The Pencil Skirt

Up, up, and a wait…was the Wright Brother’s first thoughts when seeing their first female passenger – Mrs. Edith Berg- arrive to ride in their newest invention, an airplane! With all the exposed chains, and gears on their flying machine, one look at Mrs. Berge’s clothing, with its many billowing layers, one could see it was in no way safe to trapeze the sky in! Cue the quick thinking of an engineer, a piece of rope, and a staple piece of a women’s wardrobe was born!!!


Originally termed the hobble skirt, it was invented in 1908 when Edith Berge, the wife of one of Wright Brother’s associates came to take part of a test flight (she was the first woman to ride in an airplane). Due to the length, and the billowy nature of women’s clothing at the time it was unsafe for Edith to fly with gears, chains, and propellers exposed; thus a rope was secured right below her knees to prevent any injuries from occurring during the flight! With the heavy press coverage of that day, pictures were soon plastered across newspapers around the world. Soon this fashion blip was adopted by Paris fashion houses. By 1910 this trend was all the rage as it created “a desirable wiggle” that it’s successor is well known for…though at the time the hobble skirt was heavily mocked for its impracticality.

Just as quickly as this trend came into fashion, with the heralding in of the First and Second World Wars it quickly fell out of favor for more practical wear.  However, as the wars came to a close, prosperity spread, and fashion houses reopened, Dior introduced a slightly shorter version of the hobble skirt- the pencil skirt- in 1954! The pencil skirt offered the coveted sensual wiggle of the hobble skirt, but with less risk of death; thus becoming extremely popular with the stars of Hollywood, and eventually women around the world. Today, though it comes in many different variations, and fabrics. the pencil skirt is easily recognizable by its figure hugging shape that narrows at the knees.


Persephone Bryan

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