The effect of fabric and pleats on wider trousers.

I got a lot of positive comments on my last blog post. Thank you!
Today we dive deeper into wide trouser territory. We will look at fabric and pleats. Especially the fabric has an incredible big impact on the way your trousers are perceived. Pleats are an indispensable detail because they will get rid of the fullness at the stomach area. So let’s dive!


Most men consider fabric weight as the most important factor when choosing a fabric. While this may be true, I dedicate that position too drape.

Most people think that weight and drape are the same thing. This is actually not true. You can have a heavyweight fabric without drape. This is not very common though, because most of the time heavyweight fabrics do have drape. So what is drape? Drape is the way a fabric hangs. When a fabric has a lot of drape it will hang gracefully. Like this:

What we see is drape. So a fabric with a lot of drape will not ‘collapse’ into itself and will, therefore, make sure that the line of the trouser is preserved. Of course, the trousers have to fit. Let’s remember that clean is always more formal. I like a clean line so I’m very fond of this kind of trouser.

At the other spectrum, we have the loose almost baggy trouser without a lot of drape. This will make a more casual trouser. Like this:

This may be the biggest reason why a lot of people are not fond of wider trousers. It looks too grandpa-like. Anyway, it’s still a great look if you like to wear casual stuff. I too have one khaki trouser in this style. You will also notice that there is no ‘line’.

One of the reasons why there is no line is the lack of a crease. Some fabrics will hold a crease much better than others. Most of the time wool will hold a crease much longer (except flannel) than cotton/linen. This has also a big effect on the way a trouser is perceived. I think that a crease benefits a wider trouser because the fullness will not collapse outwards.

I used ‘vintage’ photo’s for the first two pictures. This is because the fabric used for today’s suits are not that great anymore. They are much lighter and will not drape as well as suits from say the 1930’s. A lot of people find this something to cry about and I totally understand. I too would love to find fabric that has the same quality as the suits in the pictures. Times have changed though, and if this is the only thing I have to cry about I will say that I have a great life!

Anyway back to the topic at hand, so how do you determine drape? Pick the fabric between the index finger and the middle finger and let it hang. When the fabric doesn’t make folds and hangs a bit ‘stiff’ it will have drape. If it hangs and creates folds and doesn’t have any stiffness it will probably be drapeless. If you want to feel the difference try a handkerchief or pocket square and afterwards a heavy suiting. You will see something like this:

The heavy suiting has a bit of stiffness, you see that it doesn’t fall down but first tries to stay even, gravity will eventually pull it down. The handkerchief doesn’t have this, it starts to drop immediately.

Of course, there are a lot more variables to consider, like the type of weave, weight and so forth, but this will give you some indication.


So wider trousers will be impossible without pleats. Why? Do you want a loose waistband? No? Well, then you need to get rid of the fullness. That’s one of the reasons we need pleats. The other reason is to keep that fullness when you do need it. For instance when you are sitting or putting your hands in your pocket. The wider the trouser the deeper the pleats can get.

You can choose double or single pleats. This speaks for itself. Most of the time I choose two because that way the main pleat will stay closed even when I put my hand in my pocket.
The other option you have is ‘reversed’ and ‘forward’ pleats. You can choose one over the other. I find forward pleats more formal and will always choose reverse pleats for more casual trousers. See for yourself, start experimenting and let me know what you like the most!

Difference between forward (left) and reverse (right) pleats:

Pleats have a bad reputation, but today they are getting fashionable again. The problem is that people wear them differently than in the first half of the twentieth century. It’s not always their fault, because designers are keen to add the detail but forget that the whole model has to change. What do I mean? Well, you have to wear trousers higher than you are used to. Just imagine pleats without a high rise, well you don’t have to imagine it…here is a picture (also not a lot of drape):

This defeats the purpose of pleats because they will give extra attention to the hips, something you don’t want. Second, you don’t need fullness at the hips. When you sit this part of your body will stay relatively even, while (I hate to say it) the belly will expand. The most important fact: it’s really hard to make sure that these pleats will stay closed.
So you want to wear wider pleated trousers at your natural waist, around the belly button.

Anyway this is it for know, I hope you have enjoyed this article and let me know if you would like to learn more!

In the following article, we will dive deeper into high-waist trousers and why you may hate or like them.

Pictures from:

Not done reading? Check this video of drapeless trousers:
And read this blog post about pleats:

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