Shoulder Pads (fashion) - 1980s

1980s

During the early 1980s there was a resurgence of interest in the ladies' evening wear styles of the early 1940s: peplums, batwing sleeves and other design elements of the times were re-interpreted for a new market. The shoulder pad helped define the silhouette and was reintroduced in cut foam versions, especially in well-cut suits reminiscent of the World War II era. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was internationally noted for her adoption of these fashions. Before too long, these masculinized shapes were adopted by women seeking success in the corporate world and became an icon of women's attempts to smash the glass ceiling, a mission that was also added by their notable appearance in the TV series Dynasty.

As the decade wore on, shoulder pads became the defining fashion statement of the era, known as power dressing and bestowing the perception of status and position onto those who wore them. They became both larger and more ubiquitous—every garment from the brassiere upwards would come with its own set of shoulder pads. To prevent excessive shoulder padding, velcro was sewn onto the pads so that the wearer could choose how many sets to wear. By the end of the era, some shoulder pads were the size of dinner plates. It was inevitable that as the cycle of fashion turned, they would lose favour in the early 1990s.

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