Saturday, January 21, 2012

What's In A Word?

Where did the term "pencil skirt" go? Now, I’m not talking about the current usage or the original period in the late 1940's that the phrase was used. I’m talking about those decades in between.

I started reading fashion magazines in the 1980s and have read them consistently since then. However, a year or two ago when I started reading the term "pencil skirt" on the sewing blogs, it struck a chord. Why did this seem so faddish when we were describing a timeless item of clothing? How did the phrase get to be so out of use? Now the words sound like buzz words used to differentiate the in-the-know from the out-of-touch. The pencil skirt is not that unusual, it is only:

A skirt that is a slim and straight in silhouette. The length is just above, at, or below the knee and is tailored for a close fit. The name comes from this fit; it is long and slim like a pencil.

Its predecessor was the hobble skirt which was just as narrow but worn down to the ankles! In fashion, Christian Dior has been said to be the first to show this silhouette in the late 1940s as a contrast to his New Look.

So, what DID we call a knee-length tapered skirt in the 1970s or 80s? It’s not like the garments themselves disappeared, they have been with us consistently for decades. In high school, I wore so-called "pencil" skirts with tights, thick socks, and chunky ankle boots and that was the 1980s. However, I can’t remember what they were called then.

So, does anyone remember what consumers and the fashion press called pencil skirts before their resurgence?

Image: In Vogue One Day blog


Anonymous said...

When I was in high school in late 50's -early 6o's we called them straight skits. I got my first one at J.C. Penny and thought I was a big deal!

KC said...

Yes, my dim recollection is they were called straight skirts. But the only ones I can recall wearing were probably called miniskirts.

patsijean said...

I was in high school from 1958-1962. We called them simply straight skirts and they were not pegged as severely as today--much easier to walk in.

Debbie Cook said...

In high school in the late 70s (class of 80) and like others have mentioned, we called them straight skirts.

Anna Christina said...

I remember them as straight skirts when I wore them in the eighties, but I like the term pencil skirt. It is a bit more fun to have a cute name to remember like bell bottoms, pencil skirts, and bobby socks.