The wheel of fashion
What’s in or out in the world of fashion often has its roots in the past, but how much do we really know about the true origins of some of fashion’s most sought-after items?
A. The shoulder pad
If asked when the shoulder pad made its first appearance on the fashion scene, most of us would say the eighties, when every glamorous soap opera star wore them – but we would be a long way out! Shoulder pads have been popular at various times throughout history, and often for quite different reasons. In the Europe of the 1500s, when Spain was asserting its dominance as a global power as well as being a centre of fashion, the shoulder pad became extremely fashionable. At this point it was seen as a reflection of cultural austerity, giving a look of solemnity to the wearer, although this austerity did not stretch to the sumptuous materials used in the clothes! World War Two saw the return of the fashion, but this time it reflected a cultural inclination for stricter lines and less decoration, echoing a military cut in a time of economic restriction. More recent trends to wear shoulder pads have reflected a different outlook – that of showing strength and dominance. In the eighties, shoulder pads were everywhere and signalled prosperity and a show of power. Back again in recent years, they have been seen as a sign of strength, and a desire to flout economic hardship.
B. Platform shoes
Platforms were a product of the seventies, weren’t they? No, wrong again! In fact, platforms go back a very long way indeed, to the 1400s! It seems that people have always had a yearning to appear taller than they are, and to stand out in a crowd. ‘Chopines’, as they were known at that time, were originally an overshoe that was slipped on over a more dainty shoe to protect it from mud. This soon became a fashion statement in itself and led to women wearing ridiculously high platforms – sometimes up to 30 inches! The impracticality of the shoes was obviously not considered as important as the elevation it gave the individual. It certainly gives a new meaning to the phrase ‘The height of fashion!’ For the next few hundred years daintiness in footwear prevailed – until the 1930s, when platforms made a big comeback. This time the height was much more manageable, and top fashion designers created some very elegant shoes. But platforms really came into their own in the seventies, when two-inch soles with five-inch heels became quite normal for both men and women. Designs were colourful, playful and used all types of materials. They were back again in the nineties, so it seems platforms have proved that they are here to stay in some shape or form!