Peplum: Form Flattering Fashion

Peplum is a popular fit-and-flare style. It referred to a woman’s outer tunic in ancient Greece and was highly prized during the Italian Renaissance. The peplum style migrated to Italy from the Eastern Ottoman Empire, which controlled the majority of Southeast Europe, Western Asia and North Africa for roughly six centuries.

This beautifully feminine style resembles an upside-down tulip. Historically, the peplum was a fashion embellishment worn by both men and women. Today, it’s overwhelmingly used to create a fit-and-flare silhouette in women’s clothing.

Daring Flare Style

The unique peplum style refers to the extra strip of fabric fitted to the bodice or waistband of a blouse, jacket, dress, skirt or overcoat. This extra fabric (or overskirt) gives a flared, flouncy silhouette to the garment. Peplum can be made in various lengths, cuts and styles.

The flaring overskirt accentuates the hips and visually slims the waist. This versatile fashion can be paired with pencil skirts or full skirts. Both daring or conservative necklines also go well with a peplum outfit. 

East Meets West

In Charlotte A. Jirousek’s recently published book Ottoman Dress and Design in the West: A Visual History of Cultural Exchange, she explains that “the Eastern idea of open-fronted garments layered over other garments was introduced into European fashion via Italy late in the 14th century.”

During this early period, the peplum style was apparent in both male and female garments. In Italian artist Sofonisba Anguissola’s mid-sixteenth century painting of a family, the young subjects of his painting (a girl and boy) was dressed in the peplum style of the time.

Though no longer fashionable for men or boys, peplum has a long history in the feminine world of fashion. This versatile style was especially popular during the decadent 1980s and has taken on different incarnations since. A modern, elegant choice for all body types, the peplum’s ability to imbue traditional office wear with a feminine touch has made it an essential piece in many career women’s wardrobes. From casual to chic, this style suits every occasion!