Fashion: Lift those shoulders]: Pad-power goes back a long way - from Elizabeth I to Joan Collins. Now puffing and stuffing are back - but expect more subtlety this time round. Tony Glenville reports
Friday 28 October 1994
Some think the shoulder pad never went away. Those are the people who wear bras with shoulder pads, T-shirts with shoulder pads . . . .
Now, designers as diverse as Alexander McQueen and Christian Lacroix are saying 'Welcome back' to pads. (Yves Saint Laurent was among those who never said goodbye). This autumn's clothes and the collections for spring/summer 1995 have pads a plenty.
They are being used to emphasise sleeve details; the peaked, puffed sleeve of Vivienne Westwood; the high, tight sleeve topped by a straight smooth shoulder of Valentino.
Today's shoulder pads are being counterbalanced by a neat, tight armhole - which is a relief, for it mitigates the worse of Eighties padding. You remember, pads in the blouse, pads in the jacket, pads in the coat, resulting in disappearance of the neck?
The shoulder pad predates the 1980s. External rolls of fabric, sewn to the shoulders, added height - and power - in the late 1600s. By the 1700s, they had become sharp, male, military epaulettes. A frill of stiffening inside the leg o' mutton sleeve helped to create the distinctive silhouette of the 1800s.
The 20th century has seen a wild swing from the huge puffed sleeves of the 1900s to the tiny fitted sleeve of the 1960s. In between came Hollywood's golden era when, at times, the shoulder was almost as big as the stars themselves.
After the Second World War, the shoulder started to soften. Dior's New Look set the post-war shoulder line for many years as softly rounded, to balance the padded hips of the jackets.
It took until the mid-1980s for the shoulder pad to return to huge proportions. After Thierry Mugler and Claude Montana - the catwalk wide-boys -the look became popularised and led us, unforgettably, to Dynasty-style, which Princess Diana and Margaret Thatcher both took on board.
Romantic Romeo Gigli started the backlash against pads. Look to him for the very beginnings of the waif look.
Now pads are fashionable again. But the look need not be exaggerated. Used with subtlety, the shoulder pad emphasises the curvy shape without making women look like prop-forwards. To avoid that, leave that late Eighties Escada jacket - the one with the foam rubber armchairs in the shoulders - in the back of the wardrobe.
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