When shoulder pads reshaped the 1980s



At some point in the 1980s, a warrant was given by executives on the CBS network concerned about the excessiveness of costume designers on their hit prime-time soap opera. Dynasty. More precisely, they wanted to stars Linda Evans and Joan Collins to stop wearing shoulder pads, the rigid foam accessory that gave their profiles a distinctive V-shaped appearance.

The news quickly returned to CBS: defiantly Evans and Collins were going not lose their pads. According to Nolan Miller, the costume designer of the series, the stars “almost mutinied.” Their exaggerated shoulders were here to stay.

For most of that decade, epaulets were as ubiquitous a fashion statement as neon colors and Ray-Bans. Although American women may not have opted for such a severe and steep postural precipice as the Dynasty stars, the pads were none the less emblematic of the time. Opposed to chauvinistic attitudes towards women in the workplace, the feminine style has taken on a physically assertive stature. But this idea does not come from the stars of television. He was rooted in a reply to the domestic work crisis during WWII.

From protective gear to feminist clothing

Before the war epaulettes were seen as glamorous but impractical clothing or as part of protective football gear. In 1931, the Italian designer Elsa Schiaparelli present high fashion styles with the look, the result supposed to be influenced by surrealist art. Just like his designer colleague Marcel Rochas. But international developments have been slow to reach the United States.

It wasn’t until costume designer Adrian Adolph Greenburg dressed actress Joan Crawford in a stylish padded look for movies like the 1932s. Letty Lynton throughout the 1945s Mildred Pierce that the large-scale approach has gained national attention. (It is believed that Greenburg was struck with inspiration at the sight of Crawford’s large shoulders and chose to accentuate them rather than trying to hide them.)

This admiration gave way to a focus as women began to take on new roles in the domestic work scene. With the men fighting abroad, the women took the towels to better assimilate into a physical world. Their silhouettes became more angular, more defined and wider, a subversive announcement that their role was professional and fair. With the shoulders raised to meet those of a padded men’s suit, the pads have worked to establish workplace compliance.

With scarce wartime resources, these tampons were often made of wool, cotton, or even sawdust. But as the war drew to a close and men began to return to their old working roles, towels lost much of their utilitarian function. The shoulders began to tilt again.

Shoulder height increases again in the 80s

Because fashion is often cyclical, it wouldn’t take another global conflict for epaulettes to pick up. Designer Norma Kamali was reported for reintroducing them into casual day wear in 1980. Associated with the decade’s new edicts of material wealth and gender equality, towels have grown in popularity. The women’s outfit was once again squared. This time it wasn’t just about office looks. Designers saw potential in the pads’ ability to reshape the female body, making the waist appear smaller and even helping to compensate for poor posture. Some were even customizable. At Dynasty, Linda Evans and Joan Collins each had unique towels. Evans preferred thicker foam, while Collins hated it touching his neck.

Platelets were not without controversy. Some blouses were designed for the pads and sold without them, requiring additional purchase in order to prevent the garment from sagging. Unless sewn on, the pads could easily dislodge, creating particular abnormalities as they slid down the arms or torso. The straps of the handbag could change position. And if a person wasn’t careful, they might double or triple the pads, with one diaper each in a blouse, sweater, and jacket. The resulting puff threatened to graze their earlobes.

Thanks in part to the influence of celebrities and even Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher who favored the look, the power pad trend lasted through most of the 1980s, but faded with much of the ostentation of that decade into the ’90s. While they still make periodic comebacks on fashion runaways, foam shoulder enhancement is now considered mediocre form.


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