I consider Issey Miyake’s Staircase Dress to be one of greatest achievements in fashion of the last quarter century. Although Miyake debuted his pleating process five years prior, the Staircase Dress still stunned the fashion world when it appeared in his fall/winter 1994 presentation. The same year, it was beautifully captured by Miyake’s long-time collaborator, photographer Irving Penn.\
The technical achievement itself is still awe-worthy, even in midst of advanced technology two decades later. Yet, it’s nothing overtly complex, but rather a fairly traditional Japanese press-pleating technique that Miyake turned on its head.
Until he came up with the ingenious new method in 1998, the clothes were cut and seen from material that’s already been pleated. But Miyake decided to cut the garment first and then pleat it afterwards. Therefore, he cuts and assembles a garment about three times its size. The material is then folded, ironed and oversewn so that the straight lines remain in place. The garment is then placed in a press between two sheets of paper, from where it emerges with permanent pleats.
When he was preparing the first pleated collection for spring/summer 1989, Miyake telephoned a friend and said: “The blouses emerge like big muffins from the oven.”