The pencil skirt was first introduced into womens fashion by French designer Paul Poiret in the early 1900’s, and called the “hobble skirt” due to its narrow width at the hem and extremely constricting nature. To walk in a hobble skirt took practice and care— there are quotes stating “The tighter the better” about the early hobble skirt, and this certainly was the mentality of that time. The hobble skirt created the romantic, whimsical dolly look of the time, and a woman able to walk gracefully in a hobble skirt was surely a sign that she had a sophisticated sensuality, with a hint of mirth.
This idea brought about accessories such as the hobble garter. The hobble garter limited a woman’s stride so that she would not cause the skirt to rip. Eventually the trend faded with the invention of cars as it was difficult to climb in and out of vehicles in such tight fabric.
– from History of the Pencil Skirt.
Much later on in the early 50s Christian Dior re introduced the pencil skirt as a part of his “New Look.” Women at that time were of a unique mindset— they had been “holding down the fort” while the men were away fighting in WWII. Once the war was over and the boys were coming back home, they had to leave their posts and go back to playing the roll of housewife. Another contributing factor was that Americans at that time were yearning for something new after so many years of struggle — the New Look provided a fresh revitalization of fashion and form, and it took on like wildfire.
His inspiration for the New Look pencil skirt was influenced by skirts his own mother had worn in the 1900s, no doubt a “hobble skirt.”
Dior’s skirt was much more functional for the modern woman, and often featured a slit in the back or a kickpleat to aid in walking without compromising too much in shape.
Stretchy fabrics such as polyester and other synthetic knits allowed women to wear the tight style but not have to “hobble” too much.
Today the pencil skirt is still worn and is a very common addition to the American woman’s wardrobe. It is often paired wtih a tucked in blouse, or a cropped blazer with some flare at the waist, to further accentuate the hips. The pencil skirt can go from a very traditional look, to a wild avant garde or punk rock look, depending on what you wear.
We have a new item in the works that will be unveiled soon — a Hey Viv pencil skirt that is great for the pencil skirt wearing lass all the way from work to the stage. Adjustible sizes and a minimal yet retro shape makes it a great choice for the vintage fashion lover, or for period piece plays like Bye Bye Birdie.
What features do you look for when you are shopping for a pencil skirt? I like the very slim styles that have a kickpleat to make walking much easier. Wide waistbands can have a neat look too, with the right shirt and belt. Vintage touches like sailor style buttons on the sides are also a nice look, without being too much. Just remember, when putting together your vintage look, most importantly have fun with it!