Sharp-Shouldered Replicants of Fashion

Don’t Panic, you knew it would happen eventually.  You tried to tell yourself that there was no way that the shoulder pad would reappear on the fashion runway, let alone make it into fashion’s mainstream.  Well I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it’s true.  And it’s not a recent development either because it has actually been creeping up on us for nigh on two years now.

Some are of the opinion that shoulders are the must have silhouette for Spring/Summer 09.  I think that like all trends, you should take what you want from it or ignore it all together.  Fashion is fleeting and as trends come and go quicker than Britney’s boyfriends, I’m sure it will not take over like it did the first time around.  Or will it?

My question is, can the sharp-shouldered look, aka shoulder pads actually be considered cool?  They were such a hated example of 80’s fashion, no one I know ever wanted to see them again.  I remember removing them from some of my jackets so I could continue to wear my clothes but without the huge stigma of the wide shoulder look.

From Martin Margiela, to Marc Jacobs, Alexander McQueen, Balmain and Balenciaga, all these designers and more are sending out square, sharp, broad and even puffed shoulders onto their runways.  We cannot escape that this trend is here and will impact us all.  It’s up to you how much you allow it or want it to impact on your personal style and your wardrobe. 

The gorgeous designs of Michael Kaplan from Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982) were surely influenced by the sharp tailoring of the 1940’s but he added hidden buttons and used modern fabrics to give a futuristic edge.  In the 1940’s in a time of rationing and war, both men and women wore clothing which featured a structured strong shoulder which was supposed to equate the wearer with a sense of power.  In the 1980’s women used the strong shoulder as powerful tool in the boardrooms to compete against the stronghold of men and to break through the glass ceiling.

A lot of my love of movies is the creation and development of character through wardrobe and costume.  I love to see a character’s development through their costume and how it shapes their inner and outer character.  It is an excellent emotional barometer and is a wonderfully illustrative tool for a film’s genre, a character’s social situation, and most obviously the time in which the film is set.

While researching Blade Runner for this post, I realised that this is only the second post I have written about fashion in film, and both films have starred Harrison Ford.  Perhaps I have a thing for Harrison Ford and am not aware of it?  Is it a Freudian slip?

Blade Runner, directed by Ridley Scott and released in 1982 is set in Los Angeles in the year 2019 and is based on the book “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” by Phillip K. Dick.
Harrison Ford plays Deckard, a retired Blade Runner – a hunter of ‘Replicants’ – androids of the future created by to be “more human than human” by the fictional Tyrell Corporation.  Replicants were declared illegal on Earth, but a group of the most advanced, the Nexus-6 Replicants, have hijacked a shuttle and returned from off-world.  Deckard is forced back from retirement and it is his job to terminate them.

Blade Runner is a visually stunning film and a cult favourite amongst lovers of sci-fi films and while I do not proclaim myself to be a traditional science-fiction film fan, it is interesting how many of my favourite films fall into this category.

Its a grimy and violent world inhabited by the villainous with many eastern references within the art direction you could be forgiven for thinking it was set in a city like Osaka or Tokyo.  The special effects in this film have influenced many subsequent science-fiction film.  But I digress… 

Harrison’s dry humour and rye charm that served him so well in the Star Wars films makes up part of his character as Deckard.  He falls for Rachael, a replicant played by Sean Young (before her career went south) and it is their fledgling relationship that draws me into this film.  She honestly believes her memories are hers, but they aren’t.  They belong to the niece of her creator.  Such a shame, because I want to believe her too.  But her wardrobe, and her hair, ay-ay-ay!

Costume desginer Michael Kaplan won a BAFTA for Best Costume design for Blade Runner and it served him well because he is still designing for sci-fi films today because he recently worked on JJ Abram’s Star Trek and John Turtletaub’s The Scorcerer’s Apprentice. 

Which brings me back to the influence on fashion that this film has had.  Even as recently as the Fall collections Gareth Pugh’s collection of sharp shoulders are a reference to Blade Runner.

Sophia Kokosalaki’s Blade Runner dress of python-skin and studded metal and beads was featured in British Vogue’s March edition this year.

The fabulous and very photographed military style jacket by Balmain has très wide shoulders and is fast becoming a cult item.


Fashion is fun, so if you choose to indulge in the padded or even puffed shoulder, go for it, knock yourself out with it.  Why not, especially if you were not old enough the first time around, I say it’s all about the fashion, n’est pas?

Thanks to Fashion Peach, Jak and Jil and British Vogue for some of these images.

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2 thoughts on “Sharp-Shouldered Replicants of Fashion

  1. … I will have to dust off a few jackets given to me a few years ago – all used as dress ups with my boys in mock photo shoots – all with large shoulder pads.I am currently struggling to remodel a very lovely tailored red wool jacket that I removed the pads from… not easy.Maybe I should just put them back and pass it on to someone brave.

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