Thursday, January 17, 2019

Ruffled Up

Allow me to indulge my feminine side today and discuss one of my favorite design surface details- the ruffle.  I promise to supplement this post with a more masculine, tailored design post in the near future, but today I wanted to share a discussion of the history of the ruffle as well as some of my favorite rooms with ruffled upholstery or curtains:

What some of you may not know is that the association between ruffles and femininity is a relatively modern idea.  Historically, ruffles were worn by both men and women- if you’ve seen an el Grego painting or a classic Spanish portrait than you likely already know this (or, if you’ve seen the Seinfeld “puffy shirt” episode).   They were first invented in the 1500s in Spain, when soldiers would wear multiple layers of clothing and slash open the ends of their sleeves to reveal the fabric underneath.  “The natural wrinkles that appeared were then appropriated by garment makers, who sewed flexible strings into their clothes.  These could be pulled tighter to give a fashionable ruffled appearance” (Racked 2017).

Soon, the ruffled necktie became the popular fashion for men and this remained the case through the 1700s.  Even many of our Founding Fathers sported this trend, like Alexander Hamilton himself:

Nowadays, I do think ruffles read more feminine , soft, and traditional when used in upholstery- but that is by no means a bad thing.  I love to see a loosely- shirred ruffle on a chair skirt or sofa:

Or on a bedhanging:

I am likely very biased, but I think my boss Markham Roberts always uses a ruffled curtain in the best moments- like in this classic guest bedroom in Nantucket:

Or in this Upper East Side master bedroom:

The ruffle on the tufted chair skirt is a nice compliment to the curtain valences behind.

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