The Hunt: Stylish Pencil Skirts

stylish pencil skirts for workSure, we all know what basics professional women are supposed to have in their closets, but if you’re buying one for the first time or replacing one you’ve worn into the ground, it can be a pain to find exactly the right incarnation in stores. In “The Hunt,” we search the stores for a basic item that every woman should have.

Ladies, here’s something we haven’t talked about in far too long: which are the most stylish pencil skirts for work? I’ve heard the J.Crew No. 2 pencil skirt is on the upswing (reviewers note it’s more similar to older versions of the skirt), and the old reader favorite, Halogen’s pencil skirt, is still getting positive reviews even after the design change — but otherwise it seems very much to be an open field right now.  Do you prefer pencil skirts in solid neutrals or suiting fabrics — or do you find colorful pencil skirts to be an easy way to inject fun to your working wardrobe?  Do you prefer midi skirts or A-line skirts these days? Which are your favorites?

We’ve rounded up some of our favorites on the market right now — and ooh boy are there some good sales. First, some specialty groups:

Curious for our last discussion on the best pencil skirts? Check it out here.

classic pencil skirtAt least one of the commenters on our recent roundup of the best suiting brands for women noted how much she loved the Luxe collection at The Limited, and it’s easy to see why — a super classic, basic skirt with matching jacket, available in sizes 00-18 as well as petite and tall sizes. It’s $69.95 full price, but today you can take $25 off every $50 with code night, which brings this skirt down to a very affordable $45. Luxe High Waist Pencil Skirt
split pencil skirtWe’ve featured this before, but I keep seeing this Loft pencil skirt everywhere, and it always looks great (better on real women than the models, I think).  Ladies, this may be a unicorn: it’s a pencil skirt with pockets! It’s normally $69, but some colors are on sale for $59 today; if you’re a cardmember you can get an additional 30-40% off today.  Slit Pencil Skirt
stylish colorful pencil skirtBoden’s Modern Pencil comes in regular and tall sizes, and has a ton of fun prints to choose from. I like that it’s machine washable, has a nice bit of stretch, and finishes just below the knee. It’s $88 at Boden. Modern Pencil Skirt
armani pencil skirtI haven’t quite processed this information, but must share: there are a number of great sales on Armani going on around the web right now.  Nordstrom has a ton of pieces marked 60% off (I’m now obsessed with this dress and may have to get it), and Bloomingdale’s also has a decent sale on a number of Armani pieces.  This wool pencil skirt — a great basic! — is down 60% (!!!) at Nordstrom, from $495 to $197 — with lots of sizes still left. Pictured: Armani Collezioni Wool Cady Pencil Skirt
purple pencil skirtTheir loss, your gain: The disastrous styling of the first Zac Posen / Brooks Brothers collaboration means that many of the pieces from the collection are on steep discount right now.  This pencil skirt was $498 originally, but is now down to $199 — and it still has sizes 0 to 16 available. Ignore the fugly shoes (what were they thinking?) and focus on the great deal for this Italian stretch dobby fabric with lovely vertical darting. It’s also available in black, but still at full price.  High-Waisted Pencil Skirt
midi pencil skirt for workHonorable mention: this skirt is more of a midi skirt than a pencil skirt — and it’s a pull-on style — but hello, it has 83 really positive reviews.  If you’re on the hunt for a longer style, do check it out — especially since it’s only $69.  I’m less of a fan of the brand’s tube skirt for work (be wary of overly body conscious styles, ladies), but it’s also got a zillion good ratings in both regular, petite and plus sizes. Pictured: Vince Camuto Ponte Midi Skirt

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  1. I’ve had a few of Eloquii’s pencil skirts in ponte which is a cotton blend, and they’re VERY wrinkle prone. Probably fine for a normal day at the office but not the best choice for an important event.

  2. Is tipping a thing in London? What kind of percentage and in what instances?

    • For meals it’s pretty much always included, but check your bill because it’s not always. 12% is usually the included tip.

      Round up for taxis but I always uber.

      Haircuts/blow outs/manus etc I tip a bit, but it’s not expected.

      Deliveries (like groceries) no I don’t tip. I do tip deliveroo a pound or two.

      Take this with a grain of salt though because I am always told I am such an american because I tip everyone and do higher tips.

    • Round cab fares up to the next round number.

      Restaurants, 10-15%. London restaurants often apply this automatically as a service charge.

      We don’t tip in bars or pubs.

  3. Anonymous :

    How is the quality of the Vince Comuto brand? I keep seeing interesting work pieces but the price seems a touch high for the quality as pictured. Is it just bad photography?

    • It is Vince Camuto (with an A), and they are very worth the premium price. I find that buying quality pencil skirt’s are WELL worth the extra $20-30, b/c you do NOT want to have to walk around with a shiny tuchus, and the cheeper fabric’s DO get shiny in the tuchus! FOOEY!

  4. I wear a pencil skirt every day, and most often it’s an Eileen Fisher ponte pencil skirt. I have several. Most of them are black. I have three different lengths (random, based on what stores were selling at the time). The top of knee length I only wear with tights and tall boots. Mid knee I wear most days. Bottom of knee I wear with higher heels.

    I am plus sized but my best fitting Eileen fisher ponte skirts are size XL.

