Pencil Skirt: The story of the classic & styling tips

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Pencil skirts are seen as true classics and claimed to be a must-have for every woman. A dark pencil skirt is often part of a business outfit, nowadays, as it is so easy to team it with blouses and blazers. However, the pencil skirt has its roots in post-war period and not in womens’ work wear. Are you interested now in the story of this skirt? Then keep on reading!

Pencil Skirt: The Story

Vintage-Bloggerin RetroCat mit 40er-Jahre-Bluse, Pencil Skirt und einem Retro-Cardigan

Before diving deeper into the story of the pencil skirt, we are going the examine where the funny name comes from.

Pencil Skirt: Conceptual Foundations

The pencil skirt is a fitted skirt with a straight, narrow cut. Generally, the skirt has knee-length. And this is where the name comes from: The skirt is long and slim like a pencil. As the narrow shape of the skirt can restrict the movement of the wearer, it often has a vent at the back, or at the side.

The Story of the Pencil Skirt

Although the pencil skirt has its roots in the late 1940s, its antecedents can be dated back until the late 19th century.

RetroCat und Madame Rhos in ihren Vintage-Outfits im Stil der 50er
Models: RetroCat and Nicole Rhoslynn

Ancestor of the Pencil Skirts: The Hobble Skirt

Around 1880, the so called hobble skirt came into fashion. These skirts had long and very narrow hem lines and therefore significantly impeded the wearer’s stride. Women weren’t able to do long and elegant steps, instead they were only able to foot it, and when they were in a hurry, their gait looked like they were hobbling, therefore the name hobble skirt. So it’s no wonder that this skirt wasn’t en vogue for a very long time. In 1910, however, the hobble skirt came back into fashion for another short period. Especially the French fashion designer Paul Pioret, but also some others, showed the hobble skirt in their collections. According to reports from this time, the hobble skirt was responsible for several accidents, as women had problems with climbing stairs of entering a car or carriage.

Luckily, the hobble skirt didn’t survive the First World War. As many women worked in factories during war, they needed comfortable clothes which ensured freedom of movement. (If you are interested in the fashion of the 1940, I recommend this blogpost.)

Christian Dior’s New Look and the Pencil Skirt

Two years after the end of World War II, in 1947, Christian Dior showed his new collection in Paris. After all these hard war years of deprivations, he used almost obscene amounts of fabrics. Furthermore, his focus was on enhancing a woman’s curves. His two prefered silhouettes were the tulip and hourglass shape. Newspapers called his style “New Look”. Part of his collection was a navy blue suit consisting of a peplum jacket with pockets at the chest and a very slim fitted pencil skirt, that perfectly enhanced the hourglass silhouette.

Nicole Rhoslynn alias Madame Rhos und Sandra Alias RetroCat
Nicole Rhoslynn alias Madame Rhos and me

Coco Chanel’s Pencil Skirt

Not very pleased by Dior’s creations that sometimes even required shape wear and were kind of restrictive, Coco Chanel introduced her popular Chanel suit in 1954, consisting of a pencil skirt with a straight cut and a boxy jacket. Instead of enhancing a woman’s silhouette, mademoiselle Chanel rather focused on wearing comfort and saw her suit as a counterpart to the mens’ suit.

Pencil Skirts nowadays

As mentioned before, nowadays, pencil skirts are often part of a business outfit and worn in combination with blouses and blazers. But in the streets, you can also see fancy pieces in combination with sweaters and sneakers. So there are a lot of possible combinations. I now want to show you one pencil skirt styled in two different ways.


Shop more Pencil Skirts:


The Pencil Skirt by Vivien of Holloway

I own a lot of pencil skirts. A wonderful new addition to my growing collection is the Pencil Skirt “Caramac” by Vivien of Holloway. The slim, knee-length cut is very classy and perfect for so many different occasions. I especially love the chequered pattern and beautiful, warm colours. This skirt not only looks great in everyday life, but also at the office.

Everyday Look with the Pencil Skirt

For a beautiful everyday look, I team the pencil skirt with a top in “Corn Yellow” by Vivien of Holloway and fancy tights. And as the summery temperatures are definitely over now, it’s also a good idea to wear a cardigan. Mine is the pretty Jenny Cardigan in “Rosewood”.

Sandra vom Fashion Blog RetroCat mit einem gelben Top von Vivien of Holloway und einer Tasche von Furla

Warm tights with a thrilling “seam” made of vinyl finish the vintage inspired everday outfit.

This is a perfect look for date with your girls, a shopping trip or café tour. 😉

Vintage-Mode-Bloggerin RetroCat mit einem Pencil Skirt alltagstauglich gestylt

Fashion-Bloggerin RetroCat mit Bleistiftrock und Strümpfen von Calzedonia


Everyday Outfit – the Details:

Pencil Skirt “Caramac”: c/o Vivien of Holloway

Top: c/o Vivien of Holloway

Cardigan: c/o Vivien of Holloway

Handbag: Furla

Tights: Calzedonia

Pumps: Tamaris, very similar here

Business Outfit with the Pencil Skirt

The pencil skirt looks great in the office as well. I just replace the top by a classy blouse by The Seamstress of Bloomsbury. (Have a look here and here to learn more about the Jive Blouse.) If you like, you can wear a blazer on top of the blouse. Depending on the prescribed dress code (read more about this topic here), it’s also possible to team the pencil skirt with a cardigan.

Sandra vom Vintage-Blog RetroCat mit einer 40er-Jahre-Bluse von The Seamstress of Bloomsbury und einer Furla-Tasche

The Elegance French Heel Stockings in “Coffee” by Secrets in Lace not only keep my legs warm, they also look absolutely amazing. A huge handbag which fits all my work stuff finishes this vintage inspired business outfit.

Bloggerin RetroCat mit Carigan, Pencil Skirt und Nahtstrümpfen von Secrets in Lace

Vintage-Bloggerin RetroCat in einem Pencil Skirt im Retro-Stil von Vivien of Holloway


Business Outfit – the Details:

Pencil Skirt “Caramac”: c/o Vivien of Holloway

Jive Blouse: c/o The Seamstress of Bloomsbury

Cardigan: c/o Vivien of Holloway

Handbag: Furla

Pumps: Tamaris, very similar here

Elegance French Heel Strümpfe in “Coffee”: c/o Secrets in Lace – Europe

Garter Belt: c/o Secrets in Lace – Europe


We took the photos during a short trip to Berlin. A special thanks goes to Nicole Rhoslynn alias Madame Rhos for the location tip! We made an appointment for a photo shoot together and had so much fun! Madame Rhos has her own beauty blog (find it here), and you should definitely check out her Instagram (click here). It’s really worth a visit!

Madame Rhos mit einem Kleid von Heart my Closet und RetroCat in einem Pencil Skirt von Vivien of Holloway
Nicole Rhoslynn and RetroCat

More Fashion Classics:

Capri Pants
Circle Skirt
Dirndl
Fishnets
Garter Belts
Houndstooth
Little Black Dress
Nylon Stockings
Pencil Skirt
Petticoat
Striped Shirt
Tights
Trousers

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2 thoughts on “Pencil Skirt: The Story & Styling Tips for Everyday Life and the Office

  1. Another fabulous article – really interesting. And, oh my, your looks! I adore both of them – and your gorgeous skirt looks totally different each time. The business outfit is just stunningly elegant for work! Kx

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