Lesser Known Label- Clovis Ruffin

Clovis Ruffin quote

When envisioning the iconic sleek, flowing silhouettes of 1970s fashions, designers Halston and Stephen Burrows often come to mind. But Clovis Ruffin was also a key player in the fashion world back then, designing easy to wear, affordable knit dresses that appealed to the young woman on the go.

He originally worked as a photographer. But it was the styling and clothing that he was truly drawn too.   He bucked the prevailing fashion trend of pants and jeans by designing  a line of jersey T-shirt style dresses, which led to his first collection in 1972. And the next year he was the youngest designer ever to win a Coty Award.

One can only imagine just how many more years of great designs he would have had ahead of him if his career hadn’t been cut short. But, unfortunately, Clovis Ruffin passed away in 1992 at the young age of 46.

Kennedy Fraser, fashion critic for the New Yorker says this about Clovis Ruffin in his book From The Fashionable Mind-Reflections on Fashion 1970-1981

“The exhilarating novelty of Ruffinwear lies in its agelessness and classlessness. Ruffin’s dresses are worn by impecunious young office workers with cheap sandals and plastic bangles, or by the likes of Mrs .Onassis, with hand made shoes and diamonds.”

And his mother, Harriet Wright, wrote in her book  I’d Do it Again-A Memoir,

“He did whatever his instincts told him to do, regardless of what others said or thought. He had a vision and knew what he wanted. He had no time or patience for those that didn’t  get it.”

Clovis Ruffin dresses-1977

Clovis Ruffin dresses-1977

Clovis Ruffin black button front knit dress

Clovis Ruffin Early 80s black knit button front dress $140 at Dorotheas Closet on Etsy.

Fashion Facts about Clovis Ruffin-

  • One of the first designers to hire black models for his runway shows
  • Designed clothing for Diana Ross, Kay Ballard, Gladys Knight,  the Alvin Alley dancers.
  • Claimed to be the originator of the wrap dress, not Diane Von Furstenburg
  • Nicole Miller began her fashion career interning for Clovis Ruffin.
  • He liked using stripes, terrycloth, jersey knit and also designed handbags and loungewear.
Clovis Ruffin striped top and leggings-1982

Clovis Ruffin striped top and leggings-1982


Clovis Ruffin striped canvas bags-1975

Clovis Ruffin striped canvas bags-1975

70s Clovis Ruffin southwest print dress70s Clovis Ruffin Southwest print dress $175. At LuciteBox


Clovis Ruffin quotes-

Here are some quotes from the designer, himself, which sheds light on his thoughts about fashion.

From an interview in Rome News Tribune, 1978

“I like clothes you can pull over your head and belt the body and push up the sleeves. A good dress mus work on a lot of different women.”

“I hate cooking. It’s a waste of time. I can drape a dress for an hour and you can look at it the rest of your life. But you stuff a chicken for an hour and it’s gone in 15 minutes.”

From the San Bernadino County Sun-1975

“I think clothes have to be beyond time. They must go until they wear out or become a bore.”

“There’s a great move toward fashion again. It’s a great way of stating who you are and where you want to go.”

Clovis Ruffin Butterick pattern
Clovis Ruffin even designed a line of patterns for Butterick  so you could sew your own Clovis Ruffin designs! Here is one from Etsy $35.00

70s Clovis Ruffin striped Lounging dress70s Clovis Ruffin striped lounging dress. $150 From Modern&Moore

70s Clovis Ruffin maxi dress70s Clovis Ruffin Maxi Dress $225. MartinMercantile on Etsy

70s clovis ruffin black jersey chiffon maxi dress70s Clovis Ruffin black jersey and chiffon 30s inspired dress. $159 at Blue Velvet Vintage

So if you love to wear the body conscious streamlined styles that were the all the rage with the disco crowd in the 1970s, then`be on the lookout for Clovis Ruffin designs.  They are still priced much lower than more well known designers from that era.  Look for Ruffinwear, Ruffinknits and Clovis Ruffin Boutique labels.

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By | 2016-08-17T12:50:39-04:00 August 17th, 2016|Fashion, Labels to Look For|2 Comments

About the Author:

Hi, I'm Theresa, owner and chief classy dame at the Blue Velvet Vintage online boutique. Lover of mid century fashion and home decor, classic films, Old Hollywood, pretty dresses, red lipstick, swing dancing and retro culture in general. Between my ecommere site and vintage style blog my mission is to revive the eras of classy dressing and inspire women to add more glamour to their lives! So don't be shy! I love to hear from others who share my appreciation of the styles of the past.


  1. Theresa Campbell
    Theresa Campbell September 1, 2016 at 10:33 am

    Jessica, appreciate your comment on Clovis Ruffin. When I discovered the black dress I couldn’t help but think of all the current styles that are incorporating this sheer hem look. Yet Mr. Ruffin was doing it over 40 years ago! Just another example of how current designers are always borrowing ideas from the past.

  2. Avatar
    Jessica Cangiano August 31, 2016 at 5:47 pm

    Wonderful spotlight on a really appealing mid to later 20th century brand. I’d happily wear a number of the styles here, including that understatedly chic black knit dress. It was a lot of fun to learn more about Clovis Ruffin. Thank you for the informative post.

    xoxo ♥ Jessica

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