Donna Karan’s cold shoulder dress was peak ’90s. Panned when it debuted on the runway — but so was Marc Jacobs’ grunge collection for Perry Ellis (which, hello, iconic!) — Karan’s cold shoulder was first worn by Liza Minnelli to the 1992 Academy Awards. It didn’t really make waves, though, until 1993 when then First Lady Hillary Clinton wore the dress to host her first state dinner at the White House.
Reaction was divisive — what isn’t when it comes to Clinton? — and fashion history was made.
It seemed like everything in the ’90s had a cutout shoulder or a variation thereof: T-shirts, sweaters, cocktail dresses, peasant blouses, and how about those sleeveless mock turtlenecks that came with arm stockings?
Like bootcut jeans and low-rise waists, the cold shoulder is having its 2021 moment. Dolly Parton showed us how it’s the perfect getting-vaccinated outfit back in March.
The Spring/Summer 2022 runways were all about revealing the body, a natural reaction to pandemic hibernation, and the cold shoulder showed up from New York to Paris. After all, it’s kind of the perfect post-COVID look, sexy but covered up — to account for the Quarantine 15 so many of us are still working off.
Here are some of our designer faves straight from the runway…
Their version of luxury streetwear included cutout shoulders on some must-have chunky knits.
While the cold shoulder leans more towards structured minimalism, Giambattista Valli showed that it pairs well with romance and ruffles, too.
The whole collection was low-rise and skin-baring, but this cutout tuxedo jacket, shown on both a male and female model, was a standout.
For his 10th anniversary chez Balmain, creative director Olivier Rousteing trotted out supers like Naomi Campbell, Carla Bruni and Milla Jovovich in an archive-inspired capsule collection, but his Spring/Summer 2022 looks included a slew of cutouts and cold shoulders on everything from bandage-inspired dresses to sleek knits and blazers.