Mirja Tervo, ethnologist and a researcher on luxuries

“Ruffled collars or ruffs were the most recognizable and attention grapping luxury accessory of the early modern era in the dress culture of the European upper class. The ruff, resembling the spread courtship displays of the male ruff birds, are familiar especially from Dutch and English portraiture. That both the collars and the birds have the same name in English is no coincidence.

Coexistence with a ruff in flawless condition wasn’t possible without time, money, a certain lifestyle, skilled artisans and their specialized tools. All of these factors reinforced the social status of the ruff bearers as well as the status of the ruffs as luxury items. The English Puritan Philip Stubbes wrote in his pamphlet Anatomy of Abuses from 1583 about these strange looking trinkets.

Skilled laundresses could create spectacular wholes out of the same ruff using ironing rods of different sizes and shapes. Stubbes rudely called the tools the devil’s forceps.

Ruffs dyed yellow using saffron crocus were very desirable. Yellow dyed ruffs are rarely in evidence in paintings as the tone is very close to old and faded varnish. The yellow shade has been wiped away when cleaning the paintings.”