Based on the word’s early origins in Greece, a peplum was another word for tunic. For this reason, the movies that were based on early Greek or Roman times were also called peplum films , and the genre associated with it as peplum.
Peplum also has another definition that, although not related to the first definition, also involves clothing. In this definition, a peplum is a short overskirt that is often attached to a fitted jacket. The term has its origins in the 19th century. In fact, one can see illustrations of early peplums in the old copies of Godey’s Lady’s Book, a widely circulated 19th century magazine that featured poems and articles on fashion.
The earliest incarnations of the peplum were not attached to a jacket. It was basically an overskirt flounce that sewn on the waist. The popular and modern peplum design gained popularity in the 1940s. The suit jackets oftentimes had a snug fit at the waist, but the fabric was intentionally extended way past the waist and then turned into an overskirt.
There are two popular peplum styles. One style is deliberately flared, which sought to give enhancement to the curve of the hips. The other style of the peplum had a more fitting stomach and hips. This style also highlighted the woman’s waist because of the tight waistline of the garment. Flared peplums are usually used with skirts that are flared, while the more fitted peplum is used with narrow or pencil skirts.
Peplum usage waned in the 1950s but came back in the 1980s and early 1990s – some say as a reaction to the loose menswear style jackets that had huge shoulder pads.