Pencil skirt – an everlasting classic

Stella Saastamoinen

Stella Saastamoinen

The pencil skirt is a piece of clothing that we all know and associate strongly as an “office must have”. But what is the story behind this classic piece and how does it manage to stand the test of time from season to season?

Arthur Shirtley - The Bermondsey Pencil Skirt in bright blue

The fast-paced fashion cycle has yet invented the wheel again with one of this Spring’s must have pieces – the ever so classic pencil skirt. Last fall, during the S/S18 fashion week, we could see several high-end fashion brands from Balenciaga and Prada to Calvin Klein and Hermès sending down the runway renewed versions of these the good ol’ wiggle skirts. But what is the story behind this fifties wardrobe staple?

AR by Anna Ruohonen - AR06 Pencil skirt in black

From Hobble skirts to wiggles

The beginning of the pencil skirt dates to 1908 and the first female airplane passenger Edith Berg. When Mrs. Berg was about to board the plane Wilbur and Orville Wright were worried that her long skirt would get caught in the machinery. To avoid this, they tied a cord around the skirt below the knees and after the pictures of the historic event were published the Hobble skirt was born. The new style of the skirt bloomed in popularity with its flared ruffles at below the knee. (For reference think about the tight mermaid style gowns you still see every now and then on red carpets.)

In 1954 the original hobble skirt style worked as an inspiration for Christian Dior’s H-line collection where the first pencil skirts were introduced to the world. The new pencil skirt style enhanced feminine curves and they were worn as a part of suit ensembles and styled with a jacket or tunic. Later, the styling of the skirts went towards even more fitted look with blouses and soft sweaters that accentuated even more the curvy look created by the skirt. Many celebrities embraced this new fashion trend such as Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn, which made the wiggle skirts on of the it-pieces of the 50’s.

Vestiarium - Leather Pencil Skirt

Towards contemporary pencil skirt styles

Since the mid 1950’s the pencil skirt trend has been reappearing in the collections with raising and lowering hemlines depending on the current trends of the day. The creation of new materials and techniques has made this trend a reappearing style that has lived through the stretchy lycra skirts of the 70’s and 80’s power suits.

Fast forward to present day and the S/S18 runway looks that are inspiring our current style craves. The pencil skirt look is now worn in the office and also out in the evenings – and we’re loving it! The styles variate from classic 50’s vintage vibes to not so business like extravagant and sheer materials and brave embellishments.

The current pencil skirt style trend leans on innovative materials and textures just like in this Doriane van Overeem Splendide Blue - Skirt

With its figure hugging shape, sleek lines and flattering hemline it’s easy to see the timeless appeal of the pencil skirt. It still manages to work as the business-casual armory that boosts up your boss-style with a crucial hint of the wiggle à la Monroe. Not bad for a fashion statement that began with a rope tied around the skirt of the first woman to fly in an airplane!

Feeling inspired to find your own wiggle skirt? See these pieces on IVALO:

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Stella Saastamoinen

Stella Saastamoinen

Content Creator

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