Let’s Skirt the Issue

Lets Skirt The Issue

The peplum has been around fashion for, well, nearly ever.  While it’s most notable glory days were in the Victorian era and in the 1940’s, it has never really left and recently has become on-trend once again.  Raf Simmons started it last spring at Jil Sander with his inspired add-on skirts and this season many designers have picked it up.

So, just what *is* a peplum – it is a short overskirt, added at the bottom of a jacket or blouse, or the top of a skirt, or a separate piece you wear like the Jil Sander version.  Originally a design element for functional purposes, they are now purely decorative.  Some are full, gathered and long, like true skirts while others are more of a flap-like embellishment. 

Now at first glance most women are going to say “why on earth would I add a second skirt that is going to emphasize my hips and midsection?!”  Well, they wouldn’t be completely wrong, many times adding volume to that portion of the body is not the best idea, but the right peplum can actually be magical – creating curves where there might not be any, emphasizing a waist, and even camouflaging a tummy now and then.  Not too shabby, huh? 

In my wanderings of the spring collections this year I found a few designers that really made the peplum work, and some that didn’t quite.  My favorites were the designers that veered just a few steps away from the traditional, structured flared peplum looks of the 1940s – a look I think of as “church lady” – without going super modern and architectural ala Yohji Yamamoto.

The best designs still have the elements of the traditional look but with a more modern twist.  Robert Rodriguez created a high-low effect on his olive shantung cocktail dress that somehow looked both classic and modern.  (BTW don’t you just  LOVE LOVE LOVE this color? Such a great option for evening).   Jason Wu went a bit wild and added feathers to this black peplum skirt.  This could have gone horribly wrong, but he kept the skirt proportion not too narrow and just a bit shorter than typical and when paired with the modern print top and the super skinny strapped shoes the overall effect looks fresh and playful while being wickedly chic.  Last but not least, Alexander McQueen showed quite a lot of skirted looks, but I really liked this top for its traditional vibe and its sort of goth twist on Victorian.  They showed it with a longer black pencil skirt but I thought it would look really awesome with some black pencil-cut suede or leather pants – nothing too over the top (ie..no zippers, studs, or too shiny), but streamlined with a bit of edge to really play up the goth effect.

For day, the skirted jackets and tops of Burberry and Red Valentino really hit the mark; again the styling and details like the buttons and the mix of fabrics keep it fresh and modern feeling.  The navy top, where the peplum is short and the overall length is nearly cropped is especially cool – I thought it would look great truly cropped and paired with a full maxi skirt for some drama.  Marc Jacobs did a similar cut in jersey in what he called a “sweatshirt” that is really fun and sporty.  This was good, because most of Marc Jacobs peplums were a bit, well, weird.  He showed quite a few garments with odd flappy bits that looked randomly added.  This was especially awkward on his swimwear; bikinis are tough enough to wear, but with hip flaps – uh, yeah, NOOOOOO!!!!

I love the rich look and movement that a good peplum adds to an outfit, and I really love the way you can play with your shape and silhouette.  While there aren’t very many peplum options out there for plus sizes that really rocked my world (again, got some church lady looks going) I can create the same effect on oversized or too-floaty tunics.  I just got a super cute silk tunic/dress that was disappointingly tent-like when I tried it on – but belted over leggings or skinny jeans is fab – the peplum effect emphasizes the smallness of my waist while covering my tummy and bum a bit. 

So give the peplum a try. While I suggest steering clear of the stiff, too short, or too randomly attached versions, there are some great options available at all price points.  Pair a peplum up with a skinny pant or a pencil skirt.  Play with proportion and color, see what you can do with it.  Go ‘head, give it a whirl!

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