Ready to Wear: There’s nothing quite like a broad shoulder to shout 'working woman'

It's always safe to assume that a trend is dead in the water once it appears in the nation's favourite soaps.

And so, while the rest of the world had given up on off-the-shoulder peasant tops, say, long before Corrie's Janice Battersby/Michelle Connor appeared to have noticed – visible bra straps were de rigueur in Weatherfield for years, even in the snow – so EastEnders' Roxy Mitchell, pictured, is currently murdering the vogue for padded shoulders as if her very existence depended on it. Roxy is now a pub landlady/entrepreneur, of course, courtesy of dead dad, Archie, and as we all know there's nothing quite like a broad shoulder to shout "working woman" from the rooftops. No, not that sort of working woman, although given Roxy's past form any confusion where that's concerned seems not entirely unreasonable.

In this instance, however, this particular soap diva is clearly channelling the ghost of Alexis Colby as she stuffs strange mounds of wadding into badly cut jackets in scary, shiny fabric – and that's just when she's hanging out in the caff. They've got a life of their own, Roxy's shoulder pads. Oh, and her platinum hair extensions seem to be getting bigger and badder to match.

In the first instance, and as always, we have designer fashion to thank for the return of this particular look. The likes of Martin Margiela, Gareth Pugh, Marc Jacobs and more all decreed that big shoulders were back seasons ago now. Then came Lady Gaga in all her strong-shouldered glory. All of this goes at least some way towards explaining why it is now possible to buy everything from tailoring to T-shirts with padded shoulders at any self-respecting high-street store and why at least a few outlets are actually selling them independently of any clothes. Shoulder pads, then, are the new chicken fillets and it is not – in inexperienced hands – a good look.

It actually takes a keen eye – and an even keener sense of cut and proportion – to make this particular style work well. It's not for nothing that fashion deities from Jacques Fath to Alexander McQueen spent years perfecting their characteristically strong shoulder line. Cleverly integrated into a carefully cut pattern, shoulder pads can do for a woman's deportment just as much, if not more, than a high heel can, adding both height and power to the appearance. Simply shoved under a piece of clothing by we lesser mortals, on the other hand, the padded shoulder is more likely to cause the type of problems with the neck/shoulder/breast ratio that an American footballer suffers from which, clearly, is not the effect that any woman in her right mind would wish to achieve.

s.frankel@independent.co.uk

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