Thursday, October 1, 2009

COLD SHOULDER: Deciphering the Pad

If a rise in hemlines indicates the recession’s end, then how do we decode the return of the shoulder pad?

To the chagrin of some and the joy of many, our necks will be in good company this year if the blazers shown for spring 2009 get any play. It seems that, following the resurgence of strong shoulders last year and popularized by Christophe Decarnin for Balmain, this once-feared bastion of the 1980’s will be a seasonal mainstay once again.

Theorizing the sociological implication of strong shoulders (so what if I’m pretentious about fashion?), Ann Marie Hourihane of the Irish Times writes: “…sad to say, the shoulder pad has frequently been accessorized by the dole queue. The shoulder pad is a symptom of a culture’s willingness to work when work is scarce. The shoulder pad, when worn by women, signals fortitude in times of distress.”

Ms. Hourihane’s UK neighbor, Janice Turner of the London Times, takes it a step further: “Perhaps women clinging to their jobs are striving harder than ever to assert their power — shoulder pads too are back in town.”

So then, are reports calling an end to the recession completely moot? Skirts are getting shorter and shoulders are rising higher; but the translation of those observations into economic-speak presents a complete contradiction. Maybe the reemergence of shoulder pads is a mere indication that women are wising up to the fantastic contributions prominent shoulders can make to the female shape.

Betsey Johnson told Emili Vesilind of the LA Times that fashion's '80s redux makes perfect sense because "when times are threatening, they always inspire creativity." And in her estimation, "It's actually the first time anything creative [in fashion] has happened since the '80s. It feels the same now as it did then."

Betsey might be on to something. Let’s just hope creativity can pull us out of this slump and keep the pads, puffs and pagoda sleeves a comin’.

Photo credit: Harper's Bazaar UK, February 2009; Model Zuzana Gregorova.

No comments: