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Portrait of the royal Queen Elizabeth I. AI generated image. Source: AS Photo Family/Adobe Stock

Opulent Excess: The Elizabethan Ruff Trend (Video)

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During the Elizabethan era, the trend of wearing oversized collars became synonymous with aristocracy and opulence. These massive collars, known as ruffs, were not merely fashion statements but symbols of wealth and privilege. Despite the discomfort they brought, with their impracticality hindering even basic tasks like eating or manual labor, ruffs were worn proudly by nobles as a display of their elevated social status.

Originating as extensions of men's shirts, ruffs evolved into separate accessories, often crafted with intricate lace and adorned with gold. The introduction of starch by Mistress dingham Vander der Plasse in the mid-1560s revolutionized the construction of ruffs, allowing them to stand tall and take on elaborate shapes. As ruffs grew larger and more complex, reaching widths that extended beyond the shoulders, they became emblematic of European upper-class fashion.

Queen Elizabeth I played a significant role in shaping the ruff trend, setting standards for their size and even legislating against certain styles. Despite attempts to regulate their dimensions, the allure of ostentatious displays of wealth prevailed, with individuals disregarding legal limitations in favor of flaunting their social standing.

However, by the early 17th century, the fashion began to shift towards more comfortable alternatives, such as falling ruffs resembling small capes. This marked the decline of the era of bulky, uncomfortable collars, signaling the end of an approximately 70-year reign of the European ruff.

Fashion, like life, is constantly evolving, and while the Elizabethan ruff may not see a resurgence in popularity, its legacy endures as a testament to the extravagant tastes of the past.

Top image: Portrait of the royal Queen Elizabeth I. AI generated image. Source: AS Photo Family/Adobe Stock

By Robbie Mitchell

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I’m a graduate of History and Literature from The University of Manchester in England and a total history geek. Since a young age, I’ve been obsessed with history. The weirder the better. I spend my days working as a freelance... Read More

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