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A pencil skirt is a woman's skirt with a straight and narrow cut. It often hugs the curves of a woman's body, making it figure revealing. Typically, the skirt ends just at or slightly below the knee.
A popular style in the 1950s, the pencil skirt was frequently seen in women's office wear. Earlier versions have existed since 1915, and could have been floor or ankle length, but the 1950s brought the style great popularity. Since the skirt is somewhat restrictive, it may feature a back slit or kick pleat, to give women a little more room to walk.
The pencil skirt remains a popular style, though each year's fashions may assert its preeminence or declare it "out." It is often sold as part of a woman's suit and may be paired with jackets of any length. Length of the actual skirt can vary from year to year, but generally, any length that is much above the knee is not considered this style, but is instead a mini-skirt.
Often, women think that the pencil skirt is only for the very slim, but this is not the case. Women with curves may feel that the skirt will showcase them in an unflattering way; this can certainly occur when the skirt is too tight, but a good fitting one may emphasize the feminine curves without pointing out what women feel are their figure flaws. Women with a little extra weight or curve may turn toward loose clothing to hide supposed figure defects, but this often makes the body look bulkier. A fitted skirt is usually more flattering than a bulkier or looser fitting one.
When the skirt falls below the knees, it can be somewhat hard to walk in it. Carol Burnett made a lot of fun of the too tight pencil skirt with her recurring character Mrs. Wiggins, an inept secretary. Mrs. Wiggins normally stuck out her posterior in an unflattering fashion and took tiny mincing steps in keeping with wearing a skirt that was far too tight.
Since the pencil skirt can inhibit movement, women may want to look for those with either a kick pleat or a back slit. Occasionally, it even features two side slits, which promote easier walking and greater comfort when seated. When the skirt doesn't have these features, not only walking but also sitting can be uncomfortable, especially if the skirt is too tight.
Prior to the 1950s, a pencil skirt type might have been called a hobble skirt. Any type of skirt that rendered walking difficult and running impossible was said to hobble a woman. Many women are well used to this type of skirt, however, and know how to walk in one. It remains a flattering style that comes in a wide variety of fabrics, like wool, cotton, cotton jersey, rayon, linen and cashmere. They are often warmer than other skirts since the pencil shape holds the legs closely together, which can make them a good choice for winter wear.