The black skirt is a staple of such usefulness that fashion writer Anna Johnson considers three black skirts the cornerstone of every woman's wardrobe. A pencil skirt is a straight skirt that can taper in toward the hem. Because pencil skirts fit closely and neatly, they make appropriate office wear and lend themselves to dressy occasions. But pencil skirts can also be sexy and flirty, utilitarian and casual. Their great versatility makes them a key basic in any wardrobe.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
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Pair a black pencil skirt with a modest blouse, a jacket and flats or boots for work. Fashion expert Stacy London notes that a high-quality black pencil skirt is the ultimate find at clothing sales, not least because it's a reliable workhorse in office wear.
Wear a black pencil skirt with a printed blouse, wide belt and heeled boots to flatter your figure. Fashion writer Charla Krupp, in a November 2007 appearance on "Oprah," chose a black pencil skirt for a participant, explaining that the skirt creates a "va-va-va-voom booty" while remaining age-appropriate and ladylike. Feel free to mix neutrals; pairing a brown belt with a black skirt and either black or brown boots is perfectly OK, and a print top ties the outfit together.
Contrast a streamlined black pencil skirt with a feminine or frilly top. Marylou Luther of the "Cleveland Plain Dealer" recommends recycling a peach chiffon bustier from a bridesmaid dress and wearing it with a short black pencil skirt. The simplicity of the skirt tempers the femininity of the top, so that what may have been "too much" as a bridesmaid dress becomes interesting and alluring.
Wear a black pencil skirt with just about anything. With a T-shirt and high-top sneakers, it's chic street wear. With a black turtleneck and high heels, it's minimalism at its finest. With a cashmere cardigan, an updo and glasses, it's a new take on the "sexy secretary" look.
Tips and warnings
- For greatest versatility, choose a black pencil skirt that hits at the knee or just above the knee. This length flatters almost everyone and is appropriate for any social situation.
- Wool pencil skirts can be itchy, even if lined. Wear them with a tucked-in button-down shirt and tights or hose. Your skin won't come into contact with the wool, and you'll look polished and put-together.
- Knit black pencil skirts are comfortable, but save them for casual wear. They look great with tees, easy cardigans, and casual sweaters, but structured blouses, blazers and crisp, dressy sweaters need a more structured skirt.
- To get a perfect fit, choose a skirt that fits the largest part of you. Alterations to take in a seam or a waistband are inexpensive and well worth the effort.
- Avoid inexpensive rayon or polyester black pencil skirts, which often look cheap and wear out quickly.
- Avoid inexpensive black cotton poplin skirts, which may fade in the wash. On the other hand, faded black denim pencil skirts look terrific with casual tops, and can be dressed up or down.
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- "Three Black Skirts: All You Need to Survive"; Anna Johnson; 2000
- "Dress Your Best: The Complete Guide to Finding the Style That's Right for Your Body"; Clinton Kelly, et al.; 2005
- Cleveland.com; Betsey Johnson's Tartan Look Is Anything but Preppy; Marylou Luther; June 2011
- Today Style; Stacy London's Post-Holiday Fashion Finds; January 2011
- Oprah; Dress Code; November 2007