Customers frequently ask, “Can you put a hidden pleat in my child’s kilt?” The reason that they ask is that they want the new kilt to last as long as possible. I can hardly blame them–a kilt is quite an investment, and when young girls and boys start growing, they can really take off. The idea of having to purchase a new kilt every two years can be intimidating. The hidden pleat, also called a “growth pleat” can provide the additional fabric needed to change the waist and hip measurements of a kilt by up to 3″, and sometimes more. It involves planning an extra fold (or even two) that is sewn in place as the kilt is being constructed. The kilt can then be made larger by taking the aprons of the kilt apart, resizing them, and sewing everything back into place.
When planning a kilt, I decide on the amount of tartan to use based on the person’s hip measurement. Different tartans yield different numbers of pleats based on the size of the sett. I need a certain number of pleats so that each one will be an appropriate size (usually about 3/4″ at the hip), but it’s very difficult to tell exactly how many pleats I’m going to get until I do the actual layout. At that point I can see exactly how far the first pleat needs to be from the apron. This is where the hidden pleat will go, although a second one can be placed under the right side of the underapron if there is enough fabric. It’s not always possible to make an actual extra fold, but I ALWAYS try to leave enough fabric in the first pleat and in the facings to alter the kilt significantly. This is one of the principles I use with every kilt I make, so that, if needed, it can be made to fit for the longest possible period of time.
There are a couple of limiting factors here. One is that when girls hit puberty, their shapes change dramatically. Their waists may actually get smaller, but the hips get wider. It’s difficult to work with a kilt that was made for a little girl who was pretty straight, with little shaping, and turn it into one for a girl with hips. On occasion, I have had to go back into the pleats and change those in order to make the waist small enough. The second limiting factor is the proportion of the pleats to the apron. If the apron is too wide compared to the back of the kilt, it can be very unflattering, so I try to take that into account.