require use of a pressing cloth to prevent scorching.

Lay the skirt on the ironing board with the waistband on the narrow end of the board. Press the waistband.

Hold the waistband securely on the board with your ironing hand. Use your other hand to straighten pleats carefully, one at a time, holding the pleats in place with your fingers at the hem of the skirt. Continue until you have arranged a span of pleats slightly wider than the widest part of the iron — usually four or five pleats — while still holding the pleats at the hem with your fingers. If this step is troublesome or the pleats are elusive, you can hold them in place with paper clips or rust-free pins.

Look closely at the skirt before you reach for the iron. Be sure the pleats are lined up correctly and that there are no bumps, folds or wrinkles. Ironed-in wrinkles are difficult to remove.

Start ironing at the top, or waistband end of the pleats. Iron the pleats by pressing carefully with a light up-and-down (or lower-and-lift) motion, hitting the steam button just before each down motion. Don't drag the iron on the fabric because dragging may stretch, pucker or distort the fabric or create unintended wrinkles. Similarly, don't overpress, as too much pressing may create a shine on the fabric. Be sure to press only the fabric you have arranged ahead of time. Don't stray out of that area because you may flatten unprepared, unstraightened pleats.

Continue pressing and steaming with an up-and-down motion, working your way down the pleat. Hold the pleat in place with your fingers until you reach the hem.

Move the skirt a few inches, then arrange the next set of pleats carefully before pressing them. Continue until you have worked your way around the skirt.

Hang the skirt immediately to keep the pleats in place and to allow the slightly damp, just-steamed fabric to dry.

  • Some fabric, including linens, wool, nylon, polyester and rayon, should be ironed with a damp press cloth to prevent a shiny appearance. Be sure the pleats are lined up before you cover them with the cloth.

M.H. Dyer began her writing career as a staff writer at a community newspaper and is now a full-time commercial writer. She writes about a variety of topics, with a focus on sustainable, pesticide- and herbicide-free gardening. She is an Oregon State University Master Gardener and Master Naturalist and holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative nonfiction writing.