Ready to Wear: The return of the power shoulder

Margiela sent out shoulders sharp enough to poke a passer-by right in the eye

Are you woman enough to wear the new shoulder line? It's big, brash and has never looked broader, and if Marc Jacobs is to be believed – and let's face it, he's among the world's most copied designers – it's the last word in fashionable know-how.

In fact, the power shoulder has been creeping back into fashion for two years now. As waistlines have become progressively higher, so shoulders are on the move, and not in a direction that is likely to go down very well in a crowded lift. Blame the Belgian designer Martin Margiela. In a dramatic change of direction away from a time-honoured and basically gentle silhouette, for his autumn/winter 2007 collection, he sent out shoulders a good metre wide and sharp enough to poke any unsuspecting passer-by right in the eye.

Margiela's ideas can often seem extreme and even confrontational in the first instance, but rest assured that they will have their impact. And now, four seasons later, that is precisely what has happened.

For those of us old enough to remember the 'Dynasty' shoulder – at that point in time, women were not unknown to have shoulder-pads in their nightdresses, fashion never sleeps and all that – this might not be the best of news. A sharp, high, broad shoulder is not, after all, the most flattering silhouette for anyone not preternaturally swanlike of neck, or indeed with a cup size over an AA.

But wait. This time around, there is rather more variety of style than there was back in the shoulder-pad's Eighties heyday, and that, of course, is only to be encouraged.

So far on the catwalks this season – and due in a designer emporium six months from now – shoulder lines have been square and sharp, broad and rounded, high, dropped and even puffed (very puffed), which means that there might quite possibly be something for everyone, should they wish to indulge in any such exaggerated proportions.

Some fashion history. A broad shoulderline has long been equated with feminine power. In the 1940s, both men and women were encouraged to wear a strong-shouldered jacket that meant both maximum impact in times of fabric rationing, and the communication of a sense of purpose and strength.

In the 1980s, meanwhile, the shoulder-pad was considered to be the sartorial weapon that enabled women to smash through the glass ceiling and give their male counterparts a run for their money on Wall Street.

Now, job-hunting is clearly not the focus of any designer with even half an eye on the sociopolitical climate. Instead, big shoulders, particular big shoulders on a hot-pink oversized jacket, say, are a brave, bold and in-your-face gesture that proves that anyone wearing them is not to be messed with.

Oh, and it could not unreasonably be argued that the shoulder-padded woman in question has a sense of humour where her wardrobe is concerned, too.