Saturday 24 February 2018

On falling for the pencil skirt second time around

High flying: Ettore Bilotta’s new uniform for Etihad Airways cabin crew, pictured by Vogue and Vanity Fair photographer Norman Jean Roy in Abu Dhabi’s Liwa desert
High flying: Ettore Bilotta’s new uniform for Etihad Airways cabin crew, pictured by Vogue and Vanity Fair photographer Norman Jean Roy in Abu Dhabi’s Liwa desert
Black and white skirt, M&S
Mother of Pearl skirt, Brown Thomas
Leather Jaeger skirt
Miss Selfridge skirt
Bairbre Power

Bairbre Power

Sometimes the next wardrobe hero is right under your nose and, in my case, I had to travel half way around the world, to Abu Dhabi, to fall back in love with the classic pencil, slimline suit skirt.

For years, I filed the pencil skirt under 'workwear' or 'office uniform' appareil, but back in Ireland, after weeks of research on the high street, I've recanted my earlier view and I firmly believe that a well-cut pencil skirt has the power to succeed, and flatter, 24/7.

Maybe it was the years of wearing a quasi-work uniform as a newbie reporter that cultivated my prejudices. The navy or black business suit with white or blue shirt has its merits, and it certainly eliminates 7am wardrobe meltdowns. But how many of us are guilty of 'filing' tailored suiting under workwear or interview appareil when, in fact, they offer so much more?

I fell back in love with the ultra feminine pencil skirt after seeing it form the basis of beautiful new uniforms created by Italian haute couturier Ettore Bilotta for the Etihad Airways cabin crew.

Ettore combined the dramatic elements of old world haute couture from 1960s' Paris and Rome, with the more contemporary fashions evident on the runways of London, New York, Milan and Tokyo.

It was Ettore's eye for detail which really won me over as I studied the clever vertical seaming in the Italian wool skirt which gives ease of movement and an exceptionally good fit (so the skirt doesn't swivel around). However, it was his use of a contrasting accent stripe in purple down the centre of both the front and back of the chocolate brown skirt which really focused the eye. It broke up the main primary shade and a vertical stripe is always good for elongating the body.

Bodycon dresses have bewitched us in recent seasons but why not split up the silhouette and explore the elongating power of the high waisted, mid-calf pencil skirt, a look which really works for petite Victoria Beckham in her own wardrobe.

I don't know any women who wants to show off a Kim Kardashian-style booty in a tight pencil skirt but I do think you can achieve amazing elegance and sophisticated in a pencil skirt by working it, like actress Cate Blanchett does, with a shape-defining, peplum jacket.

Another technique to banish any 'secretary' concerns is to colour block your look, or work it in gentle tone-on-tone contrasts. Add a thin belt, wear it mid-calf for a statuesque, retro style or pair your slim and streamlining skirt with a top that has gentle volume, just like we did with our Lennon Courtney cover this week.

The long and the short of it

Leather skirts have year-round appeal and the four panel 'Cuban sand' skirt with attractive seam detail is a modern classic skirt from Jaeger and costs €425. It would look equally good with a light cashmere top or a sheer chiffon or silk shirt. It also comes in black.

The use of colour in the long line, slim skirt is very clever. With flattering black over the potential problem zone and white stripes at the bottom, it costs €40 from the M&S Collection. The Mother of Pearl skirt is beautifully embellished on the hemline and costs €745 at Brown Thomas.

Turn heads

The pencil skirt that tapers in at the thigh is a very flattering statement look with strong vintage resonances. If you can find one with a slit up the back, it's a winning combination. This one costs €36 from Miss Selfridge.

Irish Independent

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