The Pencil Skirt: Then and Now

‘Bettina’ in Christian Dior, photographed by Henry Clarke, 1950 : Marc Jacobs AW11 Collection

The glamorous 1940’s silhouette made a comeback this season with loose silk blouses, waist-clenching pencil skirts, pearls and structured handbags, celebrating the return of immaculately dressed women with perfectly coiffed hair. The pencil skirt, key to the trend, dominated the runways of Louis Vuitton, Donna Karan, Marc Jacobs and Miu Miu, reminiscent of the modern pencil skirt that was introduced by French designer Christian Dior in the late 40’s, as part of his ‘New Look’. On 12th February 1947, Dior launched his first collection for Spring/Summer 1947, which became known as the ‘New Look’ when the editor-in-chief at Harper’s Bazaar, Carmen Snow claimed that it was ‘Such a New Look!’ Dior’s collection unveiled a just-below-the-knee tight fitting skirt with a small waist, which became popularised by women who longed for new fashions in the wake of Second World War rationing when fabrics became too expensive. Dior himself dismissed this restriction and instead chose to use twenty yards of extravagant fabrics for his designs. The pencil skirt has since become a wardrobe staple for any woman, adopted by modern style icons such as Carine Roitfeld who remains elegant and chic by teaming her longer hemlines with bare legs and a ladylike shoe. Time to dig out the vintage fur and dust off your mother’s leather gloves for an additional winter take on 40’s sophistication.