Straps and Stress

Ah, women’s fashion, the joy and bane of some people’s existence, a source of endless fascination, sermons (for and against), and philosophical pondering of that great existential question: just how does the front of her dress stay up? While I was in Vienna I happened to observe a potentially spectacular engineering failure.

Several couples were on their way to the Spanish Riding School’s anniversary gala party, in full formal dress. Black (or white) tie for the gents, and evening gowns for the ladies. For those interested, it appears that long skirts, high side-slits, and low necklines are in on the Continent. Anyway . . . I happened to catch sight of a damsel in distress, caused by an apparent design flaw in her bodice. It was one of those moments when you are torn between stopping to see how events play out, or averting your eyes from the looming disaster. Her escort was attempting to help, but I’m not certain they were going to have much success.

The dress (royal blue) featured a strapless bodice held in place by elaborate, crystals or rhinestone covered criss-crossing straps in the back. Think of a faux-medieval laced bodice, but with the fancy stuff in the back over bare skin. I’d guess about eight or ten straps, in pairs, held the front of the dress in place. How? From the quick glimpse I caught, by modified hook-and-eyes, the kind where the hooks slide upwards into one or two cm long little pockets of fabric. And the hook had failed to fully engage, leading to slippage, which upset the tension holding the two sides of the bodice in place, leading to  . . . increased potential for unplanned asset exposure.

Now, as someone who battles hooks and eyes on dirndls and a Victorian reproduction dress, I can tell you that the little buggers are a challenge when they are on the front of the dress, where you can see them. I can just imagine the poor lady trying to do up the back of her dress, even with assistance. Yes, it looked very sophisticated, and sexy, but the engineering complexity . . . Sorry guys; I’ll stick with boning, zippers, straps and sleeves.

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