Friday, March 4, 2016

Braces and Suspenders Observations

Have you noticed more people wearing braces? I have. And it’s not just people in one demographic, but young and old, males and females. Here are some styles I observed recently:
  • middle-aged women attending a group birthday party in a restaurant wearing blue jeans and a casual, white shirt. Instead of a belt, she went with clip-on braces
  • older businessman wearing grey pants and a navy blazer. As he was walking down the sidewalk a gust of wind opened his blazer to reveal his braces
  • 20-year old wearing black suspenders with a white dress shirt and black jeans
  • teenage girl wearing a green, knee-length skirt with suspender straps
  • women wearing denim shorts with red suspenders and a plaid shirt
I couldn’t photograph these outfits, so I’ll share what braces I’ve been wearing. This is a pair of Y-back stripped braces with brown leather tabs. The straps have a grey edge trim, with light blue and thin stripes of red, white, navy, and grey.

What braces or suspenders have you been wearing recently?

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

When Women First Started Wearing Braces

At the end of the 1800s, women started wearing pants - both for comfort and relating to the jobs they did. As a result, women began wearing braces to hold up the pants. Alligator clips (today's "clip-ons") had not yet been invented - all "suspenders" were button-on braces. 

Women wearing pants with braces during the gold rush
I came across on article from 1892 in The Chronicle that comically explained some downsides to women wearing braces.

Source: The Chroncile: Spokane, Washington
Thursday, July 28, 1892

Something About the Latest Mannish Fad in Feminine Attire
How to Meet an Emergency

She cannot successfully chase a busted suspender up her own back, and like men she must ask somebody to pull them down

Suspenders are becoming more and more in evidence on the shoulders of women. Even the stout women are wearing them. Leaving out of consideration, says the New York World, the cost of material for a very fat women’s suspenders, it does seem to be thoughtful that they ought not to wear them. Suppose they should become detached from their rear fastenings, what would happen! When, following some great emotion, or some violent muscular effort, a pair of suspenders, like a runaway balloon, break loose from their moorings and raise to the point just below any women’s shoulder-blades, it is useless for her to try to seize them with her own hands. She can twist and wiggle and make faces and thrust her tongue in her cheek and distort herself into all the shapes of a marionette, but she cannot grasp those suspenders. Generations of men have tried to do it. Ever since the first pair of trousers the stronger sex have purpled their faces and dislocated their shoulders in the same mocking, useless, oath-forcing attempt. And shall women succeed now in a day?

So what’s to be done if a women’s suspenders break lose in the back, say at Twenty-third street and Broadway? Will she fly to the haven that every women seeks when an accident, visible or invisible, happens to what she wears – will she go into a shop? It will, indeed, be a courageous women who will walk into a shop with the explanation, “Excuse me a moment, I want to button my suspenders.” But even if she be brave enough to do that, to endure the scornful smiles, to face the withering looks of the sales ladies whose suspenders are never unbuttoned until they so wish, here, if she be alone, is she going to button her suspenders?

Men have been trying to solve that problem for lo! these many generations, and, as they give everything they own and a great many things they don’t to women, women might as well have the benefit of their experience at once. The commonest thing for a man to do in such an emergency is to unbutton his vest, throw his coat taile over the back of his head, walk up to the first man he sees, turn his back to him and ask his help. If he knows the other man he says, “Old fellow, I’ve busted my gallusses. Yank ‘em down, will you?” If he does not know him, he is, of course, more distant – that is, in his speech. He may say something like this: “Oblige me, sir, by drawing down my suspenders. As you see, they’re broken.” And the other fellow, who it’s ten thousand to one, wears suspenders himself, has a fellow feeling and obliges.

Now, there is, perhaps the simplest method and the easiest to learn. Any women can say: “Oblige me sir, by drawing down my suspenders. As you see, they’re broken.” It may be that the man’s hand will tremble a bit, but there will be a fellow feeling still, and he certainly will oblige.

Menswear by Ralph Lauren - black pants with braces

If a man’s suspender button’s fly off when the rupture between his suspenders and his trousers comes he has as a last resort that may be stated at first as being the most discomforting – to a man. He can take off his suspenders and walk on the heels of his trousers. But a women would hate to take off her suspenders, for, strangely enough, she wears them for show, most unostentatiously, proudly, delightedly, with an air that plainer than words: “Be kind enough to observe, I have taken another step toward the emancipation of the sex.” Some women, indeed, choose the gaudiest colors for their suspenders. If a man were to wear suspenders as loud as theirs he would not be able to hear himself think. For example, all Philadelphia was delighted the other day by the sight of a red headed girl wearing red suspenders and a pair of red shoes. Men, on the other hand, hide their suspenders. If they don’t wear sashes to conceal the awkward end of the ugly straps.

