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How To Fold Clothes Like A Retail Pro

Lessons From A Retired Retail Manager

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. A long time ago in a land far far away, I was a retail store manager. I (who was basically a semi-grown teenager) managed a bunch of actual teenagers (who weren’t much younger than me) and somehow kept a store running and profitable.

This store had tons of clothes hanging on the walls, but we had 8 huge tiered tables piled with stacked shirts, tank tops, sweaters, hoodies, jeans, yoga pants, and whatever else we had going on at the time.

On a typical Saturday evening, by about 8pm, each and every single article of clothing on those tables had transformed into a big wad of a disaster zone. We’d close the store at 9, then fold until about 11.

Why Should You Improve Your Folding-Game?

I say all this because I’ve done my fair share of folding shirts and pants and even underwear. My husband, on the other hand, has not. I opened his drawer one day to put something away for him and almost had a panic attack.

So in hopes that he may read this blog post (and anyone else in the world who folds like a twelve year old rebelling against his or her mother and the chores he’s/she’s forced to do) and fold clothes more neatly.

Folding stuff isn’t just to please crazy neat-freaks like me (although it does earn you major bonus points), it actually allows more pieces of clothing to fit in the space you’ve got.

It also decreases wrinkles and makes finding the right piece of clothing easier.

Related Post: DIY Fabric Drawer Dividers

printable spring cleaning planner

file folding clothes in drawers

The File Folding Method

I’ve been folding my shirts, shorts, sweatpants, yoga pants, leggings, tank tops, and at one point even my socks this way. No I don’t do my socks this way anymore. I dropped my level of crazy down one notch.

You can see in the two photos above, it makes a huge difference. You can literally see every single article of clothing in the drawer at first glance. No more flopping through stacks trying to find one specific shirt.

How To Fold Shirts And Tanks

1) Start by laying the shirt flat on a hard surface.

Don’t use something soft like a bed or you’ll end up with a loose, wrinkly fold.

Don’t have a flat surface? See this post for an alternate folding method and a video tutorial.

2) Fold in the arms and sides in clean straight lines.

For long sleeve shirts, you’ll have to make two folds on the sleeves. And for tanks, you just have to fold in the sides.

3) Bring the bottom up one third of the way.

For longer shirts, you may have to fold it into fourths. For shorter shirts, you may need to fold it one half of the way. The key is to make sure all shirts, regardless of length, are the same size when folded.

4) Bring the bottom part you just folded up to the top for a second fold.

It’s important to do it this way instead of bringing the top over because it keeps the collar nice and flat.

5) Flip it over and smooth edges.

Make sure the collar is straight and edges don’t have wrinkles.

Additional Step To File Fold

To file fold your shirts, just flip your finished shirt in half again.

How To Fold Pants And Shorts

1) Start by buttoning/clasping the pants and folding them in half long-ways on a hard surface.

Just like the shirts, you don’t want to do this on something soft like a bed or your edges will come out really uneven.

2) Fold in the booty seam.

That section may have technical name…but I don’t know it. Plus, the teenagers I trained always got a good giggle when I said booty seam.

3) Flip the bottom edge of the pants right above the top edge of the pocket.

Hold that booty seam in place while you do this. If you don’t have pockets, just bring the foot of the pants to the bottom of the waistline. If you’re doing shorts, that’s it, you’re done. Unless you want to file fold. At this point you’ll fold in half again.

4) Fold what you have in half.

It’s best to leave about half an inch between the waist of the pants and the fold line, just so they lay flatter. (This is totally hard to describe, check out the photo above to make some sense of my jumbled rambling.)

5) Flip it over and you’re all set!

If you want to file fold denim, instead of folding them in thirds like you did, fold them into fourths. That will make it less bulky in your drawers.

Some Of My Favorite Dressers

Neat, Organized Drawers

See how much better that looks? Awesome, right?

One thing you should know is that although it may take you a while to fold the clothes at first while you’re still learning, you’ll eventually be able to fly through this super quickly. And when you get really good, you won’t even need the table anymore. I’ve been known to pop my knee up in the air and use my leg as a prop when folding jeans, and I can now do the shirts just out in the air.

But until you’re doing fancy tricks while folding (and making your ten year old so embarrassed when he has friends over), I suggest sticking with the table.

If you really want to make your drawers look great, add some dividers to keep things in place, like the ones I made from leftover fabric.

Related Post: Make DIY Fabric Drawer Organizers For Free

Know What To Fold And What To Hang

I get it, you buy nice clothes and you want to take care of them. You’ve already committed to folding properly and hopefully you’ll be file-folding your drawers to make your mornings and evenings a little less stressful. But how do you know what you should be folding and what you should be hanging? Or worse, have you been doing it wrong all along?

I created a full list of everything you need to know about storing your clothes properly, and it’s all organized neatly in a handy PDF. You can download it, print it, save it to your bookmarks, or even screenshot it for quick reference.

Want to get your copy? It’s totally free, just pop in your email address below and I’ll send it right over to you. It’s my gift to you. In an effort to make sure nobody else’s dresser drawers look like my husband’s…

the right way to fold shirts and pants

click through for more tips on folding your clothes
click through for more tips on folding your clothes


  1. Anna D. Benitez

    Solved the hard surface dilemma, pulled out the ironing board problem. Worked great

    • That’s a great solution, Anna, as long as the cover isn’t too plush. If it’s a sheet-like texture, your folds could end up loose and wrinkly, but if you have a harder cover, by all means, go for it. It seems to work well for you, though, so I’m glad we could help you up your folding game.

    • LeeEllen Zahorsky

      A fellow folder, I can honestly say, “I get you”.
      Those fine creases in folded shirts are a sight to behold.
      I love you

  2. I need help with mastering folding cause I just started working retail and I suck. Thing is I’m not given an adequate hard surface to fold on. Can’t do it on the carpeted floor..

    • Hey Danielle! I completely understand. We didn’t have a surface to fold on either. I’ll try to post a video on my Instagram and Facebook pages of how to fold clothes while standing up, with no surface at all. I’ll pop it up later this week, just for you!

      • Did you ever post that video? I just found your page now in June 2021

        • Brad Gandy

          Hi, Becky! Yes, we did. It’s in this post, and thank you so much for asking. I’ll update the original folding post with a link to the newer one about folding without a flat surface.

  3. I really think pros are the only ones that can fold clothes like this. It never really occurred to me that there is a right way of folding clothes until I saw this. Thanks to you my clothes are now going to look nice and tidy.

  4. I love this!
    I file fold every thing, and yes, socks, too. Sheets, pillowcases, towels, wash cloths, anything that can be folded.
    I can get so many more items of clothing in drawers and on shelves than before. I can see everything at a glance and can choose from among them without disturbing the rest. Thank you so much for a great hint.
    I tell my friends, and send a link to this hint.

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