Neck Ruffles

Queen Elizabeth I and her ruff

Elizabethan Collar
Elizabethan collar after a visit
to the vet.

Have you ever looked at a portrait of Queen Elizabeth I and wondered about her giant neck ruffle? The neck ruff, as it is formally known, was a popular item of clothing among the well-to-do from the mid-sixteenth to mid-seventeenth century.

Originally, the ruff was a seperate garment tied around the neck with a drawstring at back as a way to keep the rest of the garment cleaner for longer. (In other words, it was like a really fancy bib.) These original ruffs would have been quite simple and small. Later, when it was discovered that starch would stiffen fabric and help it keep its shape longer, the ruffs became wider and more elaborately folded. Some people even wore ruffs that stuck out a full foot!

Eventually the ruff fell out of favor throughout most of Europe, although they are still part of the formal attire for bishops in the Church of Denmark. Of course, while the ruff is no longer a popular bit of attire for humans, its descendant the Elizabethan collar (also known as the cone of shame), can be seen in veterinary offices around the world.  

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