If looks could frill: ruffles make a big comeback on runways

After a bohemian impasse, ruffles are back in the fold as designers pump up the volume for spring-summer lines

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 12 April, 2013, 10:42am

It all started a year ago when the peplum - a flared, gathered or pleated strip of fabric attached at the waist - began to appear on spring-summer 2012 catwalks. While adding an extra bit of fabric around the tummy would scare off most women, it had the opposite effect.

Soon peplums were spotted everywhere from luxury stores to the high street, as mothers and their daughters embraced this new-found fashion miracle.

Two seasons on and the peplum's legacy continues, as it has morphed into another hot trend: ruffles.

For years ruffles were associated with costumey styles from the Boho-chic movement of the 1970s, or kitschy prom dresses and Laura Ashley creations from the '80s. Even in the deft hands of couturiers like Oscar de la Renta and Valentino, ruffles became more of a statement for the red carpet than a must-have for everyday wardrobes.

This season's permutations, however, couldn't be more different. Ruffles have gone from flouncy to sculptural, thanks to new fabrics, techniques and cuts. Some fresh and contemporary looks prove that ruffles are finally having their moment.

Leading the pack is Balenciaga, where designer Nicolas Ghesquiere flaunts the brand's Spanish heritage with a series of dramatic Flamenco skirts. Worn low on the waist, skirts came with super-high slits and cascades of oversized black ruffles bonded with white fabric underneath (apparently the ruffles were inspired by an archive style from 1967). Many of the skirts were paired with square-shaped tops, adding a sporty vibe to the otherwise sensual collection.

"Balenciaga is one of my favourite interpretations this season," says stylist Tina Leung. "I love the stark black and white contrast and how stiff the ruffles are. The stiffness adds a hardness to the ruffles, so they're no longer girly."

Also making waves was Frida Giannini at Gucci, who punctuated her head-to-toe colours with ruffles that spilled over the shoulders and down a single sleeve or decorated hems. The look was fluid and graceful, emphasising her long, lean silhouettes.

The real showstopper was a simple V-neck evening gown which featured a cascade of ruffles at the back for added drama.

At Chloé, oversized ruffles decorated a one-shoulder peach dress. Later, they appeared on a tiered dress made from pleated chiffon for a light and airy look.

Givenchy's ruffles were also feminine, but with a cool edge. "They are easier to wear day to day as they are softer and more casual," says Leung.

In contrast to Balenciaga's stiff fabrics, Riccardo Tisci chose organza for his delicate styles. Many of his ruffled tops were fastened to the shoulders or in the middle of the back using gold or silver pins, exposing some skin.

Accessories such as thick metal chokers and plastic shoes created a futuristic vibe on the runway, while a palette of sky blue and grey further lightened the look.

With so much on offer, how can you incorporate the trend into your own wardrobe? As with any sort of embellishment, always proceed with caution. Less is more, so pairing two ruffled items together is a definite no-no. Instead, choose one ruffled piece and keep the matching item simple and streamlined.

"Try the trend with just one item first and mix and match it with basics. Then, if it's too tame for you, you can build on top of that. The larger the ruffle, the more basic the other pieces have to be. It's all about balance," says Leung.

While airy fabrics like chiffon and silk will create a more feminine look, stiffer textures will add a tough edge.

Our top pick this season is a ruffled blouse with accents on the collar (who needs a necklace?) or sleeves. Skirts, such as J.W. Anderson's neoprene version, will also make a statement, although you may run the risk of accentuating parts of your body you don't like. Always bear in mind that ruffle placement is of utmost importance when it comes to choosing a flattering style.

"If there's a particular part of your body you dislike, you should avoid styles that have ruffles in that area, like the stomach. It will only emphasise it," says Leung.