A ruff is an item of clothing worn in Western, Central and Northern Europe from the mid-sixteenth century to the mid-seventeenth century.

Clothing is fiber and textile material worn on the body.


The round and flat variation is often called a millstone collar after its resemblance to that object.

Millstones or mill stones are stones used in gristmills, for grinding wheat or other grains.


The ruff, which was worn by men, women and children, evolved from the small fabric ruffle at the drawstring neck of the shirt or chemise.

In sewing and dressmaking, a ruffle, frill, or furbelow is a strip of fabric, lace or ribbon tightly gathered or pleated on one edge and applied to a garment, bedding, or other textile as a form of trimming.

A chemise or shift is a classic smock, or a modern type of women's undergarment or dress.

A drawstring is a string, cord, lace, or rope used to "draw" fabric or other material.


They served as changeable pieces of cloth that could themselves be laundered separately while keeping the wearer's doublet or gown from becoming soiled at the neckline.

A gown, from the Saxon word, gunna, is a usually loose outer garment from knee- to full-length worn by men and women in Europe from the Early Middle Ages to the 17th century, and continuing today in certain professions; later, gown was applied to any full-length woman's garment consisting of a bodice and attached skirt.


The stiffness of the garment forced upright posture, and their impracticality led them to become a symbol of wealth and status.


Ruffs were primarily made from linen cambric, stiffened with starch imported from the Low Countries.

The term Low Countries, also known as the Low Lands and historically called the Netherlands, Flanders, or Belgica, refers to a coastal lowland region in northwestern Europe forming the lower basin of the Rhine–Meuse–Scheldt delta and consisting of Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg.

Cambric, or batiste, one of the finest and densest kinds of cloth, is a lightweight plain-weave cloth, originally from the French commune of Cambrai, woven in greige, then bleached, piece-dyed and often glazed or calendered.

Starch or amylum is a polymeric carbohydrate consisting of a large number of glucose units joined by glycosidic bonds.


Later ruffs were also sometimes made entirely from lace.

Lace is a delicate fabric made of yarn or thread in an open weblike pattern, made by machine or by hand.


However, lace was expensive since it was a new fabric, developed in the early sixteenth century.


The size of the ruff increased as the century went on.


"Ten yards is enough for the ruffs of the neck and hand" for a New Year's gift made by her ladies for Queen Elizabeth in 1565, but the discovery of starch allowed ruffs to be made wider without losing their shape.


Later ruffs were separate garments that could be washed, starched, and set into elaborate figure-of-eight folds by the use of heated cone-shaped goffering irons.

A clothes iron is a small appliance that, when heated, is used to press clothes to remove creases and help prevent the spread of infectious diseases.


Ruffs were often coloured during starching, vegetable dyes were used to give the ruff a yellow, pink or mauve tint.


A pale blue colour could also be obtained via the use of smalt, although Elizabeth I took against this colour and issued a royal prerogative: "Her Majesty's pleasure is that no blue starch shall be used or worn by any of her Majesty's subjects, since blue was the colour of the flag of Scotland..."

The royal prerogative is a body of customary authority, privilege, and immunity, recognized in common law and, sometimes, in civil law jurisdictions possessing a monarchy, as belonging to the sovereign and which have become widely vested in the government.

Cobalt glass—known as "smalt" when ground as a pigment—is a deep blue coloured glass prepared by including a cobalt compound, typically cobalt oxide or cobalt carbonate, in a glass melt.


Setting and maintaining the structured and voluminous shape of the ruff could be extremely difficult due to changes in body heat or weather.


For this reason, they could be worn only once before losing their shape.


At their most extreme, ruffs were a foot or more wide; these cartwheel ruffs required a wire frame called a supportasse or underpropper to hold them at the fashionable angle.


Ruffs could make it difficult to eat during mealtimes, similar to the cangue.

A cangue or tcha is a device that was used for public humiliation and corporal punishment in East Asia and some other parts of Southeast Asia until the early years of the twentieth century.


By the start of the seventeenth century, ruffs were falling out of fashion in Western Europe, in favour of wing collars and falling bands.


The fashion lingered longer in the Dutch Republic, where ruffs can be seen in portraits well into the seventeenth century, and farther east.

The Dutch Republic, also known as the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands, Republic of the United Netherlands or Republic of the Seven United Provinces, was a republic in Europe existing from 1581, when part of the Netherlands separated from Spanish rule, until 1795.


It also stayed on as part of the ceremonial dress of city councillors in North German Hanseatic cities and of Lutheran clergy in those cities and in Denmark, Norway, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, and Greenland.

The Faroe Islands, or the Faeroe Islands, is a North Atlantic archipelago located 320 kilometres north-northwest of Scotland, and about halfway between Norway and Iceland.

Lutheranism is a major branch of Protestant Christianity which identifies with the theology of Martin Luther, a German friar, ecclesiastical reformer and theologian.

Greenland is an autonomous constituent country within the Kingdom of Denmark between the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, east of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.

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