Dressing Ye Part — Part Five

Today we turn our attention to accessories.  For my 16th century events, I won’t be wearing the fur-lined or satin jackets seen in the mid-17th century pictures I’ve been showing you.  Instead I’ll be dressing something like this:


Clearly I needed a ruff, and I’ve never worn one before…

But I have made one… once… as you can read in this article. And it doesn’t hurt a bit that Janet Arnold’s posthumously published Patterns of Fashion 4 is now in my hot little hands and it gives information on other extant ruffs, so I’m not just relying on the information about the ruff in the Rijksmuseum which is 30 or 40 years too late for what I’m trying to portray. (I also consulted The Tudor Tailor but I did not find its construction suggestions nearly as helpful as studying the originals AND the excellent information on how to starch and set a ruff included in the back of Patterns of Fashion 4.

I started by cutting myself a strip of linen 5″ wide by however long I needed it.  The Tudor Tailor says four times your neckband size, but their numbers always seem a little low to me.  My neckband size is 15.5″ (my neck circumference, 13″, plus 2.5″ for turnings and overlaps and shrinkage).  That times four is 62″.  My linen is 60″ wide, but I will be cutting off the selvedges because they’re too bulky.  So I just decided to cut two strips as long as my fabric is wide and if I have too much, that’s better than having too little.

In order to cut two perfectly 5″ wide strips, I pulled threads out of the linen weft exactly 5″ apart and then cut along the void.  This makes a perfectly straight piece and you will thanks yourself for the trouble when you try to hem that edge because it will be perfectly straight.

I spent all day Tuesday hemming those edges.  Let me show you my work:

The looooooong strip of 5″ wide linen

The front and back of my hemmed band

Then I marked intervals of 1/4″ along one long edge of the strip and ran a basting thread through at those intervals. I then drew up the strip into a soft ruff. See:


Detail of my teeny, tiny pleats

If I were making a soft ruff, like the one in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam that I copied last time, I could just sew this to the band and wear it as is.  But I’m trying to look like the woman in the blue jacket at the top of this entry, who is from about 40 years earlier.  Her ruff is starched and set.  (Interestingly, we don’t often see soft ruffs on women in the mid-17th century.  Women are either wearing stiff ruffs of enormous size or they’ve abandoned ruffs altogether and have gone in for lace collars and falling bands.)

But I digress.  Contrary to what other writers have said on the subject, we now know that ruffs were constructed using cartridge pleats.  They were, however, heavily starched, pinned, and ironed into shape.  If stacked box pleats are used instead (which was done on some extant ruffs), the ruff will make the preferred figure-8 shapes more readily and require less fuss with ironing.

Since I have already gathered my ruff into tiny cartridge pleats, I’m going to bend this row of pleats into a sine-wave so they in effect create stacked box pleats. See photo below:

Pleats stacked in columns of five each, stitched together

The inside edge from the top

Close up

The unstarched ruff. It needs a neckband and to be starched into place and it’s finished. See how the stacked pleats give more shape to the ruff even before starching and pressing?

Tomorrow… Oh, I don’t know…



© 2009 Kass McGann. All Rights Reserved. The Author of this work retains full copyright for this material. Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of this document for non-commercial private research or educational purposes provided the copyright notice, the author’s name and website, and this permission notice are preserved on all copies.

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