Kevin Bacon used to be known for his acting, but then Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon came along. Never played it? You must, it’s mind-boggling. This Apollo 13 actor can be linked to any fellow actor - trust me I’ve tried. Meryl Streep? Yes, though too easy. Charlie Chaplin? Yes. Audrey Hepburn? Yes, well you get the picture. It got me thinking, could the same be said about clothes? How do trends and tropes link up? It didn’t take too long before I figured out the line of confluence between Marc Jacob’s just-debuted spring summer 2019 collection, Cheryl Cole and Queen Elizabeth I.
Hear me out. It all has to do with a ruffle collar. For spring next year Marc Jacobs posits eighties excess, frills, polka dots and pastel shades will be relevant. Along with the Pierrot collars and fizzy pink hair the label presented frothy party dresses that recalled 80s era Yves Saint Laurent, Chanel and early Lanvin.
Ruffles themselves have a curious past. Associated so closely with dressing women as confectionary - for look not purpose - it's hard to tear the concept of this feminine froth away from debutantes and Shirley Temple, Gone With the Wind and Dynasty. Sure, Rodarte and Gucci have reinvented them of late, but really by this point, this flourish had already undergone many transformations. In the 16th Century, it was worn by Spanish soldiers who affixed them to their wrists before the Elizabethan's appropriated them as starched ruffs (Queen Elizabeth I pictured above). Both men and women would wear these stiff collars, but later by the 18th Century, it was just men that would wear frilled neckties, often with dress shirts.
By the early 19th Century designers like Poirret were tailoring traditionally masculine concepts, like trousers and flamboyant collars, into womenswear. Meanwhile, his contemporary Jeanne Lanvin (a design by Jeanne Lanvin is pictured above) was softening fashion to make it more form-skimming. Along with a-symmetric and dropped waist dresses, which were a far cry from structured Victorian clothes of previous years), she used ruffles and frills for decoration.
By the 1960s Victoriana was having a resurgence. Think of it as one of the first iterations of a vintage market, when antique clothes were being reappropriated for fashion purposes. This paved the way for Laura Ashley and the dramatic decadence of snaking ruffles and frilled collars of which Aubrey Hepburn wore in My Fair Lady, which was shot in 1964 (pictured above).
In the late 1970s, Yves Saint Laurent (spring summer 1979 pictured above) was daringly designing safari suits and tuxedos for women alongside the most girlish of gowns. They had big shoulders, shirring and of course frilled collars. As the 80s dawned this excess grew, and so did the shoulders and ruffles.
By March 1981 Princess Diana (pictured) was newly engaged to the would-be King of England. All eyes were on the soon-to-be royal and like the Duchess of Sussex and Duchess of Cambridge now, every sartorial step she made was noted. Here she wore a dramatic ruffled collar. In a single blouse, she conveyed a history of royalty, a knowledge of the contemporary French couture world and a delicate romanticism that recalled Jeanne Lanvin's handiwork.
Skip forward to 2011 and two celebrities that could not be further poles apart, Zoey Deschanel and Cheryl, found themselves both wearing a monochrome Victoria Beckham design. Launched three years previously to surprised acclaim, Beckham's line was not just a fashion week fixture but a red carpet mainstay. Modesty and simplicity quickly became the label's calling cards, which were elegantly shown through the architectural ruffle of this peplum dress.
Of course, in 2018 Adwoa Aboah would be one step ahead of next spring's trends. At the Serpentine Gallery's summer party in June, she wore a Chanel dress with a matching frilled collar. Simple and yet a sophisticated nod to the generations of ruffled collars before her.
Marc Jacobs, spring-summer 2019.