Left: Lucy from Dracula. Right: Ruff by Junya Watanabe.
Ruffs! Why are they so intoxicatingly awesome? It’s just a ruffle of fabric on a drawstring, but whenever I see one, it still evokes an instant Pavlovian response. A ruff turns a person into a character: a creature that’s decadent, aristocratic, maybe even a little tragic. I marvel at ruffs the way I marvel at lush cake icing and delicate origami, and while there’s something very sensuous about the wrapping, ruffs also make people look very strong, armored, untouchable.
“Virginqueen” photo shoot by Viona.
In celebration of my tender relationship with ruffs, I present to you my favorite manifestations of these sumptuous adornments in fashion, photography, music and film. The list is by no means complete, so please feel free to chime with your own ruff finds! One of the images and some of the links below may not be SFW, but most are. The Romp through Ruffs begins with the work of photographer Tina Cassati:
THE RUFF BY TINA CASSATI
Tina Cassati is a German photographer who makes and photographs some sculptural-looking, colorful ruffs. One of the only photographers to successfully put boys in ruffs, she really manages to capture their aggressively decadent side. She’s got an entire series that focuses on “Hat-Ruffs” – two images from this series can be seen above – but the only way to see the entire series is to friend her on MySpace, where the bulk of her work resides. If you’re not on teh MySpaces, you can still catch some of these images on her site.
THE RUFF BY VIONA
Another talented European photographer who makes her own ruffs! Ruffs are a staple of Viona’s aesthetic, and her exquisite new Virginqueen set captures the cold, distant aristocracy of the ruff like nothing else. Viona herself finds every occasion to wear a ruff, whether she’s channeling Sofia Coppola’s Antoinette, Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula, walking on the beach, enjoying a summer picnic in the countryside or staying warm in sub-zero snowy weather.
THE RUFF BY TASLIMUR
Just when I thought that Euro-girls had the monopoly on uber-aristocratic photos with ruffs, it turns out that here in California, Taslimur is doing some incredible stuff! The images are moody, textured and cinematic, and I love that the ruffs in his images are constructed out of unusual materials, like lacquered panels and what looks like paper or wood.
RUFFS IN MUSIC
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A lot of musicians probably wear ruffs, but after I look at Klaus Nomi, I can’t remember any of them. He just wears that thing so sincerely. In one of his last recorded appearances, the tragic performer (who, as mentioned in the Preternaturally Beautiful Men post, will receive more in-depth, reverential treatment here at Coilhouse at a later date), channels Pierrot in a way that straight-up breaks my heart.
RUFFS IN FILM
I think it’s safe to say that the Lucy costume designed by Eiko Ishioka in the Coppola version of Dracula takes first place for the most decadent ruff in film history:
Orlando deserves an honorable mention, and any film that has Queen Elizabeth in it is bound to have tons of ruffage. Here are three different queen Elizabeths, from three different eras (Helen Mirren, Anne-Marie Duff and Cate Blanchett):
RUFFS ON THE RUNWAY
Ruffs are beloved both in the high-fashion and alt-fashion world. Above right and left, Japanese designer Junya Watanabe completely transforms the proportions of the neck and body. Below left, Gareth Pugh, recently mentioned on Coilhouse, creates the überharlequin. Bottom-right, Christian Dior combines the opulence of the ruff with the “wrapping culture” of Japan for a completely encased look.
In alt fashion, the most elaborate ruffs I’ve seen come from German designer Vecona – a classic black ruff can be seen in this haunting image by photographer Angst-im-Wald, and there’s a more more playful interpretation of the ruff in this shoot by Viona. Mother of London has also spawned some interesting ruff-inspired creations in the past year, such as the piece above left, which was put into great effect for a Bad Poodle shoot with Scar13 and Nelly Recchia by photographer Venus Wept. For an accessory with so much fetish appeal, I’m surprised that there aren’t more manifestations of the ruff in fetish fashion. However, the people at Marquis get it, and this latex ruff can be yours for only 229 EUR. Yikes!
THE RUFF, BY YOU
If you don’t feel like shelling out big bucks for a fancy ruff, I have good news for you: it’s one of the easiest fashion accessories you can make. The process is a bit tedious, but it’s not hard. Some DIY links, below:
- Dawn’s Costume Guide: How to make an Elizabethan Ruff
- Instructions for 1560s, Elizabethan (open and closed) and Standing Ruff
- The Ruff Calculator – calculates how much fabric you’ll need for your ruff
- How to Starch a Ruff – with gooey pictures!
- Ruff-Making Guide by the Renaissance Tailor
- More Ruff-making links