The notes to Virginia Woolf’s Orlando say ‘hodden’ is a coarse, woollen cloth and the word therefore came to mean a natural, rustic colour, hence ‘hodden brown’.
And the man whose ruff was ‘a thought dirty’, who was fat and shabby in his hodden clothes? Orlando believes, but is never certain, that it was Shakespeare. This passing and unconfirmed glimpse, as Orlando was racing to be in time to present Queen Elizabeth with a bowl or rosewater – haunts him, and later her, for the next few hundred years.
‘But there, sitting at the servants’ dinner table with a tankard beside him and paper in front of him, sat a rather fat, shabby man, whose ruff was a thought dirty, and whose clothes were of hodden brown’.
Source: Virginia Woolf, Orlando, ed. Rachel Bowlby, Oxford: World’s Classics, 1992, p. 21