A ruffle, a frill, a ruff; a furbelow; whatever you call this ornamental gathering of fabric on a garment, ruffles are one of the biggest fashion trends right now. These undulating strips of fabric showed up for Spring, and they seem to be charming their way into the upcoming Fall season as well.

But just because random ruffles are wafting down the runway, it doesn’t mean that women of a certain age necessarily need to adopt the adornment in each and every guise. A trend your twenty-something self might have embraced whole-heartedly, now requires a bit of discernment.

Area Spring 2016 Lookbook
Area Spring 2016 Lookbook. Image via Vogue
Giambattista Valli Spring 2016. Photo: Rick Hawks
Giambattista Valli Spring 2016. Photo: Rick Hawks

Usually adorning a collar or cuff, and sometimes a hem, ruffles are flourishes with a long fashion history. Popularized by Queen Elizabeth 1, a trend-setter in her day (now known as the Elizabethan era: 1558-1603) she wore exaggerated neckline frills and set the ruffle on its 600-year stylish course.

Queen Elizabeth b by Unknown, c. 1570.
Queen Elizabeth by Unknown, c. 1570.

Ruffles tend to be typecast as romantic; the very sic qua non of femininity. Ruffles are never wasted on the young.

Alexander McQueen; Spring/Summer 2016
Alexander McQueen; Spring/Summer 2016

But a ruffle can be so much more than demure. It can be rendered dramatic, sophisticated, boho, or even edgy in attitude. And this season, ruffles take a decidedly elegant turn. Ruffles for grown-ups.

Victoria Beckham. Reort '16
Victoria Beckham. Resort 2016


Marie Antoinette was a famous lover of ruffles, thus endowing the simple design element with an aura of opulence, extravagance, and luxury.

Marie-Antoinette . Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun
Marie-Antoinette . Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun

Princess Diana’s fairytale wedding dress is undoubtedly the most famous ruffled dress in history

Princess Diana's Wedding Dress
Princess Diana’s Wedding Dress, Getty Image

Even androgynous and minimalist dressers shouldn’t rule out ruffles. Just use restraint.


To avoid looking overly girly, keep the rest of the outfit streamlined and understated. Pair a ruffled blouse with tailored trousers and plain pumps. This keeps the focus on the ruffles. Because right now, ruffles rule the fashion spotlight.

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Susan Written by:

One Comment

  1. July 15, 2017

    O’s creative director Adam Glassman on too-high hemlines, neon nails, and other looks to avoid if you’re over a certain age.

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