Sunday, January 01, 2012

Shoulder Pad Intro

Peggy Cummings in 1950's Gun Crazy
Shoulder Pads: You Don't Gotta Love Em. I do. It's a compulsion. I love their various forms, their little ways and quirks. I love that shoulder pads can be used in more than one way, regardless of their shape, and that subtle shifts in their placement can result in very, very different fits and effects. For these posts we'll assume that we're going for a full-on vintage look from the 1930s, 1940s or '50s. That said, we can do things authentically (the way these jumpers would have been made and worn in real life) or we can mimic the ideal modeled in the pattern (or an ironic exaggeration of the look). It's easy to switch between the two goals.

It is also important to note that the way we remember things isn't always the way they really were, especially if like me, you have no business remembering 1930. The way we romanticize an era gradually changes the way it is remembered, and soon a few singular looks or trends come to represent a period. We cannot help but bunch these into decades, and in time the handful of looks and ideas which we now associate with periods like the 1960s or 1970s will be whittled down to one image as it has been in preceding decades. Look back beyond the turn of the 20th century and the average person will have one outfit which they associate with each century. What on earth will come to represent our current time? Well this is a completely different topic now...

I guess I was trying to point out that the look a knitter is looking for within the patterns of a period may not even exist within those years. It may only have existed in the Hollywood send-ups of period films and costume dramas, or the time-machine fantasies of fashionistas. That does not mean, however, that the look can't be achieved. This is another reason to experiment with padding. A cleverly chosen shoulder pad, well appointed, can change an everyday and historically accurate sweater pattern into the imagined silhouette of any fashion fantasist.
A variety of garment shoulder pads available at
A shoulder pad is not an accessory for a jacket or sweater; it is part of the internal structure of a well constructed garment.
Also, pads are not the whole padding story.  There are many ways in which the home knitter can support a full or puffed shoulder.  Shoulder pads are just the most familiar tool in a post-1980s tool box.  A vintage-enthused knitter should acquaint herself with all forms of padding before completing her puffed look.
Learn about your shoulder pad-ding options here.

You are reading "The Quest For Puff" ©Morgan Forrester

Up next:
Coming Soon:
Vintage Sleeves: Puff Pleating
Vintage Sleeves: Seaming for Puff
Creating Puffed Sleeves Anew

This post is a part of The Quest For Puff Series. Read it from the beginning HERE.


Anonymous said...

Can shoulder paddings layered?

Morgan said...

Absolutely. Shoulder Pads may be sewn one on top of the other. Sleeve heads (made of thin felt or lambswool) can be layered for a subtle, custom effect. Keep reading for more on this topic!

Brianna said...

Morgan, I totally agree with what you're saying in this post!
I think a lot of people on ravelry are trying to find vintage patterns for styles that never existed.

And of course, most knitters can't even tell the difference between fashion eras.

I'm still not sure how I feel about shoulder pads, but great post!

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