How to Wear a Pencil Skirt

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A pencil skirt is a timeless wardrobe staple that transcends age groups, from trendy teens to stylish sixties, providing it is paired with the right pieces.

For effortless glamor a pencil skirt is hard to beat. It has the unique ability to flatter all body shapes because of its curve-accentuating properties. A pencil skirt cleverly adds curves to a boyish figure and will create a sexy hourglass shape by hugging the curves of more fuller-figured women.

History of the Pencil Skirt

The sexy shape of the pencil skirt was created in the late1940s by the French designer Christian Dior as part of a post-war “new look”. It takes its name from the pencil-like straight up-and-down cut.

The design was revolutionary in the way it gently caressed a woman’s curves and created a feminine wiggle when the wearer walked. Its form-flattering silhouette was embraced by such Hollywood glamor icons as Grace Kelly, Sophia Loren and Ava Gardner.

In the ‘50s and ‘70s it lost its allure when prom-style and bell-bottomed skirts came into favor, but enjoyed a resurgence in popularity in the 1980s with the introduction of power dressing and the sharp-shouldered business suit.

Since then this enduring classic regularly receives a modern makeover in all kinds of fabrics and prints, and with up-to-the-minute embellishments. From high-waisted styles and heavily textured fabrics, to the addition of ruffles, bows, draping and lace, the pencil skirt is a classic fashion staple, whether for the office, casual daywear or as a perfect party piece.

How to Wear a Pencil Skirt

For everydaywear, take the primness out of a pencil skirt by teaming it with more casual pieces, such as a simple T-shirt and a biker jacket or heavily textured knitted top. Contrast textures and deliberately mismatch other pieces (such as an oversized sweater or unstructured boyfriend jacket) for an on-trend look

Parisian chic has been a hot look for the last two seasons so try a pencil skirt paired with a Breton-striped top and some cute ballet flats.

For eveningwear think sweet and sultry. In his book Work Your Wardrobe (Harper Collins 2009), TV style guru Gok Wan recommends wearing a pencil skirt with a puffed-sleeve peasant-style blouse held together with a wide belt for a wonderful hour-glass silhouette.

Alternatively match a sparkly top with a satin pencil skirt, but keep it black for a demure approach.

For the vintage Grace Kelly look add a single strand of pearls, a cropped cardigan or twinset and a pair of high heels.

Skirts which finish at the calf can make a petite woman look even shorter. They can also accentuate thick legs. A hemline which skims the knee (or finishes just below it) is far more flattering.

The pencil skirt is at its most figure-flattering when loosely hugging the hips and waist (i.e. there should still be some give). A skirt which is too tight will cling and pull in all the wrong places.

High-waisted skirts will elongate the body. To make a silhouette look even leaner pair a pencil skirt with the same color tights and shoes.

Black is the most versatile, slimming and go-with-anything color, but don’t be afraid to try new textures such as velvet, satin or lace.

Larger women should avoid skirts with pockets or heavy embellishments such as bows and ruffles around the hips or at the waistband. These will make their figure look fuller than it really is.

A classic pencil skirt will transcend age groups providing the look is kept simple and refined. Its straight up-and-down figure-hugging fit will do justice to almost any body shape, as long as it is not worn too tight.

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