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 while keeping the wearer's doublet from becoming soiled at the neckline.

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.[1] A pale blue colour could also be obtained via the use of smalt, though for an unknown reason Elizabeth I of England 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."[2]

At their most extreme, ruffs were a foot or more wide; these cartwheel ruffs such as the one in the portrait to the right 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 favor 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.

In the twentieth century, the ruff inspired the name of the Elizabethan collar for animals.


  1. Picard, Liza. Elizabeth's London (2003)
  2. Forbes, T.R. Chronicle from Aldgate (1971)


Janet Arnold: Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlock'd, W S Maney and Son Ltd, Leeds 1988. (ISBN 0-901286-20-6)

External links

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Ruff (clothing). The list of authors can be seen in the page history.