Though you won't have to put your minimalist minis and second-skin dresses into storage anytime soon, the latest look for cocktail frocks involves a little flair. We're not talking about rows of ruffles or embellishments galore, but rather a single, short overskirt that instantly adds a little glamour or drama to any piece: the peplum. Thanks to directional designers like Louis Vuitton's Marc Jacobs, Balmain's Chrisophe Decarnin, and Jeremy Scott, this sophisticated silhouette is back in the spotlight and already on track to be a major fall trend. It's also swiftly becoming the must-have shape for stylish red-carpet regulars¬--including Diane Kruger and Rihanna¬--who embrace these poof-adorned dresses for their most important events.
As fashion fanatics know, this certainly isn't the first time the peplum dress has enjoyed a place in fashion's pantheon. Though we won't bore you with the long history of this design (which originated in ancient Greece of all places), the silhouette's primarily associated with two decades: the forties and the eighties. In the former, women wore peplum-appended coats and dresses as a way to draw attention to a tiny waist and hourglass figure¬--without being overtly erotic. Forty years later, the style re-emerged with a vengeance when visionaries like Thierry Mugler created body-con garments with exaggerated flips of fabric at the hips or the stomach for an especially dramatic effect. This season, the peplum is enjoying yet another renaissance of sorts, as modern-day design dynamos are offering both the ladylike and "Like A Virgin"-inspired styles. The range of choices available means that you're sure to find something that works with both your body and your budget, so it's no wonder that we endorse this trend. All in all, a peplum cocktail dress is the perfect way to add a little pizzazz to your routine fancy fare!
As you might have guessed, celebrities are already on the peplum bandwagon as everyone from risk-takers like Rihanna to fashion savants like Diane Kruger are wearing these fit-and-flare frocks. Naturally, they all go for different styles, ranging from the petite to the prominent. For example, Whitney Port chose a less-pronounced peplum for the Louis Vuitton Lunar Landing 40th Anniversary event in New York City. The Rachel Comey frock has a little ruffle at the waist, which delicately accents Port's long and lean frame. Though The City-star's selection has a number of design details (in addition to the peplum, the dress has some strategically placed cut-outs), the demure hemline and sober shade keep these many elements in balance. For a similar alternative, we love Tibi's Norma Jersey Peplum Dress ($330) as it hits just at the knee and comes in an unexpectedly comfortable material. Just throw on a statement necklace, like Port's Erickson Beamon's Japanese Glass and Crystal Necklace ($978), and you'll be set!
While Port went for a more glam forties-influenced look, Diane Kruger embraced the edginess of the eighties at the London premiere of Inglorious Basterds. The ultra-stylish star wore Balmain's Strapless Ruffle Dress (which is sadly sold out online already!), toughened up with the fashion house's Chain Belt ($538) and a studded pair of Christian Louboutin's Very Prive Peep-Toe Pumps ($995). If you've been struck with Balmainia and are craving a similarly rock'n'roll dress, we can recommend Ella Moss Black Label's Devendra Dress ($231) or Warehouse's Panel Peplum Strapless Dress ($129). Both reflect the sweetheart neckline and daring high-hem of the actress' frock, and would look killer with a chain belt wrapped at the waist and your favorite tough heels.
Of course black isn't the only way to go if you want to test-drive a powerful peplum piece; in fact, we think these commanding cocktail dresses look quite lovely in vivid hues too. At a pre-Grammy party Rihanna, for example, flaunted her signature off-kilter insouciance by wearing Preen's Bianca Dress in bright blue, which she accessorized with a choppy asymmetrical pixie cut and Rodarte for Christian Louboutin's chain heels. Though her particular dress is from the British brand's S/S 09 collection and no longer available, we love Preen's Lightening Mini Dress
($1020) or for a more budget-friendly option, try Topshop's Bandeau Peplum Dress ($90). Lily Allen also dazzled in a red peplum dress for a performance at New York's Bowery Ballroom. If you love her scarlet selection, try Acne's Baroque DF Dress ($949) or Oasis' Belted Peplum Dress ($148), which recalls the cinched waist and overskirt of Allen's red-hot frock!¬--KM