Trend Watch: The Return of Strong Shoulders

One of the most significant fashion trends for 2009 in women’s apparel is the return of strong shoulders. More than a glimmer of this trend surfaced in spring/summer 2009 collections, and the 1980s influence continues to gain momentum with such designers as Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs, Stella McCartney, Balmain, Balenciaga, Oscar de la Renta, Givenchy and Gianfranco Ferre.


The earliest versions of strong-shouldered garments showed up this spring unadorned by jewelry on early adapters such as Kate Moss and Mary-Kate Olsen in black, which emphasized the crispness of the shape of the garments. With the fall/winter 2009 lines and the gorgeous woolens of those seasons, the strong shoulders are being incorporated into designs of a wider range of fabrics and colors. Adorning these garments with statement jewelry is a key element of 2009 chic style.


Broadening the shoulders makes the lower portions of the wearer’s body look relatively more narrow, so this trend is a godsend for women with pear-shaped or triangular figures who want to balance their proportions and create the illusion of an hourglass silhouette. The style is chic on most women, however. Indeed, the favored body shape in Hollywood these days is the opposite of the pear – it’s the inverted triangle, with shoulders broader than hips, and this is true for women as much as for men. Look at the photographs of various of your favorite celebrities and compare the width of their hips to their shoulders. 


The return of shoulders is so ubiquitous among designers that this trend is bound to be one with staying power. And there is an art to adorning this shape with jewelry.


The strong shoulder line draws the attention out to the sides, so wearing a statement necklace or necklaces with significant size, scale and volume is a method by which the wearer can keep the viewer’s eye focused on the wearer’s face. 



Above and to the left is an example from the fall 2009 collection of Dolce & Gabbana. The detail of the shoulders is stunning, but the necklace is the focal point of the look. To the right is a beautiful red coat by Louis Vuitton for fall 2009. The detail on the coat is essentially a stand-in for a statement necklace, but notice how even this coat is accessorized with a choker-length necklace inside the collar of the garment.



For summer, exaggerated shoulders are being paired with short sleeves. Pictured above left is a lace top by Balmain featured in the June 2009 issue of Vogue, accessorized with necklaces by Iradj Moini, and Janis by Janis Savitt, and bracelets by Lydia Courteille, Robin Katz and Cartier. Above right is Reese Witherspoon in a short-sleeved dress by Prada, as pictured in the June 1, 2009 issue of People magazine.


For summer, an open neckline can be cooler choice, and the above blazer with abbreviated sleeves by March Jacobs and top by The Row pictured above left, skip the necklace but are adorned with armloads of bracelets plus several rings in a fashion spread in the June 2009 issue of Marie Claire. Above right is Miley Cyrus in a dress by Herve Leger by Max Azria similarly worn with a collection of bracelets, as pictured in the June 1, 2009 issue of People


A variation on the short sleeved looks modifies the sleeves into a puffed sleeve design. Like shoulder pads, this concept may bring to women of a certain age an immediate negative association, but the exaggerated version has a stylish charm. The above dress by Oscar de la Renta, pictured in the July 2009 issue of Marie Claire, is accented with the figural brooch depicting a swallow by Fred Leighton. The curve of the bird’s wings beautifully repeats the folds of fabric in the sleeves of the garment.


Notice in all the photos what piece of jewelry is not prominent: earrings. What you do not want to put together with a strong-shouldered garment is shoulder-duster earrings. With so much shoulder on display, the last thing you want jewelry to be doing is dusting.


If you choose to add earrings to an outfit, make certain that they are of sufficient scale to work with the expanded shoulder line. Even stud earrings might be dialed up to the size of clips or clusters. Earring jackets can be a great solution to keep gemstone stud earrings on the earlobes.

The return to strong shoulders requires strong jewelry. Because this style is such a sea change in women’s fashions, now’s a great time to give thought to how your inventory can help your stylish customers achieve a chic and polished image. Shoulder on!

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