Sunday, 2 September 2012

How To Wear... The Peplum

Disclaimer: I am a peplum addict – my collection began 3 years ago and has expanded exponentially this summer. I am beyond relieved that they were still on the AW runways as I firmly believe that a peplum will take you almost anywhere and go with almost anything (including low rise bottoms if it’s big enough - the peplum, not the bottom - it is a tad more foolproof than one of my other most beloved staples, the crop top, in this respect!). I will almost definitely never tire of the hourglass accentuation and dollop of vintage sass it lends to any outfit.

How I Wear
Transitioning into Autumn/Winter: Acquisitions and Mergers
Figure-Fixing Peplums

The Dress

Smart and demure enough for the office (if I had an office to go to, and sometimes it’s fun to pretend), but cute and sassy enough to take you anywhere else your heart desires, especially with some choice accessories. I’ve chosen to play up the ‘50s secretary look with a white pearl collar and skinny waist belt (tied up for just that dash of self-contained rebellion – and to stop the end flapping around), picking out the micro polka dots, and dusky pink ribbon tie heeled brogues. This is how I fantasised about dressing every day as a tracksuit-wearing sixth-former. Alternatively, you COULD flip the image on its head with spiked stiletto shoe-boots, a black leather jacket and maybe a matching belt. But it’s so sweet...I just couldn’t.

Dress: Primark (Past Season)
Belt: Primark (Past Season)
Pearl Collar: Topshop
Shoes: Peacocks (Past Season)

The Matchy-Matchy Midi

I think peplum tops look great with midi skirts of all descriptions (my pencil skirt homage is coming soon), but for the all-out retro vibe, I do love a below-the-knee pleated swinger – this peplum’s cute collar somehow makes me feel like someone from the French Resistance (although admittedly somewhat more conspicuous, in head to toe lipstick red). All-over scarlet turns it into a real statement outfit and makes you feel immensely glamorous, but to avoid looking like a giant chilli pepper, I've stopped short at the bag and tights.

N.B. I think off-white lace tights are probably my most worn between-seasons item – I refuse to wear nude tights, but black is just too harsh for many transitional outfits, and, much as I love printed and coloured tights, they don’t work for every occasion.

Top: Primark (SS12)
Skirt: ASOS (SS12)
Tights: Accessorize
Shoes: Peacocks (Past Season)
Coat: Freemans (Past Season)
Bag: Oasis (SS12)

The DIY Playsuit

Peplums also look fab with shorts – they don’t have to match, of course, but after spending some time ruminating over a gorgeous peplum playsuit in a magazine, I realised I already had all the tools at my disposal to make my own! I’ve gone with my favourite colour pop accessories, which I think could take this outfit pretty much anywhere – the high neckline, smart colours and built-in prim factor make it demure but “means business” enough for a meeting, but it’s also cool and fuss-free enough for shopping or holidays (OK, maybe swap the heels for wedges unless you have feet of steel), and the bodycon fit makes it sexy enough for a club... I’ll just add opaques and a cropped jacket when autumn arrives. Of course, you could also add matching skirts to create your own peplum dresses.

N.B. I cannot express my love for this particular top and its numerous siblings enough (still on sale in Primark in a myriad of colours for under £10 each) – I have them in black, cream, neon yellow and plum (ready for AW). The stretch material and slight cutaways at the shoulders somehow endow them with both a sports-luxe style feeling when worn more casually, and a sexy, glamorous look, which isn’t casual at all when you don’t intend it to be! Run to the shops now!

Top: Primark (AW12)
Shorts (with belt, switched onto top): Primark (SS12)
Shoes: Peacocks (Past Season)

The Peplum Trouser Suit

And here it is in a slightly different incarnation! Matching skinny or wide leg trousers are also on the “To Try” list for funky DIY jumpsuit variations, but this peg leg shape was inspired by Paloma Faith’s latest fashion hit, left (Photo:

This is a slightly toned down version (well, funnily enough I didn’t have a matching top and trousers in jacquard handy), that would, again, take you literally anywhere. I took it out of boardroom territory and added a slight tribal vibe with a gold collar necklace and wedges, and a chunky leopard cuff, but patent courts, pearl accessories and a cropped blazer or boucle jacket would see you knocking the boss dead. On the other hand, a wide bondage-inspired buckled waist cincher coupled with some fierce heeled ankle boots and spiky accessories would have your boss scared of being knocked out (best save for after work drinks).

Top: Primark (AW12)
Trousers: River Island (Past Season)
Wedges: New Look (Past Season)
Necklace: Primark (SS12)
Bangle: Primark (Past Season)

The Skinny Jeans

The right combination of peplum and skinny jeans (no gaps please!) is a great throw-it-on option for daytime. To keep this look smart and in keeping with the boucle jacket and polished shoe boots, I stuck to black, grey and white tones for this look (to make more of a statement I’d clash bright colours and throw in flashes of white). The long leather gloves make the cropped sleeves of the jacket wearable in colder weather. Being able to extend the life of some of those essential-but-wearable-in-only-such-a-brief-seasonal-window transitional cover-ups is always a welcome bonus, but I would have got them anyway because they are so cool.

