The History of Pencil Dresses

The History of Pencil Dresses

Pencil dresses are incredibly figure-flattering. They give the woman that much coveted hourglass figure, adding that unmatched confidence that no other dress can provide.

Definition of a Pencil Skirt/Dress

Pencil skirts are defined as having a narrow and straight silhouette that accentuates the hips and tapers on the knees. Any dress featuring this skirt type can be called a pencil dress. The bodice of the dress can be equally as tight fitting or can be made of a looser silhouette.

How the Pencil Dress Came About

The origins of this beautiful dress style goes way back to 1908 when the Wright brothers chose to have an associate’s wife to be the very first woman to ride an airplane. The brothers had the woman’s skirt tied above the ankles to prevent her billowy dress from getting into the chains and propellers, and to prevent her underpants from being exposed.

As media printed photos of the woman around the world, Paris designers soon adapted the look and created the short-lived hobble skirt – characterized by a narrow skirt that tapered on the ankles. It was jokingly nicknamed the speed-limit skirt because of how it restricted the woman’s ability to walk.

After World War I, the hobble skirt eventually disappeared and gave way to the silhouettes of the roaring 20’s. During World War 2, fabric portions took into place, making fabrics extremely expensive. And the fact that most women had to work while their husbands were out at war, gave way to rising hemlines and trousers as the go-to everyday ensembles.

In 1954, the most popular designer of the time, Christian Dior, introduced the very first pencil skirt to the world during the launch of his “H-Line” collection – a series of clothes characterized by parallel lines.

It soon became the favored skirt silhouette in the 50’s by many of Hollywood’s superstars, which included Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe. The pencil skirt was first part of a woman’s suit ensemble, but soon evolved into a separate piece of garment that women wore with short sweaters and just about every kind of top imaginable. These pairings eventually gave way to the ubiquitous pencil dress, as often worn by the notoriously popular pin-up icon Bettie Page.

Today, pencil dresses are a staple in every woman’s wardrobe.

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