FAVOURED by Princess Diana, Margaret Thatcher and the cast of Dynasty, they were a staple of 1980s fashion that can instantly date a photograph to the era, but guess what - shoulder pads are on their way back.

They went away?

If you have been busy shouldering your shoulder pads all this time, then you are in the minority as a 1990s fashion backlash against the preceding decade rang the death knell for the fabric-covered pads that were sewn into tops and jackets of both menswear and womenswear to create the illusion of more defined shoulders.

There was more to it?

A particular feature of womenswear that grew in popularity over the decades from the 1930s and 40s onward, as more women entered the workforce, Joan Crawford was the first major movie star to make them her own, sporting the padding to create a broader, straighter shoulder line in her 1932 movie, Letty Lynton. It saw them become part of her signature look and sparked a stampede - the department store Macy's in New York sold more than 500,000 copies of her dress from the film.

Then came the 1980s?

Exaggerated shoulders were a defining fashion moment of the era as they peaked in popularity, having become associated with "power dressing" and assertiveness, as women also worked their way into the boardroom - think Melanie Griffith as Tess McGill in 1988's Working Girl and Mrs Thatcher in the House of Commons.

But they were everywhere?

From Annie Lennox in her Eurythmics suits to Grace Jones’ pop videos, shoulder pads became icons of the time.


And Dallas. To help the female characters stand out among the stetsons, costume designers amplified the power dressing trend and fans of the shows took the looks out into the real world.

They really are historic?

The Pitt Rivers Museum, at the University of Oxford, has a section dedicated to shoulder pads, noting that: “They represented female power and independence at a time when women were increasingly entering careers in traditionally male-dominated sectors such as business and politics. American film and television continued to promote the shoulder pad in that decade with the internationally transmitted soaps Dynasty and Dallas, in which the wealthy and assertive female characters wore exaggerated shoulder pads.”


They say everything comes back in fashion eventually and if the catwalks of Paris Fashion Week are anything to go by in recent days, it is the shoulder pad’s moment in the sun again. Blazers and silk blouses, both clearly bolstered by angular shoulder pads, were a major style, on show at the likes of Saint Laurent as the styles for autumn and winter 2023/24 were paraded. And it seems there is a very good reason for the comeback.

Which is…?

The strong lines of the shoulder pads are a well-defined shift from the slouchy lockdown pandemic style adopted by so many worldwide that saw loungewear garments surge in popularity.

What would Alexis Carrington say?

Joan Collins, who played Carrington in Dynasty, told The Times: "It has been said that the fabulous fashions worn by me and the rest of the actresses in Dynasty and other shows made in the early 1980s were what created the infatuation with the American footballer's shoulder. Who am I to disagree? They were more flattering than an Italian waiter, and I loved them."