SIM­PLE STYLE

THE PEN­CIL SKIRT

The Simple Things - - LIVING -

With its neat sil­hou­ette and de­mure length, the pen­cil skirt has be­come a favoured gar­ment of the of­fice worker. Which is not sur­pris­ing: it is a skirt that suits bustling about ef­fi­ciently and get­ting things done. When worn with a jacket or a crisp blouse, lit­tle beats this slim, knee-length skirt for cut­ting a pro­fes­sional dash and pro­pel­ling you to­wards the board­room.

It would be a shame, though, to re­strict the wear­ing of this flat­ter­ing skirt to the work­place alone. Pro­vid­ing it is not too tight or too short – when it can veer dan­ger­ously to­wards the vul­gar – it is suit­able for most oc­ca­sions, from an evening out to a stroll in the park. Ide­ally, it should fit snugly over the hips, ta­per to just be­low the knee and have a kick pleat, vent or be made of suf­fi­ciently stretchy ma­te­rial to en­able easy move­ment. There is a limit to what you can com­fort­ably do in a pen­cil skirt. Cy­cling is tricky, as is danc­ing. And get­ting out of cars el­e­gantly can be a chal­lenge – al­though, as alumni of fin­ish­ing schools will tell you, it’s not in­sur­mount­able: put your knees to­gether and swivel. But a pen­cil skirt isn’t a piece of ac­tivewear, after all.

“Few items of cloth­ing match its com­bi­na­tion of style and sassi­ness”

When Chris­tian Dior de­signed the first pen­cil skirt as part of his H-line col­lec­tion in 1954, it was em­braced by a gen­er­a­tion of women pleased to show off curves pre­vi­ously hid­den by A-line skirts. Un­like Dior’s post-war New Look, with its vo­lu­mi­nous skirts and tight waists, the H-line had a slim­line, par­al­lel sil­hou­ette that em­pha­sised the hips rather than the waist. Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe knew this only too well and wore a pen­cil skirt with a wig­gle to sexy advantage. Au­drey Hep­burn and Grace Kelly, on the other hand, went for a preppy look, team­ing it with flat shoes and tucked-in blouses. And Miss Marple, that doyenne of coun­try style, chose a comfy com­bi­na­tion of pen­cil skirt, cardi, flow­ery blouse, brooch and sen­si­ble shoes.

Prada and Gucci have re­cently re­dis­cov­ered the pen­cil skirt’s many virtues, and in­tro­duced it into their new col­lec­tions. The chances are that you already have a per­fectly good one in your wardrobe, though. Few items of cloth­ing come close to match­ing its win­ning com­bi­na­tion of wear­able style and sassi­ness.

Words: CLARE GOGERTY

Mar­i­lyn Mun­roe puts a wig­gle in her walk in a pen­cil skirt

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