Thrifting 101: Thrifting The Trend - The Peplum

Popping up everywhere from New York to Paris, spring 2012 collections included a large, unmistakably flirty ruffle on silhouettes ranging from skirts and jackets, to dresses and blouses. This feminine note is the peplum. The February 2012 issue of Elle identifies the peplum as one of the four key silhouettes of spring 2012 (the others being the boxy jacket, pleats, and the maxiskirt). Long associated with 1950's ladylike fashion and 1980's excess, peplums are a fun nod to the past and can be extremely flattering to a woman's figure. Even better, they're often noticed while thrifting. So what's all the fuss about peplums? Today, we'll find out.

The peplum, a term dating back to the 19th century, is a short overskirt that is usually attached to a fitted jacket.  However, earliest versions were typically not attached to a jacket, but functioned merely as an extra overskirt or flounce dropping from the waist. The modern peplum, as we now know it, became popular as a design in women’s suiting in the 1940s. Here it took on its most recognizable form. Suit jackets were often fitted at the waist, but fabric extended beyond the waist in an overskirt. Women wore peplum-appended coats and dresses as a way to draw attention to a tiny waist and hourglass figure -- without being overtly erotic

McCall's dress pattern, c. 1940's

Sometimes the peplum was deliberately flared, enhancing or suggesting greater curve to the hips. In other styles, the peplum fit closer to the stomach and the hips, emphasizing the tight waist of the garment. A flared peplum with a skirt that also flared was common, as was a peplum with a pencil skirts.

The peplum fashion faded in the 1950s but came back with a vengeance in the late 1980s and early 1990s. This was part a reaction to the boxy menswear-style jackets with exaggerated shoulder pads that were popular during the mid-1980s. Most jackets with peplums in the late 1980s still had shoulder pads, but feminine curves were emphasized by a fitted waist and either a flounced or straight peplum, usually covering the hips and stomach.

The right peplum can accentuate boyish hips, create the illusion of a smaller waist and mask less-than-flat tummies. Peplums are flattering on many women in that they add curves on a slender form with narrow hips, and, at the same time, accommodate generous hips and disguise them while highlighting the waist.

Examples of thrifted peplums

Victor Costa polka-dot dress, c. 1980's

Vintage blazer, c. 1940's

When searching for peplums while thrifting, head first to the dresses, skirts, and blazers section of your favorite store. Eighties dresses with peplums are aplenty, often in loud floral or abstract prints. If a peplum silhouette makes you shy, consider a dark, monochromatic style - a black, brown, or navy blazer with a slim dark pant or pencil skirt. Peplum blouses can also be thrifted. Pairing a peplum top with cigarette pants can offset the top's girlishness and balance it's volume.

Would you wear a peplum? Have you had luck thrifting for silhouettes featuring them?


  1. I've been obsessed with and wearing peplums for years! I'm glad they're finally getting the proper recognition!

  2. I love wearing a peplum. They add a little extra flounce to my boyish figure. Plus they make outfits a little more feminine with out the overt girly nature of ruffles.

  3. I'm going to be all over this, I think, being one of those narrow-hipped types, who occasionally likes a little help with creating the illusion of curves on my lower body.

  4. I recently found a jacket with a peplum and was very excited about it, but I know when I snapped the first photo in the jacket that it seemingly added weight. I still need to play with it some.

  5. I love the peplum and am thrilled to see it coming back in fash!


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