Armani Prive, Couture, AW11, Paris.
It is commonplace for designers to develop altered silhouettes and construction techniques that carry throughout their collections. The good designers (and those with teams of skilled crafts people) have the ability to take that detail and blend it away, so that the viewer isn’t distracted by the subtle change in silhouette. This allows for the viewer to absorb the other colours, prints and surface embellishments that become the focal points of the collection.
This was definitely the case at the Armani Prive AW11 Couture show, where the majority of the tailored jackets were given an upturned kick to their shoulders. Despite the fact that the Armani team have made this shape look effortless, it was probably actually a complex process to create such smooth curves, without the shoulders collapsing.
To create structure in the shoulder area there are a number of elements that can be brought together to create shape. These include the shoulder pad (that forms the basic foundation), the sleeve head roll (that fills out the ease in the top of the sleeve head) and any other padding, or additional pieces of wadding used to build up the shape.
Below are some examples of pre-made varieties, though for the couture garments the shoulder pads may have been formed by hand specifically for the purpose of the collection.
Armani images from Vogue.co.uk»
Shoulder pad and shoulder roll images from MacCulloch and Wallis»