Today is the final day of New York Fashion Week (NYFW), the seven-day period during which designers present their new collections — Spring/Summer 2017, this time around — to the press and well-heeled clients. (The event has been called Fashion Week since 1993; for half a century before then, it was known as Press Week.) With apparel on our minds, it seems like a good time to look at a curious fashion term that’s been all over fashion reporting this season – but, like much of fashion itself, turns out to be recycled.
The term is cold shoulder, and in its typical mid-price-point manifestation it looks like this:
Bailey 44 “Deneuve” Cold Shoulder Body-Con Dress, $138 at Nordstrom.
Fashion writers talk about it like this:
If you're obsessed with off-the-shoulder everything, but can't imagine wearing the trend post-summer, we've got some good news: On Saturday, It label Self-Portrait confirmed that the cold-shoulder aesthetic is here to stay, just with some epic new variations. – Refinery 29, September 11, 2016
(That short passage contains a grand slam of style jargon: obsessed, It label, cold shoulder, and epic.)
To be classified as a true cold-shoulder dress or top, the arms must be at least partially covered and the shoulders exposed. (No halter tops, in other words, and no off-the-shoulder peasant blouses.) Unlike a lot of fashionspeak, that makes a certain amount of sense.
But wait: Isn’t cold shoulder also an established idiom in the English language with an unattractive meaning – a show of disrespect or contempt, a snub? It is indeed. So how did this negative term become attached to objects of desire?