Sweet & Sour: Head ‘N Shoulders

By Catherine Addo • Sep 15th, 2009 • Category: Obsessions of the Week, Style   

While schoolgirls are soon to start rolling up their pleated skirts in hopes of making a splash this back-to-school season, athletes everywhere will be padding themselves and tying on cleats with the express purpose of defeating their rivals. As for the fashionistas of the world? You’ll be dressing somewhere in between. True to the tensions of a new semester, it’s time to re-embrace an old frenemy: the power shoulder. Say what you will about football uniforms, the strong shoulder is an aesthetic that, like the class bully, resurfaces every so often just to let us know who’s boss.

Why It’s Sweet: If you ever want to know what it feels like to enter a room with unchecked confidence, rock a power shoulder. We of course don’t mean to imply that a woman cannot or does not feel sexy in softer lines—on the contrary, some of our most I-am-woman-hear-me-roar moments came upon us when we were wrapped in something clingy and feminine. But there is a distinct no-nonsense aura that a dramatic shoulder implies, and we’d be lying to ourselves if we pretended that other silhouettes did the same. After all, who wears the power shoulder but the gutsiest executive, the hardest rocker, the strictest teacher? A strong shoulder, much like a bright red lip or a pencil-point stiletto, just screams strong, sexy boss-lady. And we love it.

Why It’s Sour: For all its posturing as an invincible fashion force, this look is somewhat limited in where it can go. Dressed up as part of a larger concept, big shoulders are something to be reckoned with. But taken out of their element into a more casual or haphazard setting, this look can become one to avoid altogether, as the typical lines and fabrics of every day sportswear aren’t always well-suited to an architectural upper body. And let’s not forget about the times our bodies may work against us—what about the smaller girls who would be drowned completely by a broad upper body, or the ones who are already strong-shouldered and could quite literally look ready to tackle an opponent in anything too extreme? A tricky play, indeed.

Our conclusion: The strong-shouldered trend is one we’re dying to sign up for this fall. Luckily for us, the season’s designs offer way more options than the traditional inverted triangle silhouette. From the soft slopes of Chanel’s polka-dotted skirt-suit (which we ADORE), to the crystalline lines in Jean Paul Gaultier’s water-colored jacket, there really is a shape for everyone. As advised, we’ll stick with shapes that flatter our figures and encourage you to do the same; look for a narrower range from shoulder to shoulder if you’re smaller, and play with bold, but not clunky, looks if you’re more statuesque. Also, make sure to keep your waistline extra neat with a smart belt, closure, or expertly-sewn seam; you’ll find the shapely contrast between your wide upper body and little middle to be divine. Just remember, if you keep the rest of your silhouette feminine and sharp, you’ll be able to tackle this broad trend and look nothing like the far-less-glamorous football players you’ll see storming the field this fall. Score.


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