In 1908 Wilbur and Orville Wright invited Mrs Berg to be the first female aeroplane passenger. As chains and propellers whirled and cranked close to her blowing and billowing skirts, the brothers tied a rope above Mrs. Berg’s ankles. The photographs from the event ran in papers and magazines around the world for the next couple of days.
Paris designers adopted Mrs Berg’s rope-tied skirt by 1910 as a hobble skirt. Called jokingly “the speed limit skirt” was bound around knees and required practice to walk in gracefully.
Once First World War broke out in 1914 hobble skirts were quickly jettisoned for practical skirts. Hemlines shortened from floor to ankle and then to calf length due to fabric shortages.
After the war which ended in 1918 the younger generation started to question the values of the older generation, including not just politics, but also their fashion. Flapper dresses and dropped waistlines became all the rage.
In 1940 Christian Dior, inspired by the shape of the hobble skirt, created the first pencil skirt and introduced it to the world as a part of his most successful and innovative collection “New Look”. Women immediately embraced this new curvy shape of the classic pencil skirt and wore with jacket or tunic.
Eventually, the pencil skirt was worn not only as a part of woman’s suit ensemble but also with fitted blouses and soft sweaters. The connotation of the woman who wore a pencil skirt was one of a woman who was confident with her femininity and sophisticated. Also celebrities such as Brigitte Bardo, Marilyn Monroe, Bettie Page, Marlene Dietrich and Audrey Hepburn completely fell in love with pencil skirts.
Following the 1960s the pencil skirt began to be seen as a more dated look, as the mini skirt was coming into style, but the pencil skirt always remained on the shelves. The popularity of the skirt from the 1950s and 60s began making a comeback as fashion began to repeat itself in 2000s. The exposure from celebrities and influential members of society continue to make it popular classic you can find in almost any woman’s wardrobe.
photos – internet