Tricks ‘n’ Treats for the Shoulder

Yet another way to bring attention up toward the neck is to adorn one or both shoulders with an eye-catching embellishment or adornment. Several interesting options have been presented this season.

The September 2011 issue of Marie Claire magazine highlights a particularly clever bit of marketing for one of the latest designs by the “Red Sole King,” Christian Louboutin. According to Marie Claire, Louboutin’s new Artemis bags “double as shoulder jewelry with interchangeable straps for every mood.”  Not only can the wearer change the color of the metal, as the bag itself has minimal hardware but for the detachable chain strap, but there are also an intriguing assortment of bows and other decorative elements designed to sit on the shoulder and enhance whatever ensemble they adorn.


Each of the choices has what appears to be a base of padded leather that conforms to the shoulder, providing not only comfort but also a stable base for the adornment above. Neiman Marcus has a studded leather shoulder piece; Saks Fifth Avenue and carry the velvet bow version shown in the magazine.  There is also a version with a feathered shoulder piece that can be seen on the Louboutin website, a version with what appears to be golden spheres, and a version with spikes. About the Artemis bags Christian Louboutin says: “These bags give a language to the upper body; they allow a women to play with her shoulders. Her attitude will shift with each style, just like it does when she changes pumps.”

Calling the Artemis bags “shoulder jewelry” seems an apt description. There are other treats for the shoulders available this season as well:

In this photo from the October 2011 issue of More, actress Connie Nielsen wears a sweater from Roberto Cavalli lavishly embroidered at the shoulders with golden thread. The brilliant metallic pops against the dark background of the sweater, standing in for jewelry.

If a $1,700-plus bag or a $1,400-plus sweater isn’t in the budget (or even if it is) there is another approach to shoulder jewelry—a more literal approach. Consider pinning one or more sizeable brooches onto one or both shoulders. Choose a matching pair of brooches or opt for an asymmetrical look. A figural brooch, such as a lizard or butterfly, can be charming perched on a shoulder. Brooches can be used to pin velvet bows onto the shoulders, borrowing an idea from the Louboutin bag straps.

Illustration: From the archives, a photo of former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright wearing a zebra brooch over one shoulder when meeting with Nelson Mandela.

Accenting the shoulders is a technique that adds visual weight at the shoulder line and can help visually balance the proportions of someone with a triangular or pear-shaped figure. Be sure to style the hair to keep it off the shoulders, so that it doesn’t get tangled up with whatever version of shoulder jewelry you prefer.

One additional caveat about wearing brooches on your shoulders: Endorse this season’s preference for clutches, as slinging a shoulder strap over a strategically placed brooch can turn this jewelry treat into a wardrobe malfunction and might damage to the brooch—the worst kind of shoulder jewelry trick.