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Trend: the peplum dress

May 23, 2012

The peplum is a chic trend that we consider ‘grad studies’ at style school: it requires some thought, body awareness and a dose of ladylike confidence. Floral peplum dress, $62 at Miss Selfridge

Some trends are made for wusses and some trends are made for the daring kind.

For those of us who think about fashion when we’re not thinking about food, the peplum is a perfect little distraction from all the neon parading up and down the streets this summer.

Now, sure, we’re into the neon, but that’s what we call a beginner’s trend- easy to adopt because it’s widely accessible in everything from garments to accessories, requires really no previous experience or fit knowledge, and can easily slip into one’s look as a cuff or a coat of polish. Easy as pie.

The peplum, on the other hand, is a whole other game.

And not much has changed since its inception in the 1940s. Comprising of the frill layer that is a shorter-looking skirt attached on top of the actual skirt/dress, the peplum *seems* useless. But not so- like all good fashion, the peplum plays a tango of tricks, adding architectural structure over the hips and definition at the waist- two areas under constant self-surveillance in women’s dressing rooms around the globe and very carefully chosen for emphasis.

Vogue 1947 dress by Lucien Lelong

1942 illustrations of the Paris couture collections

So you see, peplum gamers risk big for a little flirty flutter: wearing the peplum shows exactitude, knowledge and a well-earned certificate of fashion achievement. You don’t just throw on a peplum dress and run out the door. No. There’s shoes, accessories, hats to be considered. Peplum is the chicest of the chic. It is passing the true test of getting dressed: fashion, fit and function harmoniously united in an outfit most people just won’t even try to pull off.

But there are those who will. Here we have peplums on famous people:

Kate Middleton – peplum spokesperson of the year- wears a peplum suit to accompany the Queen. Obviously

A full peplum rotation

Kate Middleton wears a Matthew Williamson peplum suit. Image via The Fashionista Stories

Questionable peplum choices: when there’s too much going on

Fear not, readers- there really isn’t a shortage of peplum dresses. Kim Kardashian and Ashely Greene just both went for the same Givenchy resort collection peplum dress last month. Image courtesy of My Fashion File

The peplum can be hard to pull off. This printed number by Mary Katrantzou on January Jones received much debate

Peplum excellence on the red carpet:

Fabulously stunning example of a peplum on a gown

Peplum summer in your neighbourhood:

Me! Yes I did. And I’m sort of famous. Wearing a summery flower print peplum dress this weekend at Megalomaniac winery in Ontario. If it wasn’t for the colour and print I’d be totally washed out among those oak barrels and nude accessories

So by now you’ve surely excluded yourself as a likely candidate for the peplum, but, really, it’s not that hard to wear the trend. You’re probably already wearing this day cut of dress, and with the peplum all you’re adding is a layer of chic.

First things first- make sure the dress fits you nicely, so no bunching, etc. not that you’d ever buy that, would you?

As to which style of peplum, the easiest one to wear is a peplum dress in a softly draping fabric (like I chose, above) so that the peplum doesn’t stick out. This is the most flattering and nearly discreet way to wear the peplum.

Another not-by-accident decision- you’ll notice on my dress and Kate Middleton’s grey outfit by Matthew Williamson, the angled cut of the peplum actually makes the figure look slimmer- follow those diagonal lines and you’ll realize that they trick the eye into creating an hourglass shape. The defined waist anchors the hourglass and makes the legs look like a million miles long. Clever, eh? So if you’re unsure about a squared-off peplum hemline, choose one that has the  pointy front.

So really, a lot more women can and should attempt the peplum and earn their fashion excellence certificate.

Here are very some easy ones to get into from Miss Selfridge:

Pink peplum dress, $74 at Miss Selfridge

Black peplum sleeveless dress with mesh neckline, $65

Asymmetrical peplum dress, $80

Red cap sleeve peplum dress, $74

All peplum dresses for sale images courtesy of Miss Selfridge.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. May 23, 2012 3:52 pm

    My passion for peplums is out of control. I’m happy to meet another addict.

    • May 23, 2012 4:07 pm

      haha you’re so funny- but I agree, I love the peplum look! I want more! Yes I think I’m now an addict.
      I like to pick up trends that I don’t see too many people wearing and this is one that I absolutely adore.
      Thanks for confiding in us your peplum love,

  2. Jordana permalink
    May 23, 2012 9:38 pm

    You look great in your flower peplum Johanne! And I love the full recap and analysis of this trend. Unlike you I haven’t embraced this look at all. I haven’t given it a fair chance though because I have yet to even try on a peplum number. But I love how the Duchess pulls it off – again and again – and your post is definitely inspiring. What do you think of the peplum tops that are floating around?

    • May 24, 2012 11:26 am

      Jordana, I will not pretend that I wasn’t thinking about you while writing this feature. The peplum is a look that you would pull off with grace and pizzazz- so you really gotta get one. You look great in that style of dress, so adding the peplum is a no-brainer for you. Wear with flats, heels or wedges. You’re already three-quarters into this silhouette.

      And thanks for bringing up the peplum tops issue- I didn’t feature them because I generally don’t like them.
      I like the fixed nature of the peplum dress and skirt suit, and in a top situation the wearer really needs to know what they’re getting into. The peplum look works when the top and skirt are fitted and sleek in shape- I’ve seen loose tops with peplum attached- not recommended. It can look like a messy tunic or an elastic-loaded t-shirt with a frill. Because of these dangers, peplum tops should be reserved for post-Doc peplum studies students.
      -J :)

  3. May 24, 2012 7:30 am

    you look so fabulous! Kristin Wiig wore a nude coloured peplum number on the SNL finale I think….

    • May 24, 2012 11:18 am

      Thank you!
      I’m now putting more pics of me and my acquisitions on the blog, it’s taking some getting used to but what the heck, the peplum deserves a proper hurrah. I’m thinking of wearing it downtown today. And why not?

  4. May 28, 2012 9:23 am

    Great post! I think the peplum can be really flattering. I have just bought a floral peplum skirt from Zara this week, and I agree – the shape works well for the bottom, but can look a total mess on top. The way they usually finish right on the hip just does not work for me. Skirts though i feel super comfortable in! And love your green number! x

    • May 28, 2012 10:49 am

      Hi! and thanks for your comment and for your seal of approval on my green summer peplum dress. I’m happy to hear that you’re enjoying the peplum, too- it’s fun, isn’t it?

      Yeah I have yet to try the rather stiff peplum of the more structured dresses- I’m interested in seeing how it looks on me. Maybe it’s a question of finding one that works for one’s proportions. And thanks for mentioning Zara- they’re absolutely a peplum destination!

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