Padded Shoulders Redux?

One standout in the designer collections for the 2017 fall/winter season has been the jacket below from Anthony Vaccarello, now the creative director for Paris-based Saint Laurent. 


What is distinctive, to my eye, are the rather broad shoulders. 

Vacarello didn’t stop with the jacket.  Here are several other designs with pretty impressive shoulder spans.

Saint_Laurent_fall_winter_2017_2018_Paris_Fashion_Week14 2.jpgSaint_Laurent_fall_winter_2017_2018_Paris_Fashion_Week10 2.jpgSaint_Laurent_fall_winter_2017_2018_Paris_Fashion_Week10 3.jpg

Arrayed left to right, the look seems to be heading into Grace Jones territory.  We’ll see how that works out.

(Vacarello replaced Hedi Slimane, who left Saint Laurent in 2016 after doubling sales of the high-fashion line in four short years.  Slimane’s collections were alternately described as accessible or overly commercial; he also worked in Los Angeles, which may not have been received well in France.)


Vacarello’s collection may be seen as something of an homage to Yves Saint Laurent, the most influential fashion designer of the late 20th century.  He popularized pantsuits for women, safari jackets as street wear and big shoulder pads, which he introduced in 1971.

The latter innovation was the fashion equivalent of lighting a match, but slowly.  By the 1980s, big-shouldered womenswear was seen as assertive and strong; the look appealed to baby boomer women moving into executive positions in the work world.

Lesser designers just kept going and going with bigger and bigger shoulder pads until things got really out of hand.  (See below.)


To be fair, Yves Saint Laurent cannot be held responsible for this wretched excess.  Here is an advertisement for one of his 1987 collections.  The man’s fashion sense was impeccable.



Other Designers Now 

In addition to Vacarello, other designers are testing the market for bigger shoulders.  Here are some notable jackets for the fall winter season.





Alexander McQueen


These are more tailored looks than the loosely constructed pieces we have seen in recent years.  They may be signaling a turn from the all-casual/all-the-time ethic, or perhaps they are aimed at giving women a more flattering, hour-glass physique. 

It’s probably a bit early to invest in this look.  But if your mother or grandmother has a few vintage designs in her attic, you might ask her to bring them out so you can try them on with your black pants — the wool pair, not the yoga ones.  


Yves Saint Laurent was not the first designer to sew broad shoulder pads into women’s clothing.  The trend got a flutter in the 1940s, most notably in the costumes Joan Crawford wore in her Oscar-winning title role, Mildred Pierce.  In the movie, Mildred was a hard-working, self-made woman with a difficult daughter. The film was a hit in 1945 and remains popular today.  (Milo Anderson designed the Mildred’s wardrobe.) 


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