How Dolly Parton Inspired a Cold-Shoulder Vaccine Top Trend

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Paula Lee
·3 min read
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Photo credit: Instagram
Photo credit: Instagram

Just when you thought the cold-shoulder top, that reached peak popularity around 2010, was making a slow retreat from the sartorial landscape, it has resurrected itself as a pandemic fashion trend. Presenting, the vaccine top: Peekaboo details and shoulder-less silhouettes not only make a fabulous, easy-access outfit for your appointment (and beyond), but they also allow you to get your shot without partially disrobing in front of a stranger. Who said fashion can’t be functional?

While the rest of us comfy-clothed mortals might stick to the same T-shirt we’ve had on rotation since 2020 to get our coveted COVID-19 vaccine, Dolly Parton inspired many with a practical yet stylish alternative when she went in for her first dose in March:

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Naturally, she glammed things up (Ms. Parton is a mega style icon, after all). Leave it to the vaccine fairy godmother, who donated $1 million to COVID-19 research that led to the Moderna breakthrough, to turn cut-outs into a pro-health fashion statement. All eyes were on her sparkly sweater of choice with perfectly placed spaces for needle entry when she posted her celebratory image on Instagram.

Even Hillary Clinton couldn’t resist getting in on the vaccine fashion commentary, subtly reminding us with a throwback photo that she started the cold-shoulder trend back in 1993 at her inaugural White House State Dinner as first lady.

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For those who don’t recall, before the exposed shoulder gained popularity in the early aughts as a "going out" uniform, the former secretary of state wore a body-hugging Donna Karan gown with daring cut-outs to the official event—and it was a bit of a scandal. Often credited in the industry for pioneering the cold-shoulder as we know it today, Karan designed the garment in the 1990s with working women in mind. She likes to note: regardless of age or body type, a woman’s shoulders are always attractive, making them an especially alluring body part to bare.

Christie Brinkley also embraced the revitalized trend when she sported an asymmetric cut-out knit for her final dose in March.

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Indeed, the cold-shoulder is a universally flattering and versatile silhouette to wear. Though typically not a fan of full-on arm exposure, Oprah also wasn’t afraid to show a sliver of skin in a portrait for The Hollywood Reporter.

Photo credit: Miller Mobley for The Hollywood Reporter
Photo credit: Miller Mobley for The Hollywood Reporter

Of course, her elegant blouse is certainly a more, shall we say, straightforward choice than the look Amy Schumer wore for her March vaccine appointment. The comedian dressed up in a sequin cocktail number with an apparent DIY cut-out and encouraged others to don their fanciest attire as well (her manager will donate $5 for each #downtogown post to Pencils 4 Kids).

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We don’t necessarily recommend hacking up your evening gowns, but we do agree that the cold-shoulder is the top du jour for the most exciting event of the year—destination vaccination. Of course, fashion is cyclical (and fickle), and while designers have favored the related off-the-shoulder and one-shoulder necklines over the past few years, some may have predicted the desire for inoculation style. Prada presented thin turtlenecks with holes in its spring 2021 collection, while Michael Kors included a sumptuous cut-out cashmere sweater in his fall 2021 runway show.

The cold-shoulder has officially returned, and we love a good comeback story.

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