Picture of Queen Elizabeth I

Elizabethan Ruffs

  • Interesting Facts and information about Clothing & Fashion - Elizabethan Ruffs
  • Fashion - Elizabethan Ruffs
  • Clothing for Men & Women
  • Extract from pamphlet by Philip Stubbes regarding Elizabethan Ruffs dated 1583

Picture of Queen Elizabeth I


Elizabethan Ruffs

Clothing and Fashion - Elizabethan Ruffs

The Elizabethan ruff is one of the most recognisable items of Elizabethan Fashion. Women's fashion emulated that of a man. Frilled collars became more and more elaborate developing into the famous Elizabethan ruff, which was worn by both men and women.


Ruffs or Ruffles
Ruffs, or ruffles, started as a high frilled collar. Fashion then dictated a more feminine and seductive image for women which was achieved by opening the ruffle in front to expose the neck and the top of the breasts. The ruff was then constructed on gauze wings which were raised at the back of the head. The ruffs, or collars, framed the face and dictated the hairstyles of the age which were generally short for men and swept up look was required for women. Ruffs were pinned into place and often attached to partlets. The pleat or flute of a ruff was called a Purl which were sometimes edged with fine lace. Ruffs were sometimes added to the cuffs of sleeves. Laces or strings, called Band Strings, were attached to the opening of a ruff which were tied together to secure the ruff or band around the neck.


Interesting Facts and Information about Elizabethan Ruffs

Some interesting facts and confirmation of information about Elizabethan Ruffs can be obtained from the words of Philip Stubbes. A first hand impression of the fashions of the Elizabethan era are invaluable - but the Elizabethan style of writing can be hard going. The following information has therefore been taken from the points he made on Elizabethan ruffs:

  • The style of ruffs developed through the Elizabethan era
  • Ruffs were worn by men and women
  • The materials that ruffs were made of varying kinds of linen
    • Holland - Expensive, very fine linen
    • Lawne - Again a type of expensive, fine linen
    • Camerick - Expensive, very fine linen
  • His description of ruffs for men include their styles of a pointed white collar
  • The use of starch in maintaining ruffs
  • The use of supports and underprops to keep the ruffs in place
  • The practice of making ruffs in layers
  • Almost everyone had three or four ruffs
  • Decorated with lace, gold and silver thread and fine silk
  • Women's ruffs sparkling with decorations of the sun, moon and the stars
  • The length and style of ruffs - pinned up to the ears or laying over the shoulder

Elizabethan Ruffs - a comment dating back to 1583.

During the Elizabethan era pamphlets were printed and distributed commenting on life in Elizabethan England. A writer of one such pamphlet was a well travelled Londoner called Philip Stubbes. He was believed to have been born c1555 and died c1610. He was well educated and attended both Oxford and Cambridge University. He was also a strict Elizabethan Puritan and held firm views on any social practices which, in his view were, unfitting  true Christians. He named his work " The Anatomie of Abuses " in which he strongly criticised many of the fashions and clothing worn during the Elizabethan era. It was entered in the Stationers' Register on 1 March 1583. This pamphlet includes his view and some valuable information about Elizabethan Ruffs