    • I’m also plus size and have a hard time wearing pencil skirts because I don’t like tucking in tops. Do you have recs for tops to wear, with sleeves, that don’t have to be tucked in (I don’t want to highlight my non-existent waistline…)

      • Hi – I don’t tuck either. I usually wear three pieces – jacket or cardigan, blouse or top, skirt. I don’t tuck the blouse or top. I lean toward flowy styles rather than tailored. The proportions seem to work.

  5. Anonymous :

    I wear pencil skirts daily. Calvin Klein’s are by far my favorite! I’m plus sized. I would agree that Eloquii wrinkle horribly.

    • Sydney Bristow :

      Calvin Klein are my favorite basic pencil skirts too in both cusp and plus sizes. Sejour are pretty good too.

  6. I’ve had decent luck with J. Crew Factory, at least for the price.

  7. Wildkitten :

    Graduation present ideas for a neuroscientist who does not yet have a job lined up (so she might work in an office, might not)?

  8. My most frequently worn pencil skirts are BR. I like that they’re very simple, lined, and seasonless wool. But I am not a fan of the double vent flap (?) because I have to always make sure I’m not sitting on it funny. In the winter months, I like the heavy wool JCrew skirts (I have both the regular and Factory versions) in a few different colors.

  9. Any pear-shaped girls with pencil skirt recs?
    36-26-41 here.

    I have exactly one pencil skirt that fits, a size 8 Armani taken in at the waist and let out at the hips. I ADORE it but haven’t been able to get close with anything else. Some brands are so far off on measurements they can’t even be tailored right for me anyway (e.g., J Crew). What will get me closest off the rack, even if it needs some tweaking?

    • Are there any decent seamstresses near you? I need to get my pencil skirts made to my measurements.

      It’s not that pricey (about $150-200 a skirt) and it’s a perfect fit for my exaggerated pear shape

    • Would love to try this but never have. Wide open to recs for seamstresses/great tailors from fellow DC readers! –OP

    • Similar measurements here, and I find that Loft’s curvy custom stretch pencil skirts fit me off the rack. They’re not suit quality, but they are machine washable and they hold up well.

  10. Any good sources for flounce skirts? I find that pencil skirts tend to look to stark, but that an understated flounce skirt is actually very versatile.

    • Camo Everything! :

      The only flounce skirt I’ve seen lately (while hunting pencil skirts) were at Talbots. Oh wait, J Crew has a nice linen one for summer.

  11. I love pencil skirts, wear them often. My most reliable are plain old jcrew 120s suiting ones. The wool is light, resists wrinkles, drapes nicely, hides bulges and looks like new even after years of wear. My second favorite is an old Loft one with pockets in front, in a slightly stiff/heavy poly blend that I was leery of. However, over the years I realized how indestructible this skirt was, no pilling, no wrinkles, no fading and good at hiding bulges. Last year I finally bought “the skirt” on sale. It was ok. The cut it nice. The fabric is soft and has some give. I think the material is too thin/soft/stretchy bc it shows bumps from of shirts tucked in, etc. I don’t think I’ll be getting another one.

  12. I have several of the high-waist, pintucked skirts from express and they’re probably the most frequently worn things in my closet. They’re lined, a little stretchy, they get thrown in the wash, don’t wrinkle, wear like super high-quality ponte fabric and are fairly flattering for my pear-ish, 5′ and a bit self without any tailoring.

  13. What’s the ideal pencil skirt length for a shorter woman? I recently read somewhere that, if you want to appear taller, you should avoid wearing skirts that hit at the knee, which visually bisects the legs. Is it weird to wear a pencil skirt hemmed a few inches longer or a few inches shorter than the knee?

    • I think it’s supposed to depend on whether your thigh or your calf is proportionately longer??? I’m petite and need to hem just above the knee (or higher). Otherwise my legs look odd.

    • I recently got the MM.LaFleur NoHo pencil skirt, and I like it a lot. It’s sturdy, super wrinkle-resistant, a nice saturated color, machine-washable, and way easier to move around in than most pencil skirts. I’ve gone on half hour walks in it and been comfortable. I have trouble getting into bar-stool-height chairs, but as long as I don’t need to raise my knee to hip height, everything’s great.

      • Don’t know HOW this got posted in response to your question. Uhm. Tim Gunn said a skirt should fall either right above the knee or right below it, FWIW.

    • I’m short and I generally go slightly longer because a pencil skirt tailored above the knee for me always pulls half way up my thigh when I sit down and I’m not comfortable with that.

      If I can, I just try to find petite sized skirts instead or settle for the slightly vintage longer look.

  14. I love the J Crew No 2 pencil skirts, but only in wool. The wool fabric is substantial enough to skim over a few bumps, whereas the cotton fabric is thinner which makes it both less flattering and less professional. I love the vibrant colors and find them really versatile.

    I also have two Halogen pencil skirts: a dark denim one with no stretch, and a stretchy blue one. I liked the stretchy one a lot when I first bought it but has bagged and sagged over time, so it now looks a mess. I’d probably still wear it on a casualish snow day with boots and a cashmere jumper, but it looks too messy with a white shirt. The denim one still fits fine, but it hits that awkward line between being too polished for weekends and too casual for work so I don’t wear it. By contrast, my winter 2012 No 2 pencils look as good as ever and I wear them a lot.

  15. The Skirts redesign isn’t terrible, but I’m holding on to my pre-redesign ones with my cold dead hands (or something like that, that metaphor got away from me there.)

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