It might come as no surprise that ruffles have a romantic past, but their journey towards becoming ubiquitous in women’s clothing came only after dabbling in men’s closets too.
Ruffled details were created almost on accident on Spanish soldiers' uniforms in the 1500s. According to this website, soldiers typically wore multiple layers, then cut their sleeve ends to show the fabric underneath. Clothing makers took that idea and added to it by sewing flexible strings into their garments; when pulled tight, the fabric became ruffled.
The name ruffle may well have come from the “ruff,” a starched and ruffled shirtfront high-society men and women wore in the 1700s. The look transformed and became subtler for men in that same century, and men began wearing jabots, or ruffled neckties, that stayed en vogue for decades and became the detail of choice for poor, wealthy, and everyone in between.
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The reign of Queen Victoria was the perfect time to wear ruffles as the era is known for its opulence. Women’s dresses were detailed with ruffles, and men also wore ruffles aplenty to fancy up their ensembles.
At some point, people began to think the highly ruffled outfits made men look effeminate, and that became a no-no on men’s fashion. But ruffles never fell out of favor completely for women, culminating in the super-sweet looks of the 1950s, when ruffles again became a standby on women’s dresses (think full slips, sleeve details, and peplums).
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And today ruffles are enjoying another resurgence, showing up on all types of women’s clothing and even shoes and purses. There is no detail more universally feminine that the ruffle, a girly feature that celebrates your gender.
Historical information via racked.com.
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