Shoulder pads were widely considered a metaphor for power, with women earning suffrage in 1918; this was just the beginning of a beautiful friendship. In the late thirties, Jacques Heim was one of the first of designers to introduce the shoulder pad into twentieth century fashion, with his three pocket blue tweed tailored jacket.
During the forties women’s wardrobes became less dainty and more masculine with the utility suit consisting of a ‘boxy’ shouldered jacket and skirt made traditionally from herringbone tweed. When Christian Dior launched his New Look in 1947, shoulder pads had fizzled out of fashion.
The eighties, a decade of power dressing, New Romantics, stretch dressing and sportswear sees the revival of the padded shoulder. Pop culture saw Joan Collins in Dynasty with abnormally large shoulders and it wasn’t long for the trend to take on. Joanie told The Times that the renaissance of shoulder pads by Valentino and Versace was a “radical change” and “more flattering than an Italian waiter”. By the end of the decade stuffed shoulders were no longer just designed to shape a garment, but became, as Collins once said, a monster fashion statement. Detachable shoulder pads meant that women could sew shoulders into any garment they fancied, from T-shirts to pyjamas. Women enjoyed how padded shoulders created a silhouette, which smoothed out postural imperfections, acting as a non-permanent form of cosmetic surgery.
New designer on the block, David Koma, has revolutionised the pronounced shoulder. Featuring asymmetrical shapes rather than the typical ‘boxy’ shape we are accustomed to. Koma has given a fresh stamp to the outdated trend throughout both his S/S and A/W collections. Rihanna has recently been seen in a figure hugging David Koma LBD, which featured rounded, pronounced shoulders with a circular tangerine and noir pattern. As well as Rihanna, other popular icons such as Beyoncé and Cheryl Cole have also sported Koma’s designs, proving that when it comes to 21st century shoulder pads, David knows best. In the words of Joan Collins, “welcome back, dear friends.”