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Pleated clothing expands and contracts to fit changing bodies

Human bodies are in constant flux. Weight is gained and lost, fat moves around and bellies swell and shrink with pregnancy. All those changes normally require new clothes. Clothing brand Petit Pli has come up with a different solution: outfits that expand and contract along with their wearers. Made of pleated material that hugs the body like a gentler version of bodycon, the unisex shirts and trousers accommodate a wide range of body shapes and sizes.

After launching in 2017, London-based Petit Pli's first focus was on children — a natural fit for clothes that adapt to growing bodies — with the aim of reducing waste and CO2 emissions. The brand claims that by extending clothing life by nine months, carbon and water footprints can be reduced by 20–30% each. Each of their Little Humans garments can 'grow' by up to 7 sizes.

Petit Pli, which describes itself as a material technology company, sells directly to consumers, and its adult line is available for preorder now. Tops (GBP 120/140) are all one size, and bottoms (GBP 130) come in short, medium and long. All products are made in Portugal using material that's Oeko-Tex 100 certified.

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Returns are a costly headache for retailers, especially for those selling apparel. And they're an environmental nightmare, given the carbon footprint of return shipping, repackaging and restocking. In the worst case, items end up in landfills — a waste of valuable resources and energy.

Inaccurate sizing is one of the top reasons that consumers return purchases. While retailers are working to improve sizing information and help online customers find the right fit, another option is to rethink the basics of how clothing is designed. No, not everyone will switch to Petit Pli's pleated garments. But it's worth exploring how to fit one piece of clothing to a wider range of bodies.