Abstract A new approximate procedure for buckling analysis of simply supported rectangular stepped or perforated plates subjected to uniform edge stresses is formulated. The procedure uses energy method based on modified buckling mode shapes. The change of thickness within a plate is characterized by introducing a stepping index. It is shown that the buckling (vibrational) mode shapes of stepped plates can be predicted by linear combination of various mode shapes of the equivalent flat plates. These buckling mode shapes, in turn, are incorporated to evaluate buckling loads of stepped plates. Some case studies are carried out to demonstrate the accuracy and the versatility of the proposed method by comparing them to the results presented by other researchers.