Peplums are undeniably enjoying a resurgence in popularity these days. Why not? It’s a distinctive, versatile design feature that echoes fashions from times past- the 80’s, the 40’s, the 1910’s. (When else?) When cut well, the little flounce of fabric gracefully floats over the high-hip area that can be so troublesome to dress. The Peplum is all about silhouette.
I found myself wanting to take a crack at making my own version of the peplum top some time ago. Nothing too extravagant or bulky. Smooth and quiet and subtle. Something intriguing to stitch, but not difficult.
I played with a few circle-based peplums before my mind went to Charles James. Specifically, I started to think about his legendary 4 Leaf Clover shaped dress. Charles James was called the first American couturier. Though trained as an architect, his passion lie in creating stunning
wearable fabric sculptures gowns for his wealthy clients.
As much as I like James’ design, the shape of the skirt comes from some seriously intricate, carefully engineered couture. To quote Gail Strege (researcher at OSU):
The thing that intrigued me the most about looking inside the gown was its understructure and discovering the overlapping layers of 4-5” wide horsehair braid (used in millinery) used to create the stiffness required to maintain the shape of the understructure. So many different types of stiffening materials were used to create the armature upon which James draped his satins, velvets and taffetas, including the braid, boning, horsehair canvas and non-woven interfacing.
Gina Bianco…likened the bodice to the crown of a hat and the skirt as a very wide brim—held out and reinforced with various stiffening materials.
That’s definitely not washable.
The shape reminds me of the skirt on my wedding dress. I didn’t stiffen the hem, or the skirt, or even wear a petticoat, but the shape was similar. It’s a 1950’s cut I altered heavily to create a silk pinafore dress. I thought I might use a similar waistline treatment on my peplum top to echo the shape that James created- an everyday sort of top inspired by couture.
Once I muslined this peplum, I knew I’d hit on just the right cut. The gentle 4-leaf clover shape is exaggerated in heavier weight fabrics, and the peplum falls in a very pleasing scalloped hem shape. (Please, please someone make one with a stiffened hem!) Best of all- it’s simple enough for a beginner to sew. And naturally, well illustrated and explained in the instructions.
The Hummingbird Green (view) Top also features the latest in Cake’s “No-Gape Neckline” engineering.
We took some great photos of the Top as well as the Pink View skirt at the Botanic Gardens that fringe the central business district in Brisbane. To view the Top gallery and learn more about the cut, visit sewingcake.com. We’ll take a close look at the Pink View skirt tomorrow!
You can make your own 4 Leaf Clover peplum with the Hummingbird Top & Skirt pattern for pre-sale now on Etsy.
What do you think? Is there a place for couture inspiration in everyday clothing? Everyday Couture? Which is lovelier- a painstakingly engineered and possibly unwearable dress, or a distinctive twist on an everyday garment, durably stitched? (I can think of arguments for both!)