fashion women

How to rock the ruffle look this summer

When you think of ruffles, you typically think of ‘50s housewives, the southern belles of fiction, striking flamenco dresses or perhaps even pretty children’s party outfits. But the truth is, the history of the ruffle is much more varied than people imagine.

This fashion style has been around for at least 500 years, and has gone through many iterations on its journey to the collections of summer 2021.

A timeline: the rise of the ruffle

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First references to the ruffle in history originate in 16th century Germany, where men typically wore two layers of clothing.

They began slicing up the outer layer to reveal the one beneath, forming ruffles; which some speculate emulated the ragged edges of the torn army uniforms of returning war heroes.

For the first time, ruffles were seen as a ‘status symbol’ - something that would be cemented not long after by the starched ruffled collars at the royal court of Elizabethan England.

As lace became more widely available in the 18th century, starched ruffs and double layers disappeared in favour of more form-fitting dresses decorated with frills and flounces. These garments were the forerunners for how we use ruffles in modern fashion to represent opulence, luxury and playfulness.

Often seen as a symbol of femininity, the ruffle has been much maligned as the twee, frilly embellishment of young girls.
But contemporary styles are offering new ways to wear this playful feature, with bold colours, striking prints and different materials changing the way we look at the ruffle forever.

Read on to discover how you can rock the ruffle look this summer.

No-frills just ruffles 
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A ruffled dress is perhaps the most ‘traditional’ way to wear a frill - but that doesn’t mean you have to only choose the classics. Light, sheer fabrics decorated with airy ruffle trims are always a popular choice for a pretty summer dress.

Although these are often found in chic floral prints there’s no reason you can’t opt for an exotic twist with a touch of animal print. 

If you prefer something a little less floaty and a little more structured, move towards a linen dress with ruffles for a neater, more defined shape. This clean silhouette looks brilliant when given a style update with a ruffle hem and is still cool and comfortable on even the warmest of summer days.

Typically with ruffled dresses, keeping your accessories fuss-free helps you to avoid the look wearing you. Opt for chic metallic or block colour jewellery, a simple handbag and delicate sandals for a polished look. Or why not contrast your frills and flounces with a sturdy pair of sliders or trainers for an up-to-date style?

Dress like royalty 

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For the ruffle newbie, blouses are perhaps the best way to ease yourself into this popular trend. With hundreds of different styles in different fabrics, the choice can be overwhelming, but there are three key shapes to look for to help you choose the perfect frill for you.

A delicate, country-style ruffle shirt made from cottons and linens with embroidery and details are utterly charming and look brilliant worn with jeans or shorts. Perfect for a smart casual outfit that can be easily transformed from a day to night look by changing flats for heels or wedges. Cute, but sophisticated.

Floral ruffle collar shirts are a modern adaptation of the Elizabethan neck ruff. Thankfully now crested in softer fabrics than the original over-starched design, they are the ruffle equivalent of ‘power dressing’. 

Choose bold colours and team them with statement earrings for a contemporary feminine look that oozes style and confidence.

Lightweight summer tops have been given an update this season with feminine ruffle straps, transforming your standard vest top into something playful and elegant. Wear them with shorts, sandals and hoop earrings for a laid-back, summer style. 

Top tip? Wear your hair in an up-do style to show off these frilly features to their best advantage.

Did you know?

Ruffles are not only popular in fashion - you can find them in the homeware department too. Add a touch of sophisticated elegance to your home by embracing a ruffled cushion or Nillow bedding set.

Styling a ruffle skirt

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Skirts with ruffles fall under several different styles, so there are plenty of different designs and hem lengths to suit different preferences.

Maxi skirts are often designed with either tiered ruffle layers or with a vertical split with a ruffled edge. Both of these looks are versatile and can be dressed up with heels and a smart blouse or down with trainers and a short Trucker-style denim jacket.

A-line, knee-length skirts with ruffle details are some of the most popular choices for a summer wardrobe staple. Whether you choose a delicate print or a bold block colour, these are easily paired with different tops to curate a number of different looks.

For a bold, striking style, choose a structured mini skirt made from a stiffer materials such as leather or denim with a ruffle detail for a contemporary feminine twist. These look great in the summer when worn with wedges or statement trainers - but can be adapted for winter too with tights and boots for a versatile addition to your wardrobe.

Dare to bare your ruffles

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Indulging in a set of sheer, subtle ruffled lingerie can give you a boost of happiness as you go about your business. 

Treat yourself with soft, playful fabrics in pretty shades that are the perfect secret summer accessory.

On the beach, you can dare to bare your ruffles. Off-the-shoulder swimsuits with ruffled details are one of the most popular swimwear styles this summer, with frill details being seen on bikini tops and bottoms too. 

Top tip? Find a style where the ruffles help to accentuate your figure and draw attention away from any areas which make you feel less confident to leave you feeling frilly and fabulous on your holidays, at home or abroad.

Other ways to wear ruffles

If you prefer to introduce ruffles gradually into your wardrobe, you don’t have to take the plunge with a larger item of clothing. Instead, look to your accessories collection for ways to bring frills and flounces into your everyday look. 

From delicate ruffled earrings or hoops to bags with frill details and even ruffled wedged sandals, these low-key embellishments can help you add a feminine touch to your style in a subtle and elegant way.
Ready to rock ruffles this summer? Or perhaps French fashion is more your forte? Check out how Amber Graafland makes Parisian style easy in her blog. 
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