Dallas, Dynasty and Working Girl - not only are these great examples of 80s entertainment, but also of the fashions around at that time. But we're not talking shell suits, conical bras or global hypercolor T-shirts, we're talking power dressing.
Characterised by shoulder pads in dresses, ostentatious jewellery and big, big, big hair (and a lot of hairspray). The origins of power dressing are fairly clear and can, in large part, be attributed to the American soap opera ‘Dynasty’ which was watched by over 250 million viewers. One of the main characters was played by actress Linda Evans whose naturally broad shoulders gave the Dynasty costume designer, Nolan Miller, the idea of emphasising them with small shoulder pads. She then decided that every other actress had to be shoulder padded with even bigger pads to match Linda and consequently the shoulder pad war had begun.
The shoulder pad became an iconic status symbol that represented both power and wealth, and the size of the shoulder pad also seemed to correlate directly with the social status of the wearer. The bigger the shoulder pad, the more money you had, and the eighties was definitely a time for shouting about how much money you had. Dresses were available with Velcro shoulder pads that could be removed or replaced with different-sized pads, a concept most men find difficult to grasp.
Like a lot of women's fashion movements, there was an underlying meaning behind it. The whole ‘equality for women’ movement actually had quite a lot to do with it as well with women playing an increasingly important role in business but still feeling the need to power dress to gain the respect of their male colleagues.
No-one reaped the rewards of power dressing more than a certain Mrs. Thatcher, gaining respect in the almost entirely male world of politics with the aid of a carefully sculpted, scaffolded bouffant and a smart skirt suit. There’s no doubting her daily appearances on television dressed in power suits reinforced this particular trend. And more recently, Samantha of Sex And The City has been channelling the shoulder pad and do of the power dressing generation.