Are you ready to embrace the return of the peplum?

Were we wrong about the peplum?Emma McIntyre

Every year, the fashion circuit throws up a micro-trend we swear we’ll never welcome back into our wardrobes. But wait a few months and, more often than not, they manage to wriggle their way in, often graduating to become part of our regular rotation. (Just think, in the early Noughties most of us swore the skinny jean would never usurp our beloved bootcut flares...)

Now, our everyday go-tos include mesh ballet flats, low-rise trousers and stubby kitten heels, all of which were met with trepidation when they first made their runway return.

When peplum waistlines were sprinkled across the runways last year, we paid them little attention in the hope they’d remain firmly in the last decade. But the peplum persisted: and now, true to the theory, we’re finding ourselves coming around to it.

peplum top
Michael Tran - Getty Images

There’s no denying the style is back: in his debut Alexander McQueen collection, Seán McGirr served up a structured, point-collared jacket that flared sharply from the waist, while Harris Reed presented a handful of masterfully contoured peplum silhouettes on their AW24 runway. Rotate doubled down on the nostalgia with a plunging party top cut from blue denim, while Jason Wu stuck to his elegant blueprint with gentle ruffles that blossomed over the hips. And of course, the trend was cemented on the Oscars red carpet this month, when Emma Stone accepted her Academy Award for Best Actress in a mint-green Louis Vuitton gown with a dramatically flared waist.

While its origins can be traced back to the ancient Greeks, the peplum wasn’t considered a high-fashion proposition until the arrival of Christian Dior and his New Look in the 1940s, which elevated the silhouette to dramatic new heights. But the peplum’s most prominent fashion era was the 1980s, preceding a brief redux in the Noughties, where it was widely worn with a perplexing array of business-casual separates and the skinniest of jeans.

richard quinn peplum
Richard QuinnCourtesy of Richard Quinn

Really, the problem isn’t the peplum, but rather the proportions. Get it wrong, and you’ll visually shorten your silhouette. Get it right, and the effect is – honestly – remarkably flattering. (If you’re sceptical, consider Sydney Sweeney in black leather McQueen definitive proof.)

Frazer Harrison

If you’re contemplating a casual peplum top, opt for wide-leg jeans or trousers to balance the shape. The effect will be a longer, leaner silhouette with a gently defined waist. (Our biggest mistake in the Noughties was pairing our peplums with those skin-tight trousers.)

Another key way to embrace the style is with a trophy jacket; Queen Letizia of Spain wore an elegant pink Carolina Herrera version, with a matching skirt, to the coronation of King Charles and Queen Camilla, while the Princess of Wales wore a similar Alessandra Rich style to the commonwealth service earlier last spring. Look to Alexander McQueen for a sculptural, standout take on the biker, or Givenchy for clean lines and softer structure.

their majesties king charles iii and queen camilla coronation day
Mark Cuthbert - Getty Images
the british royal family attend annual commonwealth day service
Samir Hussein - Getty Images

But the peplum silhouette really makes an impact in this season’s most dazzling eveningwear. Embrace the retro overtones with Balmain's Dynasty-tinged jacket or opt for maximum glamour with Nina Ricci's ruffles: the effect will always be brilliantly dramatic. Whether you’re ready or not, the peplum is determined to work its way back into our wardrobes. Before you baulk, remember what you first said about those ballet flats...

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