This section is from the "A Complete Dictionary of Dry Goods" book, by George S. Cole. Also available from Amazon: A complete dictionary of dry goods and history of silk, cotton, linen, wool and other fibrous substances,: Including a full explanation of the modern processes ... together with various useful tables.
Ruff. [From Dutch ruyffcl, to wrinkle or rumple] A projecting band or frill, pleated or bristling, especially one worn around the neck. In the 16th century, ruffs of muslin or lawn, often edged with lace, pleated and stiffly starched, were worn by both men and women. Indeed, among the first articles of adornment worn, upon which a profusion of lace was displayed, was the ruff. Some of them were very broad, projecting six inches or more in all directions from the neck. In England about 1576 "he was held to be the greatest gallant or beau who had the deepest ruff and the largest rapier (sword). These articles of finery became at last sufficiently preposterous to attract the royal notice and caused Queen Elizabeth not only to make proclamation against both, but to "place selected grave citizens at every gate of the city to cut the ruffs and break the swords of all passengers, if the former exceeded a half-yard in depth, or the latter a full yard in length." The Queen's proclamation was issued in 1579, and ordered that "no person shall use or wear such excessive long clokes, being in common sight monstrous, as now of late are beginning to be used, and prior to two years past hath not been in use in this realme. Neither shoulde also any person use or weare such great and excessive ruffes, in or about the uppermost part of their neckes, as had not been used before two yeares past; but that all persons shoulde, in modest and seemly sort, leave off such fonde, disguised and monstrous manner of attyring themselves, as both was unsupportable for charges, and indecent to be worne." Narrower ruffs of different descriptions and of various materials have formed a part of the costume of women at different periods down to the present day. The ruff at the present day is known as the ruck, or ruff band, or rucking, and sometimes incorrectly termed ruffle.