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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A pencil skirt is a skirt with a straight and narrow cut, worn by women. It typically falls to or just below the knee, and is tailored for a close fit. Its name comes from its shape: long and slim.[1]

A modern pencil skirt



The pencil skirt is regarded as a classic fashion piece, and a western woman's wardrobe staple,[2][3] either on its own or as part of a suit.[4] Its narrow shape can restrict movement, so pencil skirts often feature a slit, usually at the back, but sometimes instead a back pleat which is considered more modest. The classic shoes for wearing with a pencil skirt are a pair of high heels,[5] with sheer stockings or tights. Back-seamed hosiery matches well, recalling the classic pencil-skirt era of the 1950s.[6]


Narrow-fitting skirts have a long history in western fashion. The predecessor to the pencil skirt is the hobble skirt of the early 20th century, which is a full-length skirt which seriously impedes the wearer's walking, and sometimes those two terms are used as synonyms. However, it was the French designer Christian Dior who introduced the pencil skirt in the late 1940s [7], using the term H-line to describe its shape. It quickly became very popular, particularly for office wear. This success was due to women's desire for new fashions in the wake of the drudgery of the Second World War coupled with the austere economic climate, when fabrics were expensive and still rationed, and full-skirted garments were seen as wasteful. It again became popular for business women in the 1980s, as part of the "power suit" style of dressing, and has remained a popular mainstream fashion choice ever since.


The pencil skirt feels different from looser types of skirts, and can take some adjustment by the wearer in terms of movement and posture in order to manage it successfully. Walking needs to be done in short strides; entering and leaving a car gracefully takes practice;[8] and when sitting the legs are held close together which some can find restrictive (though others like the feeling of their legs being "hugged" by the skirt). Activities such as climbing ladders and riding bicycles can be very difficult in a pencil skirt. In spite of these apparent disadvantages, the pencil skirt does have practical benefits: it is warmer due to the reduced ventilation, and is less likely to be blown up by gusts of wind.


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