Ruff Sex

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:


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.


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.


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.

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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.


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 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!


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:

37 Responses to “Ruff Sex”

  1. Traci Says:

    The person in the Angst-im-Wald photo is Sopor Arternus. He (she?) has lots of very haunting looks, but the music is not my cuppa.

    The set by Viona (fairytale?) is stunning and I cannot stop looking at it.

  2. Alysa Says:

    This post totally made my morning.

    I shall also share a pic I just googled of my own favorite Ruffs in Film, from Peter Greenaway’s Prospero’s Books.


  3. Ashbet Says:

    I love Viona’s work, and it’s great to see her being featured here . . . and, ohhhh, the ruffs are killing me!!

  4. six06 Says:

    all great, but this is my favorite ruff.

  5. Mer Says:

    Another post that hath touchethed me inappropriately where my bathing suit covereth.

    Ah, Klaus. I promise to give him a proper rave-up soooooon.

  6. trashtastika Says:

    I love ruffs too! Have just started to experiment with pleated crin, which we used in millinery class – it’s great for ruffs, collars and cuffs.

  7. Zoetica Says:

    Ruffs are most definitely armor of distinction in their own right. Gareth Pugh’s harlequin is wonderfully über indeed, and the Helen Mirren Elizabeth – jaw-dropping.

    Argh the Dracula ruff was to DIE for. The one Kat made me for the Dan Santoni shoot was nice, but doesn’t even come close. All this reminds me that I should really wear it more often, anyhow.

    And six06, thank you, too. Mother of London continues to rock my ass.

  8. Kambriel Says:

    The first Taslimur ruff photo almost looks as if it’s made from carved sandalwood fans ~ I just found a few fans like that which I’ve had since childhood, and it’s great to see such things being given new life if that’s the case! I adore ruffs ~ there’s just something about them that makes it look to me like the head is going to be the main course in the feast…

  9. James Shearhart Says:

    Great post, Nadya! As an upright, masculine, two-fisted, beer-drinking, academic of Interesting Stuff, I never gave the ruff much thought, aside from goofy amateur Shakespeare productions. Thanks to you, now I have….

  10. chacho Says:

    chec aout this one

  11. Kim Says:

    Oh, rapture!!!

    I was hoping I would see Helen Mirren, Anne-Marie Duff and Cate Blanchett as Queen Elizabeth as I was scrolling down. :) Lovely lovely.

  12. E. Black Says:

    The only reason why I loved Lucy so much in Bram Stoker’s Dracula was because of her wicked wedding dress. That ruff was just amazing (and to think Eiko based the dress on a lizard).

  13. Vespers Says:

    … Those Virginqueen ones made me go WANT. The ruffs AND the girls. Hmmm. *stares some more*

  14. lucylle Says:

    Damn… I love Tina Cassati styling.
    And cheeres for reminding me about ruffles. I went through a major ruffle phase a couple of years ago, making them out of everything… I still have the one made of hair and braids somewhere around the house…

  15. tymcode Says:

    Some people can seem to be wearing them when they’re not. Here’s an example: David Bowie — Ashes to Ashes video…

    –Mike Jennings

  16. D Says:

    Ah yes, Prospero’s Books (plus The Pillow Book and The Cook, the Thief…) just finished DLing earlier. Time for some Greenaway bliss (sadly no VHS player or I could have watched my old tapes of ZOO and two of the above mentioned as well – yay for mininova).

  17. joshua Says:

    no, i’m sorry. you are all wrong. clearly, this is the best example of the ruff.

    you all know it, too.


  18. Tanya Says:

    The delightful boys of The Mighty Boosh throw in a ruff reference. Enjoy!

  19. Lily Says:

    here’s something interesting – fabric sculptures.

  20. ewalling Says:

    In my solo performances I wear beautiful ruffs made by the wonderful Gita Mistry see more at:

  21. choklit Says:

    Can’t resist posting this pic of me in a ruff-ish feather collar.

  22. Jovana Says:

    remind me of candy and cakes I want to EAT THEM

  23. Domino Says:

    Gareth Pugh 2009 Spring Ready to Wear Collection:,6675

  24. BlueAnchorNatasha Says:

    I was hoping you would mention Queen Elizabeth in this, ah, my hero.. Fashionable at that!

  25. JW Says:

    It’s hard to imagine something that recalls a dog’s post-op lampshade being at all desirable. But I don’t get gas masks, either.

    The ones in the Viona pictures aren’t so bad, but it must take a while to get used to having something wrapped around your neck like that.

  26. Mer Says:

    Actually, JW, having something around my neck actually makes me feel really comfy, in a weird way. I wear ties and scraves and ruffs all the time. Just last weekend, I wore one of our friend Mildred’s neck corsets for a photo shoot. It actually eased my chronic neck/back pain.

    There’s something to be said for “the old ways”. :)

  27. squadratomagico » Blog Archive » want Says:

    […] other excellent ruff images, check here.) Posted in circus, costumes, frippery on 01/19/2009 12:27 am by squadratomagico […]

  28. 3quartermoon Says:

    Klaus Nomi = inspiration. Beauty. Creativity. ICONIC! Luv the Ruff!!!

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  32. cecilia Says:

    hi there!
    loved the site…do you have any email suscription? would u add my name, please!

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  35. Seamstress Says:

    Sorry, but to make an “intoxicatingly awesome” ruff is not so easy as you think….
    It’s a very hard hand-work that takes long time an concentration.
    But of course anyone can make a “something like a ruff” instead…

    Congrats for the blog anyway, I like it.

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