Shoulder pads, high heels, a tailored suit, the black turtleneck, etc., All of these at one point have been considered power items of clothing. And this fall another power item will be making the rounds, but it isn’t very original. We have seen this look over the years but perhaps in this era of #MeToo and protests it is quite fitting … literally.
Get ready to see some high collars in your office. High Elizabethan-type collars were all over the spring 2019 New York Fashion Week runways including Versace, Gucci, and Chanel. Ruffled collars used to represent your social class and power level. The bigger the collar, the more formidable you were. Ian Mortimer wrote in The Time Traveler’s Guide to Elizabethan England, “At the height of the craze, in the 1580s and 1590s, ruffs are made up of up to six yards of starched material, with up to 600 pleats in them, extending eight inches or more from the neck.”
This is why we saw titans like Queen Elizabeth wear them. Though both women and men wore these collars, for women it was especially a power move as a woman’s neck has a bit of a vulnerable, fragile status associated with it. A high collar gives it a robust accentuation more so than even a statement necklace.
And that powerful neck piece has remained powerful even if we (thankfully) removed a few yards of material. As Vanity Fair writer Keziah Weir pointed out in a recent piece, Ruth Bader Ginsburg wore collars and ruffs around her uniform robes to show she was distinctly different than the others and that feminity should be synonymous with power not contrarian. Pioneer dressing and prairie chic have also been making the retail rounds complete with high-buttoned up collars.
In addition to the runways, we are also seeing this high collar movement in films this fall. Of course, it is all the rage in Mary Queen of Scots as Saoirse Ronan (Mary) and Margot Robbie (Queen Elizabeth) duke it out over who gets to be the most powerful in all the land in Kabuki-like makeup, giant red hair and of course, those triumphant collars. In On the Basis of Sex, we also get to see a young Ruth Bader Ginsberg (played by Felicity Jones) start to find her voice in her incredible career as well as her fashion sense. And in A Simple Favor, Blake Lively’s enigmatic walking contradiction of a neighbor traipses around in men’s suits and collars. Weir also points out that in the upcoming film Colette, starring Keira Knightly as a ghostwriter for her husband of a hit novel that ends up giving him all the glory and credit, uses her collar fashion game to rebel against her controlling husband.
Even the new power suit for women features high ruffled collars and bright colors and patterns as power dressing doesn’t mean not being feminine-style has to be eliminated. Wall Street Journal Haley Phelan wrote, “Women are encouraged to play to their individual strengths, rather than struggle to conform to some preconceived ideal. And naturally, they’ll need a new uniform for this changing environment—one that’s sophisticated, with a side of sticking-it-to-the-man ’tude.”