Men's ruffs

"They have great and monsterous ruffes, made either of Camericke, Holland, Lawne, or els of some other the finest cloth that can be got for money, whereof some be a quarter of a yard deep, yea, some more, very few lesse; So that they stand a full quarter of a yarde (and more) from their necks, hanging over their shoulder poynts, instead of a vaile. But if Aeolus with his blasts, or Neptune with his stormes chaunce to hit uppon the crafie bark of their brused ruffes, then they goe flip flap in the winde, like rags flying abroad, and lye upon their shoulders like the dishcloute of a slut. But wot you what? The devil, as he in the fulnes of his malice, first invented these great ruffes, so hath hee now found out also two great stayes to beare up and maintaine that his kingdome of great ruffs : the one archor piller wherby his kingdome of great ruffes is underpropped, is a certaine kinde of liquide matter which they call Starch, wherin the devill hath willed them to wash and dive his ruffes wel, which when they be dry, wil then stand stiffe and inflexible about their necks. The other piller is a certain device made of wyers, crested for the purpose, whipped over either with gold, thred, silver or silk, and this hee calleth a supportasse, or underpropper. This is to be applyed round about their necks under the ruffe, upon the out side of the band, to beare up the whole frame and body of the ruffe from falling and hanging down...So few have them, as almost none is without them; for every one, how meane or simple soever they bee otherwise, will have of them three or foure apeece forsayling. And as though Cambrick, Holland, Lawne, and the finest cloth that mayebee got any where for money, were not good inough, they have them wrought allover with silke  woorke, and peradventure laced with golde and silver, or other costly lace of no small price. And whether they have Argente to mayntaine this geare withall, or not, it forceth not much, for they will have it by one meane or another, or else they will eyther sell or morgage their Landes (as they have goodstore) on Suters hill & Stangate hole, with losse of their lives at Tiburne in a rope.& in sure token thereof, they have now newly found out a more monstrous kind of ruffe of xii. (12) , yea, xvi (16) lengthes a peece, set 3 or 4 times double, & is ofsome, fitlie called: "Three steppes and a halfe to the Gallowes".

Women's Ruffs

The women use great ruffes, & neckerchers of holland, lawne, camerick, and such cloth, as the greatest thred shall not be so bigge as the leasthaire that is: then, least they should fall down, they are smeared and starched inthe devils liquore, I meane Starch: after that, dryed with great diligence, streaked,patted and rubbed very nicely, and so applyed to their goodly necks, and, withall, underpropped with supportasses (as I tolde you before) the stately arches of pride: beyond all this they have a further fetch, nothing inferiour to the rest; as,namely, three or foure degrees of minor ruffes, placed gradatim, step by step, onebeneath the other, and all under the Maister devil ruffe. The skyrts, then, of these great ruffes are long and wide every way, pleted and crested ful curiously, Godwot. Then, last of all, they are either clogged with golde, silver, or silk lace of stately price, wrought all over with needle woork, speckled and sparkled heer and there with the sonne, the moone, the starres, and many other antiquities straunge to beholde. Some are wrought with open woork down to the midst of the ruffe and further, some with purled lace so cloyd, and other gewgawes so pestered, as the ruffe is the least parte of it self. Sometimes they are pinned up to their eares, sometimes they are suffered to hang over their shoulders, like windmil sayles fluttering in the winde; and thus every one pleaseth her self with her foolish devices, for as the proverb saith: "everyone thinketh his own wayes best"."

Elizabethan Ruffs

Additional details, facts and information about Elizabethan Clothing and Fashion can be accessed via the Elizabethan Era Sitemap.


Fashion and Clothing - Elizabethan Ruffs

  • Interesting Facts and information about Clothing & Fashion - Elizabethan Ruffs
  • Clothing for Men
  • Clothing for Women
  • Different styles and materials used for ruffs
  • Decorations on ruffs
  • The use of starch
  • Extract from pamphlet by Philip Stubbes regarding Elizabethan Ruffs Elizabethan Ruffs 1583

Queen Elizabeth's Coat of Arms


Elizabethan Era - Free Educational Resource. Author Referencing Information

The contents of www.elizabethan-era.org.uk are subject to Copyright Laws - the name of the Website Author is Linda Alchin. The referencing protocol is suggested as follows:

Alchin, L.K.
 Elizabethan Era
e.g. Retrieved May 16 2012 from

The content of Elizabethan Era is free but solely for educational purposes. Reproduction is not to be "used for any purpose other than private study, scholarship, or research.". We would respectfully direct our visitors to our Elizabethan Era Copyright page and Elizabethan Era Privacy Statement regarding the Terms of Use of this history site, both may be accessed from the links provided at the bottom of this page.

Queen Elizabeth's Coat of Arms

Elizabethan Ruffs


Privacy Statement

2017 Siteseen Ltd

Cookie Policy

By Linda Alchin