This is a question we get asked frequently. The short answer is: Fortuny pleating is more expensive than mushroom pleating. The long answer has to do with the fabric used, the pleating techniques used and the amount of fabric compressed together.
However, before I get too deep into the variables just listed, it’s important I clarify that when people refer to Fortuny pleating, it could mean two different types of pleating: one, the original silk Fortuny pleating and two, the polyester version popularized by Mary McFadden in the late 1980’s.
The original Fortuny pleating was developed by Mariano Fortuny, a Spanish fashion designer, artist and inventor that started his couture fashions in 1906. The fabric he pleated was silk and the techniques he used were done entirely by hand just like my grandmother did, since both pleating machines and polyester fabrics were not invented until the mid 1900’s.
Above: Detail shot of Fortuny. Photo from Coletterie.
During the mid 1980’s, forecasters and designers were looking for pleaters to create a pleat that was more expensive looking than the Mushroom pleat available in the market. By that time, my father had already established his reputation and was approached by several designers to create a more couture looking pleat. At that time, his pleating machines were in transit so he went to another local pleating company and developed a pleat with a very particular quality of Japanese polyester charmeuse. This poly fabric looked like nothing special when it was un-pleated but after pleating, it was totally transformed.
Mushroom pleating (below) is a more linear looking pleat and looser than Fortuny. It is less expensive than the polyester Fortuny version because it requires fewer processes to pleat and it uses less fabric in the pleat.
Mushroom Pleating – Looser and more linear looking.
The polyester version of Fortuny pleating (below) is less linear and more mixed up. This type of pleating is approximately 30% more labor and the loss factor is much greater, more than 3 to 1 loss of your fabric yardage after pleating – still no real resemblance to the original silk Fortuny.
Above: Polyester Fortuny-ish pleating.
Below is a silk pleat we made to try to resemble the old techniques used before pleating machines existed.
We combined hand and machine techniques in order to keep the cost down. The fabric we used is a light weight silk to prevent a bulky feel. Unfortunately, the hand pleated fabric my grandmother made was accidentally sold to a jobber. I am however, working with my father to try to recreate the look. I will definitely post that when we do.
So, in closing, the real Fortuny pleat is silk and made by hand. Newly made Fortuny pleating and Mushroom are usually made in polyester unless you have it made to order. Most fabric stores won’t stock pleating in silk due to the cost/loss factor. Mushroom pleating is more linear and Fortuny pleating is more mashed up.
If any of this is unclear, please let me know. Your feedback is definitely encouraged.