Revenge of the shoulder pad

I accepted a challenge, and it’s all my own fault. It’s even my own challenge. After my post on incredibly tasteful 1970s patterns, and encouraged by Heike at Made With Loops, I climbed the loft ladder of fate. There’s a trunk up there with fleece in it (what a shock and surprise, however did that get there?), and under the fleece is my stash of late 1980s pattern books.

Serendipitously, the first ones I uncovered were seasonally apt:

Oh, no it isn’t.

They’re French in origin, and the translation isn’t quite as smooth as you’d expect (‘sports out fits’ and a big cardigan in what is off-puttingly but probably accurately described as ‘hairy’ yarn). They’re generally Phildar and Pingouin, though I did buy others whenever I was in France. In the UK, the choice was by and large locked in the 70s, and I’d not heard of Rowan. I was a new knitter and I wanted something a little more age-appropriate than giant crew-neck sweaters with intarsia cats sprawling on them.

Though perhaps not anything like this:

which wouldn’t really have matched my lifestyle in the slightest (plus, I would have had no idea where to find a small child, clearly a vital accessory). I think he looks quite sanguine, considering he’s been kidnapped by the Yummy Mummies from Hell outside the Louvre – I’m sure I recognise those railings. He may, of course, be a dummy; I’m not sure the pose is very natural… And why the orange tights? It was the late 80s, not 1962, and even I wore tights sometimes. I know you could get colours other than American Tan on Acid.

But it’s not just the orange tights, it’s the…


Overwhelmingly, the impression is that women the whole world over had suddenly started playing American football. I’ve been reading up on this a little, because I was immune to the call of the shoulder pad (they were Dynasty rather than Dracula), and the general concensus of opinion is that they began to appear early in the ’80s as an hommage to the fashions of the 1940s, but got worse and worse – or better and better, I suppose, depending on your outlook – as the decade wore on. They are also repeatedly voted ‘most revolting 1980s fashion trend’, and I can quite believe it.

There was the sequential shoulder pad problem to contend with, too. I had a friend who was an apprentice hot-shot lawyer (I know, I’m sorry), and she really suffered. You have shoulder pads in your blouse, then more in your jacket, and then you put on a coat with shoulder pads – and then you get stuck in doorways while your bookish Goth friend is falling off a bar stool laughing like a drain.

And since the Goth thing has raised its ugly head – or maybe that should be a scrawny, skeletal hand – what the hell is going on here?

You might have expected me to like this ‘story’, given the preponderance of black and glitter, but I was brought up short by the balaclava. I remember quite clearly being aghast at this when I opened the pattern book all those years ago, and me and my gay mate who ran the wool shop had a good laugh about it (he voted for a bondage vibe and I reckoned it was an all-body suit, also involving gloves). That, of course, doesn’t exclude his bondage idea.

But the shoulder pads are sadly reduced, so let’s get back to normal:

It doesn’t even look as though it fits (bet it was acrylic as well – yummy). You must have needed a lot more yarn to accommodate those serious shoulders, but they’re not the biggest in the books. That honour has to belong to:

Tah dah!

The sad thing is, this is actually quite a nice jacket. In search of a serious restyle, I’m afraid – but that brings me to why I hang on to some of these: ideas. Ideas and stitch patterns. It’s a basic stitch pattern, but I like it; I even like the turned-back cuffs, the wrap-over front and the raglan sleeves. Obviously the inflated pillows attached to each shoulder can go, but some day I might find parts of it useful – though I’d have to reduce the shoulder measurement by several metres if I ever thought of knitting it up as such.

And I might just find a reason to look at this combination of stitch patterns, too,

though hopefully without the distorting shoulder pads, pinched waist and scare-’em-off-the-ski-slopes sunglasses. Or the bandaged head and the frankly worrying white gloves… and yet again the strange headgear. I was alive then, I know I was. I cannot remember anyone, even my legal friend, wearing anything on/around their head that looked like this.

But the prize has to belong to this tasty selection:

No comment, really. What could possibly beat the caption?


11 thoughts on “Revenge of the shoulder pad

  1. karibu57

    I am totally enraptured by your never-ending collection of ‘old’ knitting patterns and I am now officially threatening you that I will come and stay one day to spend endless hours looking at them all with you and a good bottle of vino and laughing our heads off at them.
    Sadly I must confess that I did have a couple of jackets with dreaded shoulder pads…on a good note: they were not the knitted variety 😉

    PS: Publishing my first e-book on Wednesday and have got that pitt-feeling in my stomach..

    1. kate Post author

      I wish they were all as ‘good’ as the ones I’ve selected, mind you – the majority are just about acceptable, which is very sad. What’s the point of having started knitting in a decade like the 1980s if you don’t have uniformly hysterical pattern books?

      (Shoulder pads on li’old me would have made me look like a demented mushroom – bet they looked good on you. Well, as good as shoulder pads could!)

      Good luck on the e-book!

      1. Deb

        Oh no danger of THAT. In fact quite the opposite. After I commented I remembered that I have a pair of shoulder pads that I cut out of a jacket thinking “I might need these some day.” Well, I shuffle them around in the drawer and I think it is definitely time to set them free. 😉

        1. kate Post author

          I do hope that by ‘set them free’ you mean ‘throw them out’….

          I found a Vogue pattern for different types of shoulder pad. What the heck I was doing with that, I do not know. It’s unused, of course. Museum piece?

        2. Deb

          Oh yes. Perhaps even burn those suckers. And I bet you could get a good price on eBay for that pattern. All those collectors of almost vintage or retro stuff. 😉

  2. knitsofacto

    Good God … were styles really that naff? To which clearly the answer is yes.

    My young adult daughter is currently sporting a shop bought acrylic knit jacket that wouldn’t have looked out of place on Starsky, or was it Hutch? How long before the shoulder pads make a comeback?

    PS I sort of know Heike from Stash Knit and Natter, I forget you know her too!

    1. kate Post author

      I’ve seen those jackets and they are worrying. Bangor was full of them. Scary indeed. I’m going to sell my Vogue shoulder pads pattern on eBay at vast cost if shoulder pads come back too.

      Of course you’d know Heike from Stash – that’s where I met her too. Focus for knitters all over N Wales…


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