Categories : Costume history
From the second half of the 16th century, the ruff made its appearance in Western European courts until the beginning of the 17th century. It is a kind of collar, or collarette, independent of the shirt, made of a pleated and starched white fabric that goes completely around the neck. In French, it’s called strawberry because of the resemblance to the calf’s ruffles.
During the 1540s, the large square neckline fashionable at that time diminished and was gradually covered by a wimple or a pelerine. The throat is covered with a collar, it is the appearance of the ruff. It is a collar formed of folds or gadroons (figure-of-eight folds) surrounding the neck which highlighted and brought light to the face.
This piece of clothing was worn by children, men and women, and was very important in the outfit because it was visible, therefore it was washed regularly, unlike underwear which was not visible.
The ruff began with small random folds and its fullness and regularity will increase over the years. The use of starch to stiffen the fabric and maintain the ideal shape of the pleats will come to be known as the starched or stiffed ruff. Its volume will increase to such an extent that the ruff will be nicknamed the “cartwheel ruffs”. It then became difficult to access the mouth to eat, drink or kiss. They then invented a ruff with an opening on the front of the face for more practicality, but also the ruff with an irregular circumference; short pleats on the front and straightened on the sides.
The shape of the strawberry has never stopped evolving during its life cycle and changed according to the country, the decade and the religion, but above all, and as with many clothes and accessories, social status. In general, the bigger and cumbersome it is, the wealthier the wearer.
Towards the end of the 1590s, the trend reversed and the size of the ruff gradually decreased to come to a complete stop.