May 22 2019



In the bid to make an impressive yet inexpensive clown costume I decided to take on the challenge of making a ruffled collar. A ruff is a great addition to a clown costume but can also be used for a host of fancy dresses. Great for World Book Day costumes, cosplayers, drag, theatrical wardrobes or just for wearing everyday. Who doesn’t want to bowl about in a massive ruff?

A quick glance at Etsy and Ebay will show you that buying a ruff is NOT CHEAP, so here’s how I made mine over the course of a couple of quiet days in my studio.

I took inspiration from Lucille Michiele‘s blog post, which is in French but still really helpful!

You will need:

Enough fabric to make a continuous length of 15cm x 8-11m

Invisible marker pen

Tape measure

Iron and ironing board

Sewing machine (although you could do it all by hand)

Needle and matching thread


1: Tear your fabric into lengths of 15cm wide strips (the torn edge will give you a pretty feathered edge to your ruff), and then sew together to form one very long fabric tape to measure at least 8m and maybe more like 11m, depending on the thickness of your chosen fabric. I used a vintage yellow taffeta-esque fabric from my late grandmother’s stash, which is quite a thin fabric and I needed 11meters for it to be sufficiently and satisfyingly ruffled all the way round. If you were using heavier weight cotton you could probably get away with 8 meters.

2:Press your fabric well and then make a 5cm fold and press crisply all the way along the length of your fabric. Make sure you use an appropriate heat setting on your iron for the type of fabric you are using, I had to keep mine on a really low heat.

3:Using a ruler or tape measure mark dots on the fold of your fabric at regular 4cm intervals. If possible use a disappearing marker for this. I used a black pen and the dots are only visible on the inside of my collar – so can’t be seen when being worn – but I know they’re there and it bugs me!

4: Here you can see the dots all the way along the fold of my fabric. It took a while to do but it’s the kind of boring repetitive work I enjoy as part of a project like this. And the more accurate you can mark your 4cm-apart-dots, the neater and more professional your finished collar will look. I’m the kind of person who tries to skip any steps I can to speed up the process, but it is almost always an error.

5: Next, starting at one end of your fabric strip, you need to start gathering your fabric into a concertina with the dots lining up in the middle (as shown). Then with your needle and using double thread, securely knotted at the end, pass your needle through the front and back of each fold. Through your dot, and then the next and then the next. You might be able to do a couple of the folds with one pass of the needle or you may prefer to do it one by one. You’ll start to feel the collar coming together and see the satisfying ruffled shape. I pressed my fabric folds a little as I went, to keep things neat.

6: When you have sewn through all of your dots hold the ruff up to your neck to test the fit and adjust the gathers accordingly. Then secure at the end with your needle and thread. It should be looking the part now!

7: The next stage is to pass your needle through the top corners of your ruffles to keep the collar secure and together while you are wearing it. I kind of wish I had done this with either see-thru nylon thread or at least a matching coloured thread. This thread will be ever so slightly visible when you wear it (depending on the tightness of your ruffles) so bear that in mind.

8: When this is finished, and you are happy with the fit around your neck secure the thread well. Then attach your ribbons to each end so that you can tie it around your neck in a lovely bow. I used a contrasting purple velvet ribbon.

9: Stand back and admire your work. Wait for the compliments to pour in – which they will.

10: If you attempt your own ruff please share your photos with us on social media. Here’s me in my complete outfit. The ruff was key to its success!