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Item of the week: the pencil skirt

By Rachel Douglass


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(From left) French Connection, Michael Kors and Karl Lagerfeld. Credits: FashionUnited Marketplace.

What it is:

If there was ever a staple wardrobe item that came with such a definitive history, it’s the pencil skirt. Its figure-hugging silhouette is often claimed to have been derived from the first female passenger on a plane, who in 1908 tied a rope around her ankles to stop the hem of her skirt billowing out and getting caught on machinery. This is said to have been the birth of the pencil skirt’s parent, the ‘hobble skirt’, which was eventually adopted by Parisian designers to form the shape we know today. Dior then bolstered the pencil skirt into widespread recognition in 1954, ultimately seeing it hop between a fashion piece and formal wear, a status which it has held over its lifespan.

Madewell. Credits: FashionUnited Marketplace.

Why you’ll want it:

While the pencil skirt has indeed sat solidly between various genres of fashion, today modernised iterations of the garment has seen its purpose extend beyond that of office attire to become more of a casualwear item. A wider use of varying materials and the desire for less restricting shapes has bolstered this, driving the introduction of more flexible designs in knits or elasticated fabrics for everyday wear. Despite this, designer runways for AW23 continued to place pencil skirts into the formalwear limelight, however offering the style in updated format that intertwines with the casualisation of office settings.

Maven Women. Credits: FashionUnited Marketplace.

Where we’ve seen it:

Many designers emphasised this office luxury trend by pairing their pencil skirts with matching blazers, often seeing them appear in classic pinstripe or plaid materials. For example, Saint Laurent’s iteration, complete with a leg slit, was seen with a blazer donning exaggerated shoulders, while Dries van Noten took a more traditional approach in terms of tailoring. Sacai, on the other hand, updated the pencil skirt with a layered waistline, bringing the silhouette into the modern day. Meanwhile, Dior returned to its roots, offering up a sleek black garment that referenced its 50’s collection.

Burberry. Credits: FashionUnited Marketplace.

How to style it:

In keeping with its formal past, the pencil skirt naturally works well with fitted button-ups and matching blazers, making it highly suitable for a workplace or office environment. However, to casualise the piece, and bring it into the modern day, this look can be elevated using knitted vests or oversized fits, helping it to appeal to the younger generation. For everyday wear, such techniques can also be used, yet it is also possible to pair more casual elements with the look too, such as a print t-shirt and sneakers.

Dorothee Schumacher. Credits: FashionUnited Marketplace.

With its rich history, the pencil skirt has been a definitive leader in fashion staples, taking women from its roots as a formal wear item to become an all round piece that goes beyond fashion boundaries. Adopting updated styling then brings the look into the present day, presenting it in a new form to younger generations.

Karl Lagerfeld. Credits: FashionUnited Marketplace.

Similar items available for (pre)order can be found in the FashionUnited Marketplace. You can find them by clicking on this link.

Item of the Week