(Please excuse the following bad-wedding-speech-knockoff intro.)
Man Repeller’s esteemed dictionary of fashion terms defines “ruche” thusly: “A ruche, pronounced roosh, is the gathering of a strip of fabric. (Essentially, it makes the fabric ripple, like it tasted something sour). We tend to use it in the context of ‘ruching,’ pronounced roo-shing: ‘The ruching on the dress was just divine.’”
And that, folks, is what we’re here to celebrate today. Ruching is a longtime designer darling: Norma Kamali’s obsession with the classic gathering technique began in the 80s, Junya Watanabe’s in the 90s. You probably remember it from the early 2000s, when it helped body-con dresses be extra “con.” It also turns up often on maternity clothes, a tactical device used to play down swollen boobs or help life-housing bellies breathe free.
Of course, the most fun ruched pieces to wear — whether the technique is used sparingly or covers the entire garment — are the ones where a touch of crinkling puts on a major show. Sure, ruching’s main purpose is to help clothes cling; liven up their silhouette. But if it is experimentally snaking all over a bright purple dress, it’s doing all that and more.
Designers are more than wise to this fact. In recent seasons (read: since Spring 2017), ruching has undergone something of a renaissance. The ripple effect began with Donatella Versace, Consuelo Castiglioni, Simon Porte Jacquemus, Phillip Lim, Christophe Lemaire and Sarah-Linh Tran and more industry notables. In keeping with the rise of DIY and the ever-growing, ever-adapting athleisure movement, designers embraced parachute-style ruching: sporty, bungee-cord-accented pulls that you yourself can tug on to alter the look of your piece. Some came on flashy dresses (Versace), some on asymmetric tanks that played well with demure midi skirts (Lemaire).
Ruching play still hasn’t slowed down. To wit: Pinterest says ruching searches are up 108 percent, likely due to plenty of sightings on the Spring 2019 runways. Altuzarra mixed plaid and ruching for a pretty set perfect for a picnic. Diversity champion Pyer Moss ruched collars and sides and added in pleats for an extra burst of texture. Riccardo Tisci’s Burberry debut brought us a polka dot dress with gathered sleeves that married the 80s and 90s seamlessly.
As for the “street style” way to wear the trend, well, that’s easy: start with a hard-to-ignore ruched pant, skirt or shirt and don’t be afraid to add even more to the ensemble (with textured shoes, a bold handbag, a statement tee or a bright, contrasting knit). Given that your ruched piece will likely be fluid of silhouette, we recommend a more structured piece up top or down below. Something with heft, something with a spine (and yes, unexpected shapes are welcome).
Thus ends our speech. Now, gather yourselves, it’s shopping time.