AbstractThis contribution is concerned with an efficient novel algorithmic formulation for wrinkling at finite strains. In contrast to previously published numerical implementations, the advocated method is fully variational. More precisely, the parameters describing wrinkles or slacks, together with the unknown deformation mapping, are computed jointly by minimizing the potential energy of the considered mechanical system. Furthermore, the wrinkling criteria are naturally included within the presented variational framework. The presented approach allows to employ three-dimensional constitutive models directly, i.e., plane stress conditions characterizing membranes are variationally enforced by minimizing the potential energy with respect to the transversal strains. Since the proposed formulation for wrinkling in membranes is fully variational, it can be conveniently combined with other variational methods (based on energy minimization). As an example, a variationally consistent framework for finite strain plasticity theory is considered. More precisely, the minimization principle characterizing wrinkling in elastic membranes and that describing plasticity in inelastic solids are coupled leading to a novel variational approach for inelastic membranes.