Wear Ruffles at Any Age

| Jun 27, 2016
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Gauze ruffled dress from RoamansWhen you think of frills, flounce, and ruffles, odds are you’re picturing yourself, age four, heading to a family event wearing a scratchy party dress covered in fluted layers. Or maybe you loved that dress but have since abandoned anything frilly because, well, Toddlers and Tiaras. So if you think ruffles are only for little girls, then surprise? Feminine flounce has now taken on a grown-up look and women in their 40s, 50, and beyond can now wear ruffles with style. The historically childlike detail has gotten a high-fashion makeover during the last couple of seasons, with top designers like Miu Miu, Marni, Marc Jacobs, Simone Rocha, and more showing pieces with exaggerated ruffles, voluminous frills, and structured flounce.

Living in Mexico, ruffles and lace are common as traditional garb for women of all ages or if you love the Bohemian style, then you are in luck. Ruffles are intrinsic to the Bohemian style. This is important. The trick to pulling off flounce and looking like an adult is to make the ruffle the focal point of your outfit, and make sure it’s dramatic and structured — as opposed to a bunch of limp, half-assed frills, which can look cheap and indecisive.

In looking at my own wardrobe, and I love ruffles and lace and flounced hemlines, I realize that I had actually done a few things right. I have a black and white printed chiffon blouse with a center ruffle (wear with a black bra that you can see the outline of)  which goes well with a black knee-length shirt or black pants, a purple peasant dress with tiered ruffled layers (on right), several layered and flounced skirts and a black and white shift A-line dress with flounces at the hemline (below). Hopefully this article will encourage you to add ruffles to your wardrobe as we show you how to do it in a chic and modern way.

General Guidelines

Choose a Modern Color

If you think of ruffles as precious and girly, counteract that with a ruffled top in a deep, or bold color. An unexpected or trendy shade like army green, or bright orange can make all the difference when it comes to ruffles looking frumpy or fabulous.

after 40 ruffle ensemble modern color

 Wear the Right Ruffle for Your Body Type

A ruffled top is an easy way to look on-trend this season, but make sure to choose the right ruffle to flatter your figure. Ruffles are bulky and add volume, so be conscious of this when you’re out shopping.

Example: Large busted gals should stay away from tops with large, horizontal ruffles that make you look extra busty and add weight. Instead, something like this sleeveless ruffle top with its open neckline and smaller vertical ruffle. You’ll look longer, leaner and your bust will be more in proportion.

More on body types can be found here.

after 40 ruffle ensemble ruffled dress

Balance Ruffles

A flirty, super feminine way to do ruffles is on a dress. One reason this Spanish-inspired sheath with double frill hemline looks so fab is because of the cut. The slim-fitting shape of the dress balances out the bold ruffles at the hemline, making the dress look modern and youthful. Whenever you have a lot of flounce at the bottom of your outfit,  you should keep the top of your outfit streamlined,  and visa verse.

One other note: the simple nude shoe also balances the ruffles by downplaying your feet and keeping all eyes on your hot hemline and lovely legs.

after 40 ruffles ensemble balanced ruffles

Choose Tops with Ruffles Made out of Soft, Flowing Fabrics

A dainty ruffled top with 3/4 length sleeves is pretty and practical for women who like tops that cover the arms. It looks most modern when it is made from a soft, flowy fabric. Hard, stiff ruffles can be aging. A relaxed, pretty top like this adds a fun twist to a pair of basic white summer pants.

after 40 ruffle ensemble flowing fabrics

Don’t Let Accessories Overpower

Ruffles make a strong statement on their own, so don’t overcomplicate things by piling on too many, or too wild accessories. Stick to minimal, elegant jewelry and a streamlined bag and shoes. The ruffles should always be given the spotlight.

Go Dramatic with an Off the Shoulder Ruffle Top

One way to look chic and not childish in ruffles is with an off the shoulder ruffled top. Forget wimpy and go bold with large dramatic ruffles. The wide ruffle on this gorgeous black top is bold and deliberate, and will make you look mature and fashion forward.