Top: Primark (SS12)
Jeans: Primark (Past Season)
Shoes: Dorothy Perkins (Past Season)
Jacket: Forever 21 (Past Season)
Gloves: Primark (Past Season)

Introducing Special Guest Star.. My Mum

Mum's style is fairly classic, with her capsule wardrobe consisting of the faithful bootcut trouser/jean (which can work as well with peplum tops as the skinny cut, if that's what you're into), skinny knits, classic T-shirts, bodycon shift dresses, statement shoulders, high-waisted pencil skirts, circle midis and palazzo pants, lots of stripes and heels with everything, but she’s been inspired to become more adventurous in recent years, and has most recently caught on to my peplum mania.

The Classic Smart-Casual

With slim flare jeans, this is a really versatile look that could be accessorised for almost any occasion, and is great for balancing out the hips, for anyone who's self conscious about that area. With metallic wedges and chunky jewellery, it’s a chic but relaxed daytime look. Mum likes to wear her peplums with high waisted jeans to ensure no gap due to her long torso, but for business or cocktails, they could be swapped for high waisted black trousers or a classic pencil skirt, and patent black court shoes.

Top: Missguided (AW12)
Jeans: Next (AW12)
Wedges: Marks & Spencer (Past Season)
Bangle Set (Left Hand): New Look (SS12)
Bracelet (Right Hand): BHS
Necklace: Marks & Spencer (Past Season, Part of Set)

Seeing Double

The short sleeves and stripes on this New Look top inject a sense of fun and Riviera chic into a classic cut – The thick peplum hem and stripes really maximise curves, but the black waist belt ensures the waist isn’t lost. Black patent heels and pencil skirts optimise smartness, but for a more casual look it would be great with jeans. I’d also like to try it with a brightly coloured pencil skirt or coloured skinny jeans, swapping the black belt for a matching coloured number, and maybe the court shoes for some coloured wedges or dolly shoes.

N.B. We don’t actually wear the same outfit at the same time outside the privacy of our own home, although we have been known to wear the same studded ankle boots.

Top (including belt): New Look (AW12)
Pencil Skirts: Both Primark (Past Seasons)
Shoes: Me – Pied A Terre (Past Season); Mum – Marks & Spencer (Past Season)

Transitioning into Autumn/Winter: Acquisitions and Mergers

The peplums are staying put in my AW wardrobe, for teaming with skirts, shorts, jeans, trousers (and tights)... and I’m sure they will have bred copiously come SS13 – I’m looking forward to increasing the variety of materials, patterns and embellishments amongst their number – leather, velvet, lace and baroque patterns (probably not all together) are certainly in order, and I can’t wait to get hold of a few peplum belts so that I can customise to my heart’s content. I’ll be looking out for drop-hem ‘20s inspired peplum hemmed dresses with interest, and I’m not anticipating being able to resist the lure of more high-waisted peplum skirts which I can tuck all the non-peplum tops I own into either – it just makes sense to be able to go both ways doesn’t it? Maximising wardrobe utility. Init.

Figure-Fixing Peplums for...

Pear Shapes: Peplums are great for softly blending the silhouette of a slimmer upper half and larger lower half – slightly longer peplum hems are most flattering, to disguise the widest part of the hips. This allows you to work a skinnier silhouette than normal on your lower half – pencil skirts and skinny/straight leg jeans will look fab. As always, additional detail and lighter or brighter colours on top relative to your skirt or trousers will draw the eye to your bust and waist – adding sleeves, horizontal stripes, or just a statement necklace, will also maximise the effect.

Boyish Frames: Peplums add va va voom like nothing else – make the sure the frill fits tightly against your natural waistline and choose a slightly wider peplum to give the illusion of wider hips. You can keep your lower half bodycon to emphasise the difference between the diameter of the hem and your fabulous pins, and to ensure you don’t end up looking pear-shaped.

Curvy Girls: A high neckline coupled with a large print can be a bit much for bigger-busted ladies, but if you fancy embracing your inner Marilyn, go right ahead (as I did in the striped peplum above) – rules were made to be broken, and it can add a dose of vintage glamour as part of this characteristically retro style – just keep it tight and the girls hoisted high! The frill may begin slightly higher than your natural waist, but this can still work as long as there’s not an excessive difference – just make sure you try it on. Hourglasses look fab in bodycon peplum styles teamed with a skinny-fit trouser or skirt. Apple-shapes should choose peplums which flare out from the narrowest part of their torsos and are long enough to disguise the widest part of their tummies – you may want to lower the neckline a bit to draw attention to your other assets too!

I hope you enjoyed today's instalment! Tomorrow: How to Wear Shirts and Blouses

See more recent posts featuring peplums here

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  1. I just got a peplum shirt and i was wondering do I tuck it to my skirt or leave it out? I dont wear these often

    1. Leave it out to show it off :) But if you have a high-waisted skirt, you could tuck it in occasionally for a different look.