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Or rather their propensity to have the heroine cut/tear them off whenever there's action required.

Excuse me while I groan because it's clear you've never actually seen material cut or torn. It's up there with the writers who tear a shirt off someone for the sex scene - do you know how difficult this actually is?

Anyway: Person is wearing a long skirt or dress and suddenly there's a fight scene requiring kicking, or they have to climb/run lots.

The writer thinks 'Oh noes! material in the way! I know, I shall get it out of the way quickly! Character undoubtedly has a knife/ can filch one off someone, cut and tear it off and Robert is indeed your mother's brother! She can get on with her fight/climb in all of ten seconds!'

Yeah. NO. Material and the construction of clothing doesn't work like that.
  • First, there's the material itself. Doesn't respond well to slashing with a knife - you might get a hole in it, but it'll take a good while to cut all the way through a piece. Several minutes. Faster with a good pair of sharp heavy-duty fabric scissors, but I somehow doubt your character has a pair of scissors on them, let alone a pair that would be any good for cloth cutting (have you seen fabric scissors, writer? They're bloody great heavy things, with *at least* 8-inch blades). If you must do this, make a small cut *at the edge*, grab the sides and pull. This will very noisily make a clean tear in the direction of the weave. And *only* in the direction of the weave. If the material was cut so the weave is on the diagonal - it'll tear in that direction. So you'll have a tear that... hasn't done all that much aside from split the skirt.

'But they make big slashing tears in curtains all the time on film!' I hear you say. Yeah. On film. Remember how that's not reality? Also, they have physics on their side. Curtain cloth has tension and weight due to the whole hanging from the ceiling factor, and isn't normally cut on the diagonal. And please note that they always cut *down*. no horizontal slashing here.
  • Second: 99% of clothing is not made of one piece of material, due to conservation of fabric, and that amazing thing known as design and getting it to hang right. Skirts are normally made of at least two panels sewn together. And the sewn part is normally reinforced with thread, and specifically made to be resistant to tugging and tearing. So even if you were lucky enough to make a horizontal cut/tear to the material, you'll run into a seam. And have to start cutting again, only this time it requires more strength and several goes.

So all this has taken a good ten minutes, and an awful lot of effort, which I doubt your character really has time for. Not to mention afterwards she'll be running around in a hacked off dress/skirt, which would a) look weird and b) be pretty much unusable afterwards. Clothing isn't cheap and the chances of spare stuff that'll fit hanging around is slim unless you're lucky enough to be in the middle of a residential area on laundry day.

'But how do I get the fabric out of the way so she can climb/fight?' I hear you wail.

(Never mind that it's actually quite possible to do this in a long skirt, women have been doing it for millennia, and yet there's a distinct lack of anecdotal evidence of them having to mend their skirts when they come back from doing this.)

Fear not, dear writer, I have a solution!

TUCK, KNOT OR ROLL THE MATERIAL UP.

It's that simple. Takes about 30 seconds at most, and that's if you're hell bent on keeping it securely in place for ages. And by 'ages' I mean an extremely vigorous evening of dancing or similar. Several hours' worth. If all you're wanting is to get enough material out of the way for activity, you only have to do this with one side. Which takes all of 10 seconds. Ever read anything set prior to the 20th century, and the female character says something about 'kirtling' her skirts? This is what she's doing. Hitching them up enough to do vigorous activity with her legs free and securing them in place.

Yeah. So, given the option of grabbing the front of her skirt and tucking it into her waistband/knickers or knotting it or spending several minutes hacking uselessly at fabric with a knife she won't necessarily have access to?

TUCK.

Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
xenaclone
Mar. 26th, 2013 05:04 pm (UTC)
Knot it up = good solution to fighting in plaid if one hasn't time to ditch it!
snowballjane
Mar. 26th, 2013 05:49 pm (UTC)
Hah, now I want to see someone rip a bias cut frock and go "oh. I wasn't expecting THAT." Or possibly hacking at a multi-panel skirt going "oh bloody hell, who overlocked these seams?"
terrie01
Mar. 26th, 2013 07:00 pm (UTC)
Hell, in the case of a skirt, it would be faster to take it off than to hack it up.
marbleglove
Mar. 26th, 2013 08:17 pm (UTC)
Hahahaha! I also studiously suspended my disbelief for the hacking of the skirts, but you make a very good point. They really should just hike them up, do kick ass stuff, and then let them down again.
burntcopper
Mar. 26th, 2013 09:22 pm (UTC)
99% of the time they do this in an evening gown, and snowballjane pointed out there is added silk, complex man-made fabric, sequins...
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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