Own the Look

If you’re only wearing ruffles because they happen to be the trend, but you secretly feel they’re too fussy for you, you’ll never look right. On the flip side, if you like to dress with a romantic, feminine touch, but you are worried about looking age-appropriate in ruffles, relax! Follow these guidelines and ruffles can work at any age. Be confident and have fun with ruffles. Own the look!

How to Wear Ruffles by Type of Garment

Ruffled Blouses

Ruffled blouses

  • Add volume to a small bust with horizontal ruffles. Ruffles that travel in a horizontal line, from shoulder to shoulder, draw attention to your bust and create the illusion of fullness. On the other hand, ruffles that travel in a narrow line down your front may only make you look flatter.
  • Opt for vertical ruffles if you have a well-endowed bust. A line of ruffles down the center of your blouse draws the eye up and down, rather than side to side, which may prevent the ruffle detailing from making your chest look any larger. You should avoid horizontal ruffles, however, since these may end up making you look top heavy.
  • Skip ruffles on top if you want to minimize your torso or chest. If you feel self-conscious about a large bust or mid-section, skip the ruffled blouse and opt for another ruffled piece, like a skirt or an accessory. Ruffles draw the eye, giving it a focal point, so any place you wear a ruffle will automatically garner extra attention.
  • Look for ruffles along the sleeves or bottom. If you are not certain about how ruffles along your front look, opt for a safer bet and look for a blouse with small ruffles trimming the sleeves or lower hem. These details add a fun, feminine twist to your blouse without looking too fashion forward.
  • Pair your ruffles with a structured jacket. The best way to wear the free-flowing ruffle is by pairing it with structured pieces. A structured jacket, like a boyfriend blazer, adds a chic amount of masculine contrast to an ultra feminine style.
  • Match a ruffled blouse with a straight, simple pant. Choose a style that flatters your figure. Boot-cut and wide-legged styles may help balance out a ruffle on top, while skinny jeans and tapered trousers will make the ruffle stand out more.
  • Tuck a ruffled blouse into a pencil skirt. Wearing a ruffled blouse with a skirt maximizes the amount of femininity you can get from the look. A pencil skirt flatters most figures and provides just enough structure to keep free-flowing ruffles in line.
  • Choose a simple shoe. A riding boot or edgy platform contrasts nicely against the soft look of ruffles, while a delicate heel plays into the natural sense of girlishness.
  • Minimize your accessories. The ruffles already act as a focal point for your outfit, and too many accessories may clash. Avoid accessories in areas near the ruffles. Skip the earrings and necklaces if you have ruffles across your shoulder, and forego the bracelets and rings if you have ruffles at your bottom hem or trimming your sleeve.

Ruffled Skirts

ruffled skirts

  • Add volume to your hips with ruffled tiers. If you have narrow hips, a skirt with tiered ruffles is a good way to create the illusion of volume.
  • Look for ruffles along the lower hem if you have broader hips. Ruffles directly on the hip will likely make your hips look even wider, but a small amount of ruffle detailing at the bottom hem of a knee-length or maxi skirt will draw the eye away from your hips and toward the ruffle. As a result, your legs may appear more balanced.
  • Avoid ruffled skirts if you feel self-conscious about your legs. If you feel dissatisfied with both your thighs and your calves, a ruffled skirt will only make you feel more self-aware of these problematic features. If you have issues with your legs, skip the ruffled skirt and opt for a ruffled top to draw the focus someplace else.
  • Pair ruffled skirts with simple, fitted tops. A simple fitted tank top or t-shirt creates a chic casual look, while a fitted button-down shirt gives your look structure and class. Stick with solid colors since patterns would likely compete with your attention-getting skirt.
  • Consider leggings. Leggings are a trendy item and work especially well in the cooler months of winter, late fall, and early spring. They also provide an added boost of structure that contrasts well with a ruffled skirt. Stick with black or dark brown leggings and avoid bright colors or patterns, since these are more likely to clash.
  • Stick with a simple shoe. A belted ankle boot gives your style an edgy twist, but a simple ballet flat can keep your outfit looking soft and feminine.
  • Accessorize with caution. With your ruffles restricted to your lower half, necklaces and earrings are less likely to create a problem, but you should still keep them simple and subdued. Avoid belts, bulky bracelets, and rings, since these items are closer to your skirt and may create more of an issue.

