Peplum Top


How to say it:  pep-luh m

Traditional Features: 

Peplum Top


  • top with attached overskirt to create fullness
  • usually the overskirt is attached at the waistline and the bodice is fitted to accentuate the figure and create an hourglass silhouette
  • of varying lengths and style


…of the style: The act of adding an overskirt to create fullness around the body has been practiced as far back as Ancient Greece, where the women would tie a shawl (called a peplos) around their waists to create folds in the fabric over their hips. Centuries later the men of the Renaissance period copied the Greeks, changing the position of the shawl so that it would emphasize the V-shape of the male torso.

In the mid 19th century, after the hoop skirt and before the bustle skirt periods of Victorian fashion, women’s skirts were more conical in shape and often had a short peplum to emphasise the hips. These Victorian overskirts were not attached to the garments as they are now, but they were definitely the predecessors of the modern peplum.

The peplum came back into fashion after WWII, with Christian Dior and his New Look. Women’s fashion had changed a lot during the war thanks to rationing and women entering the work force – corsets and big skirts disappeared and women’s clothing was scaled back to allow for the new daily tasks they were forced to take on in the absence of men. The ‘New Look’ (launched in 1947) featured jackets with peplums that cinched in at the waist adding fullness over the hips to create an house glass figure. It heralded a return to the ‘womanly figure’ without the restrictions of the past.The peplum style was worn into the 1950s but was not as popular and fell out of fashion by the end of the decade.

In the 1980s peplums came back in a big way – at a time when accentuating the figure was the height of fashion, the 80s peplum was bigger than ever before and often combined with the iconic 80s shoulder pads to create an exaggerated silhouette. Thierry Mugler and Yves Saint Laurent (now just Saint Laurent) both jumped on the trend during this time, with peplums in every shape and size adorning dresses and suits, and since then the style has been a consistent member of the fashion landscape, going through highs and lows in popularity as the trends change.

The latest popularity high is attributed to Jil Sander’s Spring 2011 collection which created a revival of the feminine look that is still going on. Peplums can now be found an almost every piece of women’s clothing and are so varied in their shape, size and styling that the Victorian roots of the look is often nothing more than a vague memory. And while stylists, bloggers and fashion journalists are constantly arguing whether or not the look is flattering, women in general have definitely taken to the style and it doesn’t look like it will be going anywhere for a while.

…of the name: Peplum comes from the Greek word peplos meaning ‘tunic’.

For more info on Peplums try Dandy Lioness, STITCH, Epoch Times or check out the Fairchild’s Dictionary of Fashion

Random Facts

21st Century Peplum Tops

In the 21st century the peplum has made a major comeback although not everyone thinks that is a good thing. Regardless of the nay-sayers, the range of peplum tops available is huge and varied, so there is bound to be something for everyone who wants one!

Alexander McQueen boss hugo boss

Alexander McQueen, BOSS Hugo Boss

Rebecca Taylor oscar de la Renta

Rebecca Taylor, Oscar de la Renta


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