The New and Improved Way to Wear a Peplum Top

I watched in a state of semi-alarm over the course of fashion month as designers planted seeds for the return of the peplum

The last time I wore a peplum was during the peplum heyday of 2014, when it was the reigning going-out top silhouette. I would be hard-pressed to identify the precise genesis of its ubiquity (perhaps Julia Roberts’ 2014 Oscar dress, or anything and everything worn by Kate Middleton), but I know exactly why it took off in the way that it did. That level of explosion tends to occur whenever a trend of the moment is bucketed as “cool” in a fashion-y sense and also happens to be immensely wearable, not to mention flattering.  It’s a rare harmony, which makes the appeal all the more powerful.

Per the ironic trajectory of all explosive trends, the point of over-saturation descended swiftly and with authority. I knew it was imminent the night I sat down at a bar to wait for some friends and realized I was flanked on either side by women wearing peplum tops nearly identical to the one I had on myself. Sure enough, peplum soon reached what I call the Pumpkin Spice Latte stage of pervasiveness, whereupon it was suddenly everywhere to the point of being annoying.

Imagine my surprise, then, at peplum’s budding reemergence upon the scene of Spring/Summer 2018 (too soon, too soon, too soon, my heart thumped as I clicked through photos of the Balenciaga collection). It’s only been three years since it Pumpkin Spice Latte’d! I’ve barely had enough time to forget peplums, much less entertain the notion of diving back in. Then again, if it is, in fact, on the verge of a comeback, I would be foolish to live in denial. I reasoned that the far more productive approach would be to start brainstorming how to style peplums in a way that made them feel fresh and made me feel excited to wear one again. Below are three approaches I’m testing.

1. Thinking outside the top

This approach involves thinking outside the box in which the peplum is usually placed: tops! Specifically, sleeveless ones that hug the boob area and flare out at the waist. I had a black one from Anthropologie that I wore almost every Friday night my senior year of college, and would have worn it on Saturdays, too, probably, if not for the deodorant stains that demanded a wash cycle.

In the interest of forming new associations around the peplum, the Rosie Assoulin jacket pictured above is my attempt at ditching said box and exploring the different forms the peplum can take. The items I paired with it contribute to this objective in that they are not a bandage skirt (my collegiate peplum pal of choice). A funky crocheted pants-and-dress-sandwich is a new pal entirely, don’t you think? I’ve also adopted the new philosophy that you can’t go wrong with the addition of a big-ass cubic zirconia. I don’t think I’ve ever loved a necklace more.

2. Dismantling the “going out” connotation

Nothing shakes up a peplum situation more effectively than a ginormous raincoat and a sunglass croakie, in my humble opinion. Feel free to sub in whatever weird-in-a-good-way equivalents you have handy, though. The point here is to pluck the peplum from its typical reputation as the hero silhouette for a night out on the town and deposit it in an entirely different context. For example, this outfit is lousy with peplum and yet intended for the daytime-specific activity of attending a baby shower at an outdoor venue located underneath a thundercloud with a 55% chance of precipitation.

3. Layering (HAVE U HEARD OF IT?)

Unexpected layering is my favorite trick whenever I want to bend a trend to my personal style’s will. It has the unique ability to mold a familiar silhouette or article of clothing into an entirely new sculpture. In this case, a peplum bustier layered over a midi dress transforms into a modern-day iteration of an armored breastplate. Add a superhero cape in the form of an oversize sweater and you’re ready to fight any bad guy in the tri-state area.

So, now that the credits are rolling on this episode of Harling Plays Mad Scientist With a Potential Trend, tell me: Will you or won’t you break out your peplum again?

Modeled by Marling Dominguez of Marilyn Agency, follow her on Instagram at @marling31. Photos by Edith Young. 

Harling Ross

Harling is a writer and was most recently the Brand Director at Man Repeller.

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