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“When you raise your pencil skirt, like a veil before my eyes …” (Pulp, “Pencil Skirt”)

It doesn’t get much sexier in women’s fashion than the iconic pencil skirt. An absolute must for women with curves, the pencil isn’t revealing, but it’s definitely not modest either. An evolution of the hobble skirt of the 1920s (a narrow, trim, ankle-length skirt that literally “hobbled” the woman’s walk), the pencil came into its own at a time when skin wasn’t as sexy as the suggestion of it. Paired with twin sets by mid-century co-eds and suit jackets by ’80s executives, the pencil led the charge a few seasons ago for fashion’s return to a more tailored look.

The pencil has become so popular again, some designers will attempt to pass off any straight skirt as a pencil. Don’t be fooled. Here’s Pencil Skirt 101: The skirt should hug your hips as well as come in slightly at the hem. At its best length, the skirt should just graze the back of your knee. The slit that makes walking possible can be at the back or side — pick the best view. And black, definitely black! The one that would re-inspire Jarvis Cocker? Miss Sixty’s Alida, high-waisted in inky stretch satin, now on sale for $125. Find it at