An analytical approach to determine the in-plane stress field and thereby the lateral contraction of composite rectangular plates subjected to partially uniform tension is presented. This approach is based on the Green function hypothesis and is able to accurately predict the in-plane stress field of orthotropic infinite and rectangular plate subjected to localized loading. The analytical predictions are compared to finite element and experimental results and found to be in good agreement. The model can be used to investigate the influence of fiber architecture, i.e. fiber orientation, on the lateral contraction of the laminate, which was found to be significant in the examined case due to the different Poisson's ratios. This model can be used for the accurate prediction of the buckling and wrinkling behavior of anisotropic membranes, composite plates and sandwich panels respectively, where the lateral contraction induced by tension loading causes the instability or accelerates the onset of instability and can thereby significantly decrease the failure load. (c) 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.