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Elizabethan Ruff Collar (fashion)

April 8, 2013 by staff 

Elizabethan Ruff Collar (fashion), A ruff is an item of clothing worn in Western Europe from the mid-sixteenth century to the mid-seventeenth century. The ruff, which was worn by men, women and children, evolved from the small fabric ruffle at the drawstring neck of the shirt or chemise. They served as changeable pieces of cloth that could themselves be laundered separately while keeping the wearer’s doublet from becoming soiled at the neckline.

“Ten yards is enough for the ruffs of the neck and hand” for a New Year’s gift made by her ladies for Queen Elizabeth in 1565, but the discovery of starch allowed ruffs to be made wider without losing their shape. Later ruffs were separate garments that could be washed, starched, and set into elaborate figure-of-eight folds by the use of heated cone-shaped goffering irons. Ruffs were often coloured during starching, vegetable dyes were used to give the ruff a yellow, pink or mauve tint. A pale blue colour could also be obtained via the use of smalt, although Elizabeth I took against this colour and issued a Royal Prerogative:

” Her Majesty’s pleasure is that no blue starch shall be used or worn by any of her Majesty’s subjects, since blue was the color of the flag of Scotland … ”

At their most extreme, ruffs were a foot or more wide; these cartwheel ruffs required a wire frame called a supportasse or underpropper to hold them at the fashionable angle. By the end of the sixteenth century, ruffs were falling out of fashion in Western Europe, in favour of wing collars and falling bands. The fashion lingered longer in Holland, where ruffs can be seen in portraits well into the seventeenth century, and farther east. It also stayed on as part of the ceremonial dress of city councillors (Senatoren) in North German Hanseatic cities and of Lutheran clergy in those cities and in Denmark, Norway, the Faeroe Islands, Iceland and in Greenland.

The ruff was banned in Spain under Philip IV (orchestrated by Gaspar de Guzmán, Count-Duke of Olivares).

Ruffs remain part of the formal attire of bishops and ministers in the Church of Denmark. They were abolished by the Church of Norway in 1980, although some conservative ministers such as Børre Knudsen continue to wear them. In the twentieth century, the ruff inspired the name of the Elizabethan collar for animals.

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