I Wore Peplum Tops For a Week

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The infamous 2010s silhouette is back — and it’s not going anywhere any time soon. Can peplums be redeemed? I set out to find the answer.

Fun fashion question: What does self-inflicted torture look like to you? Prancing around in low-waisted jeans? Risking it all in the Diesel belt skirt? Stepping out in bedazzled undies? For me, a sartorial statement that has long sent shivers down my spine is the act of re-embracing peplum tops.

A relic of business casual club wear, the controversial style has been weaselling its way back into the zeitgeist for some time. In 2023, I wrote (err — warned) about its unavoidable return. A year later, peplum tops are not only still steadily on the rise; they’re everywhere. They were a staple at awards season, where winners like Emma Stone and Da’Vine Joy Randolph fully endorsed the vilified ruffle. They’ve been given the French girl treatment by Kendall Jenner, who was spotted in a refined peplum one-piece on a recent Parisian stroll.

What’s more, the spring 2024 runways were rife with the contested clothing item. Alexander McQueen and Balmain (below) presented hardware-heavy structured takes, while Prabal Gurung and Jason Wu offered fluid silhouettes. Love it or hate it: The fashion forces are — to paraphrase Mean Girls — really trying to make peplum happen.

Peplum tops Balmain S24
Photography courtesy of launchmetrics.com/spotlight

All of this begs the question: Are peplum tops actually flattering? For the sake of investigative journalism, I embarked on a self-imposed challenge to prove that, perhaps — gulp — they are. For five days straight, I wore nothing but variations of the style I so deeply despised. It was intimidating, but hey, if I could brave an outing sans pants and go a week wearing kitschy cherry stockings, surely I could do this, too.

Day 1 of wearing peplum tops: Ganni’s bow blouse

I decided to dip my toe into the peplum pool with an accessible start: the viral tie-up Ganni top. This billowy white blouse has become a fixture on Scandi girl feeds and TikTok wish lists. It’s got a sneaky peplum silhouette, with a wide shape that subtly cascades out at the waist. Refreshingly, its airiness emits ease — in contrast to the try-hard stigma of peplum’s past. I paired it with a plaid skirt and white tights (they’re so back, you know!).

I tried wearing peplum tops: Ganni
Photography by Natalie Michie

I wore this to an intimate dinner party, and the top launched us all into an insightful retrospective of the trend. We mused about this very distinct era in 2010s culture; when nightlife attire was corporate-coded and neon was somehow a neutral. Perhaps our aversion to peplum, we theorized, is not because of the style, but the confines of its associations. When you remove the excessively chunky necklaces, galaxy print motifs and colourful skinny jeans, peplum isn’t so bad. The experience was off to a hopeful start.

Day 2 of wearing peplum tops: Allina Liu’s crop top

Now ready to get a bit bold, I went with an edgier pick by New York-based designer Allina Liu. A certified cool girl brand, Allina Liu is one of those labels that has carved out its own distinct identity. Liu employs BDSM codes — like bondage visuals via intricate straps — while still pulling off a distinctly feminine aesthetic. And as it turns out, she’s a big fan of the peplum. I wore her Matisse top, a fitted piece with puffed sleeves that mimic the swollen midsection.

I tried wearing peplum tops: Allina Liu
Photography by Natalie Michie

Its cropped length and criss-cross back straps made me feel instantly more of the moment. I wore it with knee-high boots and a pleated skirt for happy hour drinks with a friend, and as we sat in a cluttered bar, it did not seem at all forced — let alone cheugy — for me to be wearing a peplum top. In fact, I felt a winning balance between subversive and sleek styles, with the inner thrill of reclaiming a trend I’d once deemed long dead. What is going on?!

Day 3 of wearing peplum tops: Reformation’s red look

By day three, I was ready for a real challenge — and Reformation’s Rayne top was just the ticket. With a fire-engine hue and particularly flamboyant flounce, this is the most audacious pick of the bunch. I wore it to a press dinner for the Canadian launch of Bioré’s UV Aqua Rich from Japan. This outfit I saw as the ultimate test.

I tried wearing peplum tops: reformation
Photography by Natalie Michie

Not only was this the most in-your-face peplum silhouette, but the blouse’s assertive vibrancy was like a rebellion against the unwritten rules of chic minimalism at industry events. And because I have a taste for mental catastrophizing, it felt all the more nerve-wracking. I paired it with a pleated skirt by Uniqlo C and pointy kitten heels.

At first, I found myself hiding behind my emotional support blazer in efforts to shield the intensity of the look. But one Japanese-inspired cocktail was all it took for me to shed my overcoat and bask in all my crimson glory. I even received a few compliments from my colleagues! Sure, its exaggerated shape was more drama than I’m used to, but going for it in full force left me feeling exhilarated, like I should abandon my black-on-black dressing default more regularly.

Maybe one day I’ll even work up the courage to pair it with red tights.

