The Dictionary of Fashion History Cover Image

The Dictionary of Fashion History

Valerie Cumming, C. W. Cunnington and P. E. Cunnington

Table of contents

  • Ruff


Dictionary entry

Page: 176

(F & M)

Period: 1560s–1640s.

A circular collar of cambric, lawn or similar fabric, in the form of a starched and goffered frill radiating from the neck; at first attached to the shirt collar band but by 1570 it had become a separate article. It was usually closed all round for men, but also worn by both sexes with a gap under the chin.

The tubular folds were known as sets and formed by moulding them by means of setting sticks. Ruffs were tied with tasselled band-strings.

Named varieties included the falling ruff worn ca. 1615–1640. This was gathered without being set into formal pleats, and was sewn to a high neckband from which it fell down to the shoulders. The short ruff was a small version favoured by Puritans during the early 17th century. The oval ruff, worn ca.1625–1650 was a female fashion only. It comprised a “large closed Ruff set in formal tubular pleats spreading laterally over the shoulders”; it was often worn with a beaver hat with a spreading brim. During the 17th century women’s ruffs sometimes had a small neck-frill of gauze or lace added to the inner border of the ruff.

Period: 18th century onwards.

Revived on a small scale for women from the 1740s–1830, and again from 1874–1900. Also occasional use in the 20th century.