Madame Bovary, a character in Jane Eyre Gets Real by Annabelle Troy, is delighted by 2017’s latest fashion trend: ruffles. For a 19th century material gal, it’s like deja vu all over again. Emma’s favorite gowns were always smothered in ruffles. Though a potent symbol of femininity, ruffles were originally designed for men (think Jerry Seinfeld’s “puffy shirt”). In 1500s Spain no gentleman’s attire would have been complete without a collar, a separate piece of cloth not attached to the garment below, that could be as large and ostentatious as any grande’ could want. This collar, or “ruff”, reached its apotheosis around 1570, when it achieved a 36″ inch diameter–then burst. It would reappear again in the 17th century as a lace collar, then as a jabot (a kind of tied frill worn over a waistcoat).
Not surprisingly Marie Antoinette loved ruffles, especially on her sleeves, and popularized them for women. The ruffles dear to Emma’s heart would have been worn with a crinoline. By the turn of the century, the iron hoop skirt had gone completely out of fashion and was replaced with a more frothy, natural silhouette. Isn’t she charming?
Today’s ruffles, straight off the runway, are no less exuberant. In fact, they may be the most “ruffly” ruffles yet!
If you simply hate this fashion trend you can always take your ruffles the all-American way: by mouth.