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Item of the week: the ruched dress

By Rachel Douglass


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(From left) Image: Na-kd, Ted Baker, Karl Lagerfeld

What it is:

Ruched details have been an inescapable part of the current fashion season, particularly used in bodycon dresses and skirts. The style’s regular involvement in a number of recent runway shows also suggests the trend isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Ruching, a French term which translates as ‘to gather, ruffle or pleat’, is a centuries-old technique that involves the overlaying of fabric to create an almost rippling effect. Its current use consists of gathering fabric at a certain point of a garment to add a visually interesting element to designs. Recent designer fashion week collections have included the technique in a number of pieces, mostly seen in form-fitting dresses and skirts that use ruching to create an eye-catching texture. Similar looks have continued to flood the high street in more wearable versions, as the technique continues to spike in popularity, likely due to its ability to form flattering silhouettes and often boasts adjustable qualities.

Image: Na-kd

Why you’ll want it:

Ruching was regularly used in both SS22 and AW22 fashion weeks by popular designers who each brought their own modern twists on the style. Their unique take on the trend has helped to establish its place as a prominent staple look for the coming season, something that has been built upon with seasons recently passed. The increased use of the style could see it continue to become a regular fixture for retailer’s as it subtly links in with the current Gen Z-led Y2K trend that has been making waves throughout the industry. High street translations of the trend are often easy-to-wear and provide a fashion-forward alternative to typical evening wear pieces, with the look also considered somewhat of a body confidence-boosting wardrobe addition.

Image: Zenggi

Where we’ve seen it:

Ruching is a technique that has been explored by many designers over the past few seasons, with the AW22 season being no exception. Despite all iterations of the design, it was arguably Nensi Dojaka who is responsible for the style's current surge in popularity. Known for her technically elaborate mini dresses, Dojaka’s looks often consist of heavily ruched details alongside lace up and cut out qualities, creating looks holding a lingerie-like aesthetic. Supriya Lele presented similar ruched designs for the season’s LFW collection, offering up deconstructed garments in the form of body hugging silhouettes. Heavy ruching was also featured in some creations by New York designer Proenza Schouler, with one in particular allowing the technique to completely define the dress shape. Ahluwalia was another to implement ruching into a handful of designs, shown in a colour contrasting mini dress with a form fitting waistline emphasised by neon hues.

Image: Stella McCartney

How to style it:

Styling this trend ultimately depends on the particular style category the ruched dress falls into, with a variety of versions available to the high street. A particular avenue regularly explored by high-end designers is that of a more deconstructed dress type, where the ruching could take place at various points of the garment and ultimately brings the piece together into one form. A way to approach this alternative, in reference to how designers take it on, is to play with the deconstructed element of the design, layering pieces both over the top and underneath to create more depth and new silhouette possibilities. For more simple versions of the dress style, shown in body-hugging mini or midi dresses, opt for throw on layers, like an oversized blazer or cropped denim jacket. Often, even the more simple versions of ruched dresses come with adjustable features that can be played with, allowing for experimentation on length, shape and form, based on the desires of the wearer.

Image: The Kooples

While the ruche technique is something that was heavily adopted by designers for their current collections, it has also established a prominent place on the high street as a staple look for both coming season and the last. Its increasing popularity can be attributed to both its flattering silhouette and Gen Z’s fascination with nostalgic fashion eras of the past. With the ruched dress appearing in multiple AW22 runways, it seems this historic technique is bound to continue making strides in the industry.

Image: Ted Baker

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Item of the Week