Day 4 of wearing peplum tops: Veronica Beard’s chic workwear pick

To work at the office, I decided to go for a more practical look. This Veronica Beard wrap pullover proved to be a good option, with its subtle peplum being both under-the-radar yet different enough to feel like a challenge. Featuring padded shoulders and bloated bishop sleeves, I hardly even noticed the peplum was there.

I tried wearing peplum tops: veronica beard
Photography by Natalie Michie

All in all, it was a comfortable workwear pick that I would wear again. Nobody commented on my peplum ensemble, likely because the shoulders and sleeves were the main event. So, if you’re looking to dabble in the silhouette without garnering major stares, a style such as this might be for you.

Day 5 of wearing peplum tops: Dynamite’s going-out gem

To celebrate the end of the week, I took myself out in this slinky baby pink number by Dynamite. Its ultra-thin spaghetti straps give it a hit of late ‘90s minimalism, while its satin fabric delivers a flirty evening-wear elegance. At this point, I was high off the power of the peplum, feeling entirely endeared to its protruding poof.

I tried wearing peplum tops: dynamite
Photography by Natalie Michie

After all, when you think about it, peplum tops make a lot of sense. They’re constructed to create an hourglass effect, cinching at the waist and flowing out forgivingly at the hips. Their flouncy shape is layering-friendly. They can be dressed up or down. And now, I see that there’s something reassuring about their return.

In conclusion: Welcome back, peplums!

A style once so maligned being wholeheartedly re-embraced is a yet another indication that life is cyclical, and everything is redeemable. Time heals all wounds; even those of the once woefully overdone, out-of-style silhouettes. After a week of facing my fashion fears, I found that even I was able to sport the trend — in a wide range of colours and shapes, no less! — and feel pretty great.

At the very least, peplum tops add a dose of whimsy to an outfit. Beyond that, my time spent wearing them served as a reminder that the best things are often just outside your comfort zone.

Feeling inspired? Read on for the best peplum picks on the market right now.

Ganni white ruched blouse

Ganni tie blouse peplum tops

This pick continues to be a cult-favourite, thanks to its adorable (and reversible!) tie-up detailing. I would go as far as to say that it is, in large part, responsible for the peplum’s entire image revival. Now that I’ve had to chance to wear it around quite a bit, I’ve become particularly appreciative of its layering capabilities.

I’ve paired it with a billowy white dress, straight leg jeans and even cheetah-print pants — and each time it’s felt like a styling success. This top really looks great with everything. Plus, it’s available in seven colours.

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Allina Liu Beans top

Allina Liu Beans peplum tops

For those stuck between ultra-feminine aesthetics and risqué statements, this Allina Liu peplum pick is the perfect in-between. Made of lightweight satin, it’s got breathable flutter sleeves, intricate waist cut outs and trailing bow ties for a playful effect. The backside is even more fun, with three tie-up ribbons that add an air of romance.

Currently on sale for over 70 per cent off, it’s not hard to see why this peplum top is going fast.

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Redmore summer peplum blouse

Amazon redmore peplum tops

An underrated joy of wearing peplum is playing with shapes. Here, that experimentation takes full force with a flowy top accentuated by balloon sleeves. Made of 100 per cent cotton, it’s breathable and simple with a subtle waistline detailing before the peplum flair.

Available in eight colours, it’s an easy way to break into peplum without reverting to 2010s tropes.

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Veronica Beard Astrid top

Veronica Beard astrid peplum tops

Similar to the Veronica Beard top I wore (which is now sold out), this design has a slight peplum hem for just the right amount of shape excitement. With simple panel detailing and a clean-cut strapless finish, it promises to be the ultimate versatile pick for an elevated evening outing.

Available in a creamy dark ochre (or in classic black here), this peplum expertly blends quiet luxury with the last decade’s designs for a vibe that’s giving Sofia Richie Grainge.

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Reformation Rayne satin top

Reformation Rayne top peplum tops

Looking for a rousing red top? This peplum number has got you covered. It has an elegant fitted silhouette with an impossible-to-miss statement flair. Available in this striking lipstick shade and classic black, it shines when paired with slacks and sleek sling-backs.

Bonus points for sustainability: It’s made using Nilia, a material made of sustainably sourced wood pulp and repurposed waste. The result feels like silk sans the environmental footprint.

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Anthropologie peplum swing top

Anthropologie peplum tops

This is another solid option for those who are looking for a no-fuss foray into the peplum world. From its soothing lilac colour to its voluminous shape, it is as non-intimidating as a go-to top can be. With dainty flowing sleeves that cascade out to mimic the appearance of a peplum, this blouse has an effortless cottagecore effect.

Not to mention, it’s size-inclusive — ranging from XXS petite to a 3X.

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Dynamite peplum satin top

Dynamite peplum tops

Peplum meets bubble hem with this youthful yet elegant design. Made of a luxe satin fabric, it offers going-out dressiness with an eye-catching silhouette. The ruched fitted top cascades playfully at the hips, with ultra-thin straps that can be easily removed to match your preference.

I found that styling this was easy as can be, because the statement is already made. This design thrives with a high-low effect, so try pairing it with it with slouchy jeans and boots for some aesthetic variation.

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