In the year that celebrates the 40th anniversary of punk, you might think rips and tears would be in fashion to pay homage to Sid and friends. But fashion always likes to keep us guessing. Punk’s signifiers now feel middle-aged. The mark of edgy right now? The ruffle.
Yes, really. Designers embracing this unlikely trend include JW “men-in-corsets” Anderson and Marques Almeida, the duo known for making ripped jeans popular again. There are also ruffles at Stella McCartney and Chloe, where they have a sort of retro, found-in-a-charity-shop, 70s feel.
Unapologetically pretty, and more usually found on bridesmaid dresses than the catwalk of fashion’s vanguard, ruffles aren’t cool. But they could be the new rip. Put it down to designers having a massive lol on the previous arc of minimalism, where shapes and textures were, well, minimal in pursuit of the bare bones of elegance. Ruffles interfere with line, they are – by their nature – exaggerated, OTT and fussy. As such, they feel edgy when compared to streamlined knitwear and sculptural cocoon coats. In fact, they look as if they’re a whole load of fun.
You only have to glance through the ruffle’s past to know what they bring to a party. See Louis XIV, a fan of the ruffled shirt and a man who, if Versailles is anything to go by, had little time for restraint in the realm of aesthetics. As the new mini-series Versailles tells it, he wore them in bed and at banquets. The Sun King went to levels of lavishness that the likes of Kim Kardashian (who was famously refused permission to stage her wedding to Kanye West at Versailles) can only dream about. Ruffles, such a ridiculous symbol of richesse, were central to his pomp. Like Kardashian, Louis knew how to create a brand.
Ruffles had another moment in more recent memory – as part of the 80 pop pomp. The New Romantics were partial to a ruffle – in a bid to make highwayman chic a thing – but the ultimate 80s ruffle reference is, of course, Prince in Purple Rain. In a moment where the likes of Bruce Springsteen had made the male in pop so macho, Prince wearing a ruffled blouse was totally edgy. More than 30 years later, it is again. Embrace the ruffle and forget the rip. It’s the most punk thing you can do right now.