Ruffled Dresses

ruffled dresses

  • Use ruffles to balance out your curves.
    • If you have perfectly proportioned hourglass curves, look for a dress that has ruffled trims along the collar, sleeves, and bottom hem to avoid throwing your curves out of proportion.
    • If one area of your body is smaller in proportion than another, look for a dress that places ruffles over that portion. For instance, if you have a small bust and wide hips, look for horizontal ruffles that add volume and detail to your bust.*
  • Be careful about ruffles that travel the full length of the dress. Some women may be able to pull this look off, but for many, the ruffles are bound to cross over a problem area they would rather mask. If you have a rectangle body type, however, a tiered ruffle dress may provide a welcome increase in volume.
  • Try on a pair of sexy, strappy shoes. Ruffled dresses can look girlish, but a sultry high heeled sandal may give your look the spice it needs to boost it into womanliness.
  • Match your ruffled dress with a simple kitten heel or flat. Many ruffled dresses have a naturally sweet appearance, and a cute flat or kitten heel can coordinate well with that sweetness without pushing the cuteness over the top.
  • Keep your accessories to a minimum. A ruffled dress may put even more ruffles on your body than a blouse or skirt. Avoid embellishment overkill by sticking with one or two extremely simple pieces of jewelry, like pearl post earrings or a delicate choker necklace.

Accessories to add to ruffles

  • Try a ruffle-trimmed boot. Some suede and leather ankle boots have a pretty ruffle trim along the top. Match these boots with simple pencil or A-line skirt, since pants may hide the ruffle from sight.
  • Consider a flat with ruffle detailing above the toes. This trim may come as a single row of ruffles at the opening of the shoe, or there may be multiple rows of ruffles. Match these flats with jeans and a simple blouse to give your style a subtle twist of feminine charm.
  • Look for a ruffled scarf. Fashion scarves are highly trendy and add a nice splash of color and pattern to an otherwise plain dress or ensemble. A ruffled scarf uses elastic to create the appearance of draping ruffles throughout the length of the scarf.
  • Throw a ruffled jacket or cardigan over a simple outfit. Some styles may have ruffles along the front opening, while others may have a little along the wrists or collar. Match these pieces with simple garments like fitted tank tops, skinny jeans, and pencil skirts.
  • Carry a ruffled handbag. A shoulder bag with a ruffled design on it is an effective way to add ruffles to your style without worrying about drawing attention to any particular part of your body. Leave this purse behind when you decide to wear a busy outfit, however, since the ruffles on your bag could still clash with other patterns and embellishments on your clothing.

ruffled accessories


Need more help in finding the right ruffled look, check our Pinterest board, Ruffles and More.

So where can I buy these ruffled skirts. dresses, and blouses, Tasi? Try these great retailers on Sister House:

Unique Vintage      Modcloth     Lane Bryant

Credit to the following sites for information and pictures:  Fashionspot,  Stylecaster,  Wikihow and Fabulous After 40.

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Category: Style, Transgender Fashion


About the Author ()

Tasi was a transgender, married, lifelong crossdresser. She passed away in late 2018. She’s the founder of the Ladies of the Blue Ridge transgender group in Roanoke VA, a prolific writer, commentator and blogger including fashion articles for Tri-Ess, TG Reporter, Repartee, and Pretty T-Girls magazine. Tasi currently resides in Merida, (Yucatan) Mexico. Her new website, Sister House and her blog, the Fashionable TG Woman are dedicated to fashion and style for the transgendered woman. Tasi’s book, "Top Ten Fashion Mistakes By Crossdressers and How To Fix Them" is available on Amazon or on her site free to subscribers.

Comments (1)

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  1. ‘Bring Back Ruffles’! What a wonderful thought. To learn that the ruffled blouses and skirts with the short ruffle in the back split of my teens are back! What joy! My sister in law had a few of these very items, I did spend many an enjoyable hour wearing them.
    I watched a scary movie last night which was set in the 70’s. A lady, one of the hero’s, wore such a blouse, pale blue, ruffled neckline and cuffs.
    If you insist, the movie was called ‘The Conjuring’. Google it, click on images, the most common pic showing that blouse has the lady looking at a small music box. Don’t watch the movie late at night while on your own! You have been warned.

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