But before we break down how the cutting-edge crowd wears a strong shoulder, first, we'd like to put the trend into context. Now, admittedly, this shape is not new to fashion and has been prominent before (hello, 1980's power suit!), but the most current iteration of the trend conveys a much more sophisticated and dramatic effect. Right now there are essentially two different types of the bold-shouldered look. At Marc Jacobs and Stella McCartney, jackets had a boxier, boyish cut, whereas Balmain, Balenciaga, and Givenchy offered up sharper, more compact shapes with a bit of flounce. Regardless of the proportion, the overall effect was one of strength and femininity.
Now that we've finished with the trend tutorial, it's time for the fun part: spotlighting the fashion-forward early adopters! It is instructive to see how they wear a new shape-all opted for black-as an indicator of how to best incorporate the trend into your own wardrobe. Vanessa Traina, a WWW favorite and stylesetter extraordinaire, looked impeccable in this season's most lust-worthy jacket: Balmain's Wrinkle Optic Leather Jacket ($6339). The skinny sleeves and perfectly pronounced shoulders looked super smart, especially when paired with black jeans and a drapey, neutral shirt. Mary-Kate Olsen was spotted wearing a similarly shaped version, proving that the bold-shoulder can work on a more petite frame. We also love a subtler, forties-inspired look à la Kate Lanphear, ELLE's Style Director. The exquisite editor wore a square-shouldered belted dress to the Brian Reyes A/W 09 and looked incredibly sophisticated and chic. Of course, we couldn't have a cutting-edge trend without Kate Moss. The fashion muse du monde went for a classic look with a twist, choosing a tuxedo jacket with sharp, peaked shoulders for the AnOther Magazine party during London Fashion Week.
Though there are a zillion different ways you can wear this look, we've gathered a few of our favorites for you. If you like menswear-inspired jackets, check out Lauren Moffatt's Double Breasted Blazer ($326). The boyfriend-blazer cut and padded shoulder are slightly eighties but still completely modern. Switching directions, we also found a more ladylike option with Aryn K's Buckle Crop Jacket ($82). The tweed, cropped jacket has a rounded shoulder (the shape is very similar to some of our favorite looks from Dolce & Gabbana's Spring 09 collection) and can easily be styled in a number of ways. Wear it with destroyed jeans for a downtown look or pair it with a pencil skirt and polished pumps for a prim-yet-sexy uptown outfit.
Another way to try the exaggerated shoulder is via a dress. We suggest checking your favorite vintage store for unique and affordable frocks: they're the best resource, for sure. Aside from that, there are a few bold options in stores now. Topshop's Plain Tea Dress ($160) is a perfectly understated dress with a Lanphear-style silhouette. Additionally, we also adore the crisp look of Acne's Dita Pre Dress ($425). The coat-like shape has padded shoulders (but of course) and can be worn as is, for a more androgynous look, or belted at the waist if you prefer a feminine shape.-Kate Mulling
Photos of Vanessa Traina, Mary-Kate Olsen, Kate Moss, from Getty; Runway, from First View