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“H” Is For Pencil Skirt: A History Lesson

Posted on March 29 2017

Two weeks ago I decided to step outside of my comfort level and accept an internship with Founder and Creative Director of WRITTEN Apparel, Emily Carlson. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I accepted the challenge…as the famous saying goes, “What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger”. No, Kelly Clarkson was not the first person to say this.

It didn’t dwell on me until last week during a meeting with Emily and team member, Anna, just how much one could learn about pencil skirts. I mean, I know that the WRITTEN Woman looks fabulous in Emily’s unique designs. I also know that no one struts into a room better than she does when wearing her own designs accompanied by a pair of heels…which I can only imagine requires a foot massage after a long day of being the badass boss she is. What I didn’t know, however, was how pencil skirts first came into existence.

In this meeting, Emily interrupts mid-conversation during our brainstorm session and asks… “Do either of you know the history of the pencil skirt”? Anna and I look cluelessly at each other and respond with a very blunt “No”. That’s when I decided this was something I must research. I mean to have lived my 22 long years in life void of pencil skirt history seemed like somewhat of a crime. Fast forward to now, and here we are, you and I, learning the history of the pencil skirt together. Who said history couldn’t be interesting? Listen up ladies and gents.

Save a Life, Tie Down Your Skirt

In my entrepreneurship class last semester, I learned that most inventions start off by having a problem and coming up with a solution. That seemed to prove true with the creation of the pencil skirt, as well. In 1908, aviation pioneers, Wilbur and Orville Wright (the Wright Brothers), chose the wife of an associate, Mrs. Berg, to be the first female airplane passenger. To avoid catastrophe between Mrs. Berg’s blowing and billowing skirt and the visible mechanisms used on the airplane, the brothers tied a rope around Mrs. Berg’s skirt above her ankles. Following the successful flight, photographs surfaced and Paris designers went crazy for the innovative new look deeming it the “hobble skirt”, reflective of how it’s wearers maneuvered. In a short matter of time, however, French designer, Christian Dior, would put his own spin on the concept and introduce an even better solution to the fashion world.

Pencil Skirt History; Hobble Skirt

Where it all began…hobble skirt.


Prior to the pencil skirt, Dior was designing a line of full length skirts that included tons of fabric and large ruffles. During World War I, there was a strict rationing of fabric that limited full length skirt designs. Post WWI, Dior had an abundance of fabric to work with, however, women of that decade frowned upon having to drag around such full and bulky designs that required so much fabric and therefore effort to wear. The designer responded by discontinuing his full length skirt design in the 1940’s and soon introduced the pencil skirt.

The first pencil skirts were known as H skirts; part of Dior’s H line collection, the “H” referred to the vertical shape of the skirt, resembling the slim look of a pencil. The H skirt was tapered at the hemline which sat either right above or right below the knee, drawing the eyes to the hips, rather than the waist. Fun fact: as an homage to the creator of the first pencil skirt, WRITTEN Founder, Emily, liked the idea of incorporating the letter “H” into the brand logo. Can you spot it in the design?

Stella’s Got Her Groove Back

Pencil Skirt History

Marilyn Monroe shows off her curves in this classic pencil skirt look.


After countless years of shapeless gowns and covering every inch of their bodies, women during the 1950’s really embraced the curvy look of the classic pencil skirt. Although the pencil skirt has adopted many looks over the decades since it was first produced, women during its introduction wore the skirt with a jacket or tunic to complete their suit ensemble. For a more preppy look, actresses such as Grace Kelly would wear pencil skirts with fitted blouses or soft sweaters, accentuating the female form with nipped in waists and round curvy hips.

Pencil Skirt History

Christian Dior’s early pencil skirt design paired with a timeless jacket.


There you have it! The history of one of the most versatile pieces of clothing that every woman should have in their wardrobe. You know what they say…knowledge is power.

Still not sure how to wear your WRITTEN pencil skirt(s)? Share your questions with us below. 

The post “H” Is For Pencil Skirt: A History Lesson appeared first on Written.


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