Shoulder Pads: A 40s Necessity


So today this is *kind of * a free pattern Friday but instead of a shoulder pad rather than a German pattern. I am doing this instead today because a shoulder pad really does help improve the look of some of these patterns once made up and can really make a look classically 40s. Some of the most iconic fashions of the 40s carry that sharp tailored shoulder line that only a shoulder pad can create. When I think of shoulder pads, the magnificent Joan Crawford come to mind. I always seem to remember her with that powerful shoulder and nipped in waist line. Since I know I cannot be the only one who loves that look, I offer to you today a tutorial on how to make a super simple shoulder pad  to complete any 40s look (or even any look that needs the enhancement of a pair of shoulder pads). The shape that I am using is a triangle. This shape in found in many original garments and in period printed or commercial patterns.
Joan Crawford
Image Source - Google Images

Classic 40s frocks - note the square shoulder
Image Source - Google Images  

To start, collect your supplies:

Fabric. Your fabric can be any cheap cloth or even the fabric used to make your dress. They do not have to match as they go on the inside of the garment.

Stuffing. You can use any craft stuffing like poly-fill. Fabrics scraps cut small work too and is my stuffing of choice most often.

Scissors, pins, etc. The basics. . .

The pattern I am using is a pattern I pulled from an original pattern and is found in almost all period patterns. The design is incredibly simple consisting of a 7’’ by 7’’ square. That’s it. Some patterns I have seen use a 10’’ diameter circle.

To make up your shoulder pads, you don’t have to have an actual pattern, instead simply cut two squares of fabric 7’’ by 7’’. If you need shoulder pads that are smaller or larger, then make adjustments accordingly by cutting a larger or smaller square. Choose two opposite corners, mark those as “A”. This will be important because those points once brought together make the point that goes closest to the neckline at the top of the shoulder.

After cutting them out, fold in half to make two triangles. Sew around the edges leaving a small opening large enough to turn the triangle inside out and then put in stuffing.

Once sewn, take the triangle and turn it inside out. Stuff the shoulder pad until it is as full as you want. Now, you do not need a whole lot of stuffing. I stuff mine so that they are about less than an inch tall at the highest point. Ensure that the stuffing is not “lumpy” but consistent. To prevent these pesky “lumps” add the stuffing on small pieces. Once stuffed, sew up the opening by tucking in the raw edges.

Tada! You have just made a shoulder pad. Now, repeat the steps for the second one to make a pair.

Applying the Shoulder Pads . .

Now that you have your shoulder pads made up, it is time to sew them in place. To start, fold your triangle in half to find the center line.

 Place the center of your shoulder pad on or close to the shoulder seam of your garment or place it how YOU think it looks best on you. Now, since every figure is different, where place mine may be quite different than where you place yours. Depending on the garment, I often place my shoulder pads shifted towards the front of the garment.
The shoulder pad is folded in half and the center of the pad is placed on the shoulder seam.

pinned in place, ready to be sewn in

Some things to keep in mind, for these shoulder pads, the point marked “A” goes closest to the neck. The straight edge, or the folded edge goes towards the arm hole. For the sewing, use a simple stitch and you want to tack them in place at the corners.



  1. Yes, we need shoulder pads for the 1940s. Do you make them for all your Lutterloh patterns? Are they mentioned in the Lutterloh books?

    Best wishes,

    1. Although shoulder pads are a staple in 40s fashion they are not mentioned in the Lutterloh books at all. It is either because they are assumed to be there or are simply not there or used. I have two German dresses in my collection that do NOT have shoulder pads and I believe they NEVER had them to begin with. There is no evidence in the garment that they were there or later removed and the way they are cut says to me that they were not part of the garment to begin with. Even in a study of photographs with German women, there does appear to be a lacking of shoulder pads. If you look very closely, their shoulders have that natural curve or slope to them that a shoulder pad would have eliminated to get that squared look. I'm hoping to have a longer post later this year about 40s German dressed looking just at shoulders and if there are or are not shoulder pads.. . It is a trend that appears to be really unique to this area compared to more American Fashions.


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