Yes, shoulder pads are back

For those who survived the big shoulders of the 1980s, chances are you won't want to hear this: Shoulder pads are back.

But today's look is less about volume and more about structure.

"You want to look smart and smartly dressed," said Kim Newport Mimran, designer and founder of the womenswear line Pink Tartan. "Strong shoulders are slightly androgynous. My interpretation is built up, but not extreme, a modern look for the modern woman."

Pink Tartan's fall collection, which is sold at Neiman Marcus, features a classic black turtleneck with subtle shoulders that give the silhouette a more tailored look. The line's black jackets follow the same trend and work well with pencil skirts and menswear-style trousers.

In a fall full of "aggressive" fashions such as denim, leather, studs and grommets, accentuated shoulders are another facet of the look. And they are showing up in collections from Marc Jacobs to Calvin Klein.

Even discount retailers are seeing the trend in their stores.

"We saw it on the runway in a dramatic way, but for real women, the look is more subdued," says Sonya Cosentini, a spokeswoman for Marshall's/TJ Maxx. "I don't think the average woman wants enormous shoulders, so what we're seeing most is the return of the boyfriend jacket."

The jacket, which comes in a loose, menswear style or even a shrunken silhouette, can work for the office as well as for the weekend, Cosentini said. Its subtle shoulder pads help create a more tailored top that can also be belted or worn loosely.

Lisa Sacaris, who teaches fashion history at Houston Community College, says through the years, shoulder pads have helped define a strong look for working women. Shoulder pads were originally used in men's clothing in jackets and waistcoats in the 16th century and then again in late 1930s for both men and women. But in the 1980s, the bold shoulders were a way to tone down femininity in the workplace, Sacaris said.

- Joy Sewing,

Houston Chronicle