Are you woman enough to wear a peplum? Peplum – who he, anyone under the age of, say, 30 might not unreasonably wonder.
For those not well-versed in fashion history, then – and indeed so firmly entrenched in the contemporary wardrobe of skinny jeans and even skinnier T-shirt, all of which hide the feminine form rather than emphasise it – a peplum is a time-honoured dressmaker's device designed to exaggerate the curve of the hips rather than to mask it. A tiny, full skirt, sprouting from the hem of a jacket that falls just to the waist is the most usual incarnation of the beast. It's been an haute couture staple for decades, now. In fact, the Ancient Greeks were rather partial to a peplum. Back then, women were women, after all. Big hips were considered an asset in just the same way as big biceps were for any Greek God worth his divine credentials.
Enough fashion history. This season, peplums have found their way into the ready-to-wear collections of everyone up to and including Miuccia Prada, who used them in her much-feted homage to lace – think 1950s Italian starlet (below), primly twisted the way only this designer knows how. The iconic black dresses that opened Nicolas Ghesquière's collection for Balenciaga were also in possession of small but perfectly formed peplums. At Bottega Veneta, curvy leather jackets have peplums blossoming over the hips of impeccable, tapered trousers, and over at Burberry, more fitted jackets have moulded hips that, while far from frilly, are certainly peplum-esque in their curvaceous effect. Chanel's peplums are hidden, a froth of silk tulle puffing up the skirts of the perfect black jacket. Dior's kimono-style coats, meanwhile, are so tightly belted over tulip skirts that a peplum effect is duly achieved. Finally, Louis Vuitton's peplums are cut square over full, New-Look line skirts.
The end result, in fact, suggests nothing more radical than the return of an hour-glass silhouette to fashion, although given that dressing like a boy is by now so integral a part of metropolitan life, that in itself is remarkable.
On a street level, while the powers that be at Topshop are unlikely to be rustling up a silk jacquard peplum any time soon, a new celebration of the feminine form can be seen in the return – only whisper it – of the boot-cut jean. Although its been buried at the back of the wardrobe for so long, along with the much-maligned kitten heel, this silhouette is ubiquitous once more and the look is positively voluptuous. More LA circa 1970 than Shoreditch on a grey, snake-hipped day.