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Give 'em The Bold Shoulder

September 23, 2007|Melissa Magsaysay | Times Staff Writer

SO, the big-shouldered drama of "Dynasty" has found its way onto the runway and -- incredibly! -- onto the street in the form of hulking jackets, high-waisted trousers and power-hungry attitude.

And now that it has, aren't we all a little afraid?

These looks take the '80s power-dressing into another dimension. Proenza Schouler paid homage to Alexis Carrington and the gang with cropped black jackets with shoulder pads and slouchy, wide-leg pants. Martin Margiela showed the most exaggerated versions -- blazers that felt more running back than runway.

But extreme as the look may be, this '80s and early-'90s style is being embraced by trendsetters too, such as Chloƫ Sevigny, Kirsten Dunst and Ashley Olsen. They're pairing boxy blazers with bandage skirts or cat suits, or tucking tiny tanks into baggy, high-waisted pants. And, yeah, they look good.

Stylist Cristina Ehrlich, who with her partner Estee Stanley dresses celebrities such as Kyra Sedgwick and the Olsen twins, is a fan of the trend. And for her own wardrobe too.

Doing the look well is a matter of keeping the proportions balanced and not overwhelming your frame -- in fact, sometimes the big-shoulder look doesn't require shoulder pads at all. Here Ehrlich tells how to keep it looking chic lady, not Chicago Bear.

Bulk + bulk = extreme bulk

"This is a tough look to pull off for most women," Ehrlich says. "A boxy jacket with wide pants is not necessarily for the real world. I love a fitted or wrap sweater with wide leg pants; it creates a waist. Cropped jackets or fitted turtlenecks are great too."

Easy on the padding

Not all shoulder pads are created equal -- so watch out for the really big ones. "Look at the proportion of your body in relation to the jacket or dress. How much padding do you really need to add? The silhouette might already be cut in a way that accentuates your shoulders and maybe taking the pad out is the better way to go in order to avoid that '80s 'Dynasty' look."

Personally . . .

Despite how easy it is to go wrong, "I am absolutely a fan of this look," says Ehrlich, whose favorite designers are Giambattista Valli and Oscar de la Renta. "I like to put a wide trouser together with a '70s-style YSL or Miss Davenporte printed blouse with a chic detail," like a bow. "My personal style strays away from shoulder pads. I am a much bigger fan of using a belt to create a similar silhouette."

The belt: Your friend

Cinching it in saves the silhouette from becoming too masculine. "A belt is the key accessory and is particularly great with this trend of bold shapes," Ehrlich says. "A wide belt will help offset shoulder pads and create a waist for a more feminine look, creating the illusion of a broad shoulder without any additional pads."

Flatter yourself

It's never good to be a slave to trends, especially this time, when the shapes and sizes are specific and severe. Use only what works for your body type, Ehrlich says and offers a few rules:

Large chest: Skip the shoulder pads and boxy jackets. "You're already working with a larger silhouette, and these trends will only add volume." Instead, get the strong silhouette with a cropped jacket, maybe one that's double-breasted and closed, to create a V-line.

Wide hips: "Wide trousers will only emphasize a larger bottom, so it's best to go with boot cut or slim-leg pants."

Short or petite: For a petite woman, pulling off bold shapes really depends on her frame and her individual sense of style. If she's a "pixie," like Ashley Olsen, "a '70s-era YSL smoking jacket would look amazing. Small women with style need to wear the clothes, not let the clothes wear them."

Tall and lanky: "The sky's the limit, assuming she's got the confidence to pull off a strong look. Although I'm not a huge fan of shoulder pads, there are some amazing double-breasted suits, specifically a few from Stella McCartney, that are very '70s glamazon -- big shoulders, the works."


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