Clothing cue. Items of clothing, jewelry, or other decorations worn to showcase the appeal, gestures, and shape of the shoulders.
Usage: Human shoulders are so expressive that, in every society, consumer products have evolved to accent their masculine, feminine, dominant, or submissive messages.
Fashion statement I. Like the round head atop our upright body, flat-lying shoulders stand out as conspicuous shapes, set high and wide upon our frame. How we clothe them affects what they have to "say." Clothing worn across the shoulders accents natural signs, signals, and cues of, e.g., the ancestral high-stand and crouch displays. Military epaulets square, while sleeveless tops bare, the shoulders to show, respectively, the strength of a broadside or the softness of a shrug.
Fashion statement II. Unless heavily muscled, bare shoulders cannot compete with shoulders artificially squared in a business suit. But they need not, for the messages are opposed. Like the shirtless collars and bow ties of the Chippendale dancers, tee-shirts, camisoles, and tube-tops advertise submissive movements of the crouch display.
Fashion statement III. Puffy sleeves keep shoulders "lifted," permanently "shrugged" in a frozen gesture which seems to say, "I am harmless--you may approach" (see LOVE SIGNAL). V-neck, cowlneck, boatneck, and scoop-neck sweaters reveal the collarbones and the submissive throat dimple. Sleeveless sweaters and blouses display the curvilinear deltoids. The surplice wrap dress forms a deep V over the clavicles and breastbone, and a camisole top's straps draw viewers' eyes outward and across the shoulders' soft skin. Fabrics such as taffeta, velvet, velour, silk, and Ultrasuede may be worn to mimic the skin's softness itself.
Anatomy I. The a. soft skin, b. rounded shape (of our upper arm's deltoid area), and c. extreme flexibility of our shoulders have made this body region sexually appealing in men and women alike. Clothing may be designed a. to bare one or both shoulders, b. to accentuate their roundness, and c. to allow them greater freedom of movement.
Anatomy II. Historically, women's clothing has drawn attention to every part--the flesh, muscle definition, and boney projections--of the feminine shoulder: a. the epidermal skin, b. the rounded deltoid muscles of the upper arm, c. the trapezius muscles of the back and neck, d. the collarbones (or clavicles), and e. the shoulder blades (or scapulas).
Prehistory. The world's oldest preserved textile garment is a 5,000-year-old linen shirt from an Egyptian tomb at Tarkhan (Barber 1994). The man's shirt was intentionally V-necked, perhaps to expose the throat and clavicle bones. Ancient Egyptian women wore tubular, ankle-length jumpers with shoulder straps. While their breasts were sometimes hidden and sometimes exposed, the splendor of their upper arms, clavicles, and shoulders was left to show through the ages (Barber 1994).
See also ARM WEAR, FOOTWEAR, NECKWEAR.
Copyright 1998 - 2010 (David B. Givens/Center for
Photo of clothing designed to accentuate feminine shoulders and their movements to draw male eyes (picture credit: unknown)