For as long as I've been into classic men's wear, I've disliked pleats. But as I start to see them everywhere, I must admit they're growing on me. I used to think they were old-manish. Now they seem comfortable, and rebellious. Rebellious from the straight leg, flat front, slant pocket, a little too fitted, boring peg legs we've seen for so long.
That's why I'm making myself several pairs of pleated trousers in heavy (13oz), traditional fabrics right now. One in a plain navy Holland & Sherry with reverse pleats, and one in an unbranded dark grey Herringbone cloth with forward pleats. I wanted to write a suit cutters guide to cutting pleated trousers to collect my thoughts, and bash into the new projects fitfully organized (for me).
Surprisingly, it's not as simple as you'd think. If you want your pleats to go forward, you need a different pattern drafting system than if you want your pleats going backwards. This is due to the grain of the cloth. If you think about it, the way the cloth folds for the pleat dictates where grain of the fabric should be, or more importantly if it's a stripe or check: how the vertical line will fall. As a cutter, you ideally make the grain (which is the vertical line) follow the center crease of the trouser.
As in the picture below, if your pleat is going forward you want the terminal line to be the grain. Think of that line folding towards the crotch. If your pleat is going backwards, you want the crease line to be your grain. Think of that line folding towards the side seam. To achieve this you have to start from different places.
To make reverse pleats the crease line in the picture above is a standard pattern draft that originates from redundantly the crease line. Nothing too fancy. I use this type of draft frequently to achieve flat front trousers. After you make flat front trousers you simply add pleats however deep you'd like, then widen the side seam the same amount.
Here's where it gets tricky. To make forward pleats, to make the terminal line the grain line, you need to start the draft from the side seam. I don't want to give away too much, leave it to the professionals, but here's an idea:
Most people think one kind of pleat is not better than the other kind of pleat. However, the English consider the forward pleat to be 'correct' or 'proper' traditionally, so I would agree with them simply because they started this whole mess.
Edited by CharlesGoyer - 9/29/16 at 4:37pm