What is the peplum? It can be seen as a fashionable growth protruding from the hips. It can take on a life of it’s own, and can act as an instant waist-slimmer. But, what is a peplum really, and why is it so prominent on the runway? Well, this season (and last season) is not it’s first walk around the block. It can be traced back to the 40’s and 80’s when adding an extra layer of fabric around one’s hips was all the rage. Apparently, we are still on that bandwagon. But, it’s a beautiful bandwagon, and can be traced further back in time. The word peplum comes from the Greek word peplos, meaning shawl. Yes, another first by the Greeks. Their version is draped, hanging beautifully on their bodies (no, not the one-shouldered frock adopted during the muscle-man movies of the 1960’s). Now, fast forward to the 19th century and the peplum evolves into a more structured shape. During the 1800’s, the peplum was an extra flounce of fabric affixed to the waist. Such voluminous examples can be seen in illustrations from Godey’s Lady’s Book, a popular 1800’s fashion magazine (complete with poems). The modern peplum became trendy during the 1940’s, and again in the 1980’s. The modern version is often shorter in length, and extends beyond the waist. Sure, it sounds completely unflattering, but the most endearing quality of the modern peplum is its versatility. It can be short and cutesy, feminine and flouncy, or architectural and edgy. The possibilities are endless, as can bee seen on the runway and on the street. Whether it’s here to stay or not, the peplum is a serious waist-slimmer and style-booster; and for most women, that’s pretty epic.

An illustration from Godey’s Lady’s Book, December 1875

An editorial shot by Nina Leen for Life magazine, 1946

Mary Katrantzou, Fall 2012 Ready-to-Wear

Lanvin, Fall 2012 Ready-to-Wear

Chris Benz, Resort 2013

On the street

Image sources: 12, 3-5 via style.com6