These jeans are […], you need to iron it.

After the washing machine, the clothes are […]. You have to iron them.

What adjective would you fill in the gaps with? My dictionary gives me wrinkled, creased, rumpled, and crumpled.

  • 1
    Those are all possible candidates. I might steer clear of crease, because, with clothing (and pants in particular), a crease often refers to a deliberate crease, as seen here.
    – J.R.
    Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 10:00
  • 3
    Side note: In English, jeans are plural: "These jeans are wrinkled: you need to iron THEM." We speak of a "pair of jeans", as if each leg was a separate thing. I don't think it makes sense but that's how it is. :-)
    – Jay
    Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 13:22
  • @J.R. I would say creased is the most apporpriate answer. I agree that the crease in a trouser leg is meant to be there, but creases are what irons remove.
    – Matt Ellen
    Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 13:28
  • 1
    @MattEllen: Or what irons are supposed to put in...
    – J.R.
    Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 16:59
  • @Matt: Superficially, creased trousers appears to have the edge. But if you examine the results, I think you'll agree this is because most of the usages involve positive references to "sharp" crease lines deliberately created by ironing. That's why I chose to chart shirt in my answer (you still get "sharply-creased shirts" in a good sense, but not so much as to distort the graph excessively). Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 17:39

3 Answers 3


There's quite a lot of regional variation on this one, but here's the overall picture

enter image description here

I won't bother adding more charts, but if you follow the link above, and toggle between US/UK corpuses, you'll see that Brits still favour crumpled, but Americans have moved decisively in favour of wrinkled over recent decades. By weight of numbers wrinkled is definitely the one with the most promising future.

In the context of clothes, wrinkled, crumpled, creased, rumpled, etc. all mean exactly the same thing. But note that trousers, for example, may occasionally be approvingly referred to as nicely creased when they've been ironed/pressed to make a sharp fold line exactly where it's wanted.

  • As far as I know, a ruffled shirt is a pirate shirt.
    – Kobi
    Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 21:03
  • @Kobi: As far as I know, that's just the linguistically-challenged person's version of a ruffed shirt :) Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 21:15
  • 2
    A ruffled shirt is a shirt that has ruffles: strips of fabric that have been gathered and sewn in place. A ruffle is a design element, and a shirt that has them is supposed to have them. It is not the same thing as a wrinkled (rumpled, whatever) shirt—in fact, ironing a ruffle would probably be a serious mistake.
    – phenry
    Commented Jun 28, 2013 at 16:50
  • 1
    @phenry: Well, they always say if you wait long enough, the old-fashioned stuff will eventually become fashionable again. Commented Jun 28, 2013 at 17:35
  • 2
    My wardrobe depends on it.
    – phenry
    Commented Jun 28, 2013 at 17:36

Based on Skymninge's response, there may be some UK/US difference here.

In the US, the word you are looking for would clearly be "wrinkled". In general:

"Wrinkled" means having undesired, unordered lines, folds, or ridges in the material.

"Crumpled" means not neatly folded or hung, like if you just threw them on the floor.

"Creased" can refer to any folds or ridges in the material, but is usually used to refer to a desired ridge. On pants, that would be the creases down the front and back of the legs.

"Rumpled" is generally irregular and untidy. I think it's a somewhat out-of-date word.


Wrinkled is more used for wrinkles on skin, crumpled is used for "crumpled look" clothing (clothes that are meant to look unironed), so this is the one you're searching for.

  • If the pants are not meant to look crumpled. But they are after careless treat. Can I say "Do you go to school in those pants? Look, they are all crumpled!" ?
    – mosceo
    Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 9:14
  • This is what I would say, yes.
    – skymningen
    Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 9:21
  • 3
    This might be a regional thing. Here in the U.S., I'd use wrinkled. As you can see from this Ngram, there's no real "right" answer to this question. (As a side note, though, if you change the Ngram corpus to British English, the result will say, "Ngrams not found: wrinkled jeans".
    – J.R.
    Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 9:57
  • Trousers get crumpled and need to be ironed, pants get wrinkled and need to be ironed. Well, American pants do; English pants go under the trousers.
    – BobRodes
    Commented Jun 29, 2013 at 17:54

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