When Dior started a peplum craze back in 1947 it was part of the ‘New Look’ silhouette that shone the spotlight on a woman’s waist. It was structured yet feminine, and above all, elegant.

In spring 2012 and no doubt beyond, peplums have burst back onto runways and hips everywhere. But they’ve evolved. They’ve twisted and turned and frilled their way out of the ’40s, bounded past the ’80s, and landed in the now, merging with other current trends and expanding their appeal.

And if the thought of adding volume to hips sends you running scared, fear not – the peplum’s ability to flatter may just surprise you.

Read on for the full trend report, including how to wear peplums that flatter your shape.

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What are peplums?

Peplums started out life in the 1800′s as short overskirts that flounced out from the waist. The general definition holds true, though in the 20th century they became attached to the waists of jackets or skirts as structured frills that accented the hips. In 1947 Christian Dior debuted the ‘Bar’ suit, which formed an iconic part of the ‘New Look’, bringing a nipped-in waist and padded, peplumed hips into raging popularity.

The peplum now

Peplums have been playing on the edges of fashion for several seasons now, but on the spring 2012 runways rose up to have their moment. But while some designers adhered to the stiff femininity of the peplum as history has known it, others brought it well and truly forward, laying out contemporary options that see it crossing paths with other spring trends.

Peplums beyond the skirt

While we usually picture peplums as being either attached to skirts or attached to jackets worn with skirts, there’s no such requirement any more. Peplums now find themselves frilling out across the hips of skinny-cut pants, or being worn with tailored shorts as a modern day update that marries the peplum silhouette with a cool hint of androgny.

leather peplum top
Peplum in leather at Jason Wu S/S ’12

Peplums gone sporty

One of the best ways to wear peplums in 2012 is to mix a peplum shape with a sporty fabrication. This not only keeps it interesting, it keeps it from feeling too girly. Peplumed tops or skirts in mesh or perforated leather have an innately sporty sensibility.

Vera Wang’s runway provided perhaps the best array of examples – tops flared from waists cinched in by sports toggles, digital prints were decidedly modern, and mesh fabrics reigned supreme.

modern sporty peplum
Sporty printed peplum at Vera Wang S/S ’12

Feminine with a twist

The other brilliant thing about the smorgasboard of peplum options available to you right now is that not everything is clear-cut and safe. If you want to rock peplums in a way that’s very now look to the runway designs that incorporated femininity with a twist.

Givenchy peplums ss12
Intricate peplums at Givenchy S/S ’12

Givenchy’s spring 2012 blouses and jackets frilled intricately from the neck down, culminating in waves of frills at the hips. Part futuristic part under the sea, these structured shapes had a toughness that kept them far from the feminine peplums of yore.

At Cushnie et Ochs peplums of solid metal had a similarly hard and futurist effect; while Badgley Mischka mixed it up with asymetry and frilled peplums that started out life as oversized bows.

Peplums for fall 2012

When the cold weather hits and spring gives way to fall / winter 2012, don’t feel you have to give up the idea of playing with peplums. Though, there are particular interpretations best suited to the cool seasons.

With the layering that goes into staying warm come chilly fall days, voluminous peplums can go from elegant to lumpy. As such:

  • For cold weather, peplum jackets are one of the best ways to interpret the trend. They can be worn over slim layers to create an interesting look, while on the contrary peplums worn as under-layers can be bulky.
  • While peplums in spring can be flirty and flouncy, winter works best with structure. Sharply structured peplums have a strict elegance when applied to winter outerwear.
  • Experiment with heavier fabrics. Wool, leather, or jacquard are good options for structured fall peplums.

leather peplum jacket
Leather peplum jacket at Tory Burch, F/W ’12

Transitioning your spring peplums to fall

While investing in peplums for fall can create some particularly strong looks, you might also wish to carry over your spring peplums to the cooler days. Here are some tips.

  • Keep spring’s peplum cocktail dresses for transseasonal wear – especially in dark colours. If you have a peplum dress in organza, satin or silk, for example, trade the strappy heels for closed-toe pumps and add a jacket for chilly autumn nights.
  • Detachable peplums are the ideal transitioning accessory. Etro’s detachable leather peplum belt, for example, can be worn over a lightweight white dress in summer or over a long-sleeved woollen dress in winter.
  • Spring fabrics like broderie anglais, lightweight cotton florals or sporty white mesh probably won’t find a place in your fall wardrobe. But don’t throw them away when the sun goes behind a cloud: simply store them for now. You never know what next summer will bring.

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Leather peplum belt at Etro, F/W ’12

How peplums can flatter your figure

The glad truth about peplums is that they can add volume where volume is most needed. If you’re thinking that hips are the one place volume is not needed, don’t write peplums off just yet.

Adding volume to the hips also creates more negative space at the waist. In other words, even for those heavier on the bottom, peplums can flatter by drawing in the waist and creating a deliberate hourglass shape. Choose wisely though; only opt for pieces that create that s-curve by really drawing in the waist. You’ll probably be better off opting for tops or jackets with peplums high at the waist as opposed to skirts with peplums that flare out from lower on the body.

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Accenting the waist at Jason Wu, S/S ’12

For those with a boyish or straight up and down figure, peplums can add volume and shape to the hips. They’re also the surprise antidote to days where your stomach is feeling less than flat: peplums can forgive many stomach-related sins.

Peplums: picture inspiration

Still unsure of the peplum idea or of how to wear it right now? For more inspiration from the runways, click on the thumbnails above and peruse the gallery for other examples of peplum outfits.

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