Definition of the Peplum Style (Overskirt)

An overskirt, or peplum, is a type of elongated hem resembling a short skirt, worn to lay over another garment, either another skirt such as a petticoat or underskirt, or breeches.

Overskirts may serve various purposes, ranging from protecting the underlying clothing from mud and dirt, to being purely a decorative feature. Overskirts have been popular as a clothing detail for both men and women during various periods of history. More recently, they are associated with women's jackets and blouses, included in closely fitted clothing, where they accentuate a narrow waist, or light materials to create a casual sense of elegance.

Overskirts first came into fashion during the Victorian Era in 1867, after the pre-hoop and hoop periods of multiple petticoats and crinoline, and before the bustle period. A reduction in overall shirt size was seen at this time. Fashion in ladies dresses changed from the wide, very lacy skirts, to a more conical shape that diminished at the hips. Early skirts were often looped up for walking, showing a pretty petticoat underneath, which lead to the introduction of the overskirt.

There have been many predecessors to the fashionable overskirt, such as bibs and aprons used to protect clothing underneath. Today, overskits can be a separate article worn over shorts or another dress, or a continuation on a shirt or jacket of longer or pleated material. Popular modern overskirt fashion are sheer materials, tulle, and lace patterns that allow see through to garments beneath such as half-skirts.

The term peplum originates with the ancient Greek peplos, a women's garment that had the same decorative detail as an overskirt.