If man does not take off his broken suspenders he makes an effort to repair them. Human ingenuity has exhausted itself in this direction. Men have used twine since twine has been made and tied their suspenders down. But, then again, men have had advantage of the fact that their suspenders were hidden. What women would walk down the street with her suspenders tied to her silk dress? She’d pin ‘em first, but pins would not hold on a man. Instead of pinning his suspenders he has always nailed them, if need be, with tenpenny nails. But its doubtful if the expedient of cutting, with a jack knife, a new buttonhole in a $100 gown will be generally adopted by women. Whatever they do, however, when their suspenders rise to their shoulder blades they will find it better than to grasp them. The women who pursues her suspenders up her own back will, after assuming a number of ridiculous postures, wind up by standing on her head, a position repugnant to polite society.

The lady has a popped right-side exterior button

Here is another important point: Women may as well come to the same conclusion as have men, that it is useless to try to repair a broken pair of suspenders when the leather in the metal ring tears. They may be sure that when that leather attached to the ring in the back from which the suspenders radiate gives way it’s all up with the suspenders. They may sew that leather, they may clamp it, they may reinforce it with steel chains if they like, but it won’t hold anything thereafter. That’s one of the mysteries of suspenders. Another is that a buckle from one pair of suspenders was never known to fit another pair. So it will be useless, if they wear “real, true” suspenders, for women to preserve their buckles except as curios. The buckles may be gravel like those old Italian cups and dagger hilts, they may be heavy with gold, but they will never fit any other suspenders than those with which they were bought. The suspender manufacturers take care of that.

Yet another mystery of suspenders lately developed is, what do a women’s suspenders support? But, of course, that must remain a mystery. A very interesting and peculiar fact is that no women has been seen with her suspenders hanging from her waist. Walk into a newspaper office, for example – if you can – on one of these days when the mercury is soaring. There sit the men, their shirt sleeves rolled up, their suspenders kicking around their heels, perspiring; there are the women, cool and imperturbable, their suspenders where they ought to be – that is, where they ought to be on the men. But there must be moments when a women’s suspenders hang from her waist. Fancy the graceful sweep of her arms as she raises them, try to imagine the lovely curves as she carefully puts them in place.

Olive Borden in The Country Beyond (1926) with popped suspender buttons

The first and most natural result of the women’s appropriation of this article of apparel is that some young men are now embroidering suspenders for their sweethearts. That is almost too painful for contemplation. But, if they will do it, the young men should be very careful in their choices of mottoes to embroider. Suppose such as weak minded youth should embroide “I Love You” in blue silk on his girl’s suspenders, and then the suspenders should break after the word “love.” That would double the young women’s woes, for not only would she have a pair of broken suspenders to grapple with, but also the question, “Whom does he love?” Perhaps nothing could unite them – the suspenders. Again, although blue is always the color of true affection, the young man must observe his lady love’s complexion and her habit of dress before choosing the silk for his embroidery. Thus there will be many with such symphonies in colors, as that girl in Philadelphia with red hair, red suspenders and red shoes.

Discussion time:
  • What do you think about women wearing braces or suspenders?
  • Do women face different issues than men when wearing braces?
 Note: all photos are used solely for non-commercial use and to illustrate braces in fashion. No plagiarism is intended.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

National Suspenders Day 2015

Today was National Suspenders Day, or National Braces Day for everyone wearing the button-on variety.

I wore a light grey suit with a white dress shirt and checkered tie. The proudly wore a pair of Y-back Trafalgar braces with inverse-U tabs to support the suit pants. The straps have a grey stripe in the middle and navy trim border, and a burgundy rear strap that accented the white shirt well. The grey strap of the braces mirrors the grey pants and brings the whole outfit together.

You may recall that I've worn these braces in a previous post; I find them very comfortable!

How did you celebrate National Suspenders Day?

Friday, September 18, 2015

How to sew on Brace Buttons

Time has flown by! It's been 9 months since my last post where I described how a brace button popped off my jeans. I sewed that button on, but didn't find time to write the post. This week a different button popped off from wear and tare, so it's high time I write this post on sewing buttons for braces! As a side note, if you take these two instances, you may think that my buttons are popping off all the time. This is not the case. Aside from the popped button this week and in December, I can't remember the last time a button popped off.

I will mention that a button popping off is an effective method to ensure the brace tabs are not damaged when braces are under significant strain. It is better to have a popped button than to have a damaged brace tab. Brace tabs are very difficult to repair, whereas a button can be easily sewn on.

If you are currently wearing braces and a button pops off or you wish to start wearing braces, you should know how to sew on brace buttons. It is relatively simple to sew on buttons. 

This post is your step-by-step guide to sewing on a button for braces.

Supplies for sewing on brace buttons:

  • 6 cone-shaped buttons (2 for each brace tab)
  • Desired color of thread that matches the color of your pants or inside waistband lining and good quality strength
  • Sewing needle
  • Chalk is helpful, but not necessary
  • Pair of scissors
  • Pants or skirt intended to wear with braces
  • Braces

Supplies for sewing on a brace button

Type of buttons

When selecting a shape for your braces, look for a cone-shaped button. This allows the brace tab to pull the button rather than cause the button thread to cut into the brace tab. You should also look for buttons with 4 holes rather than 2 to provide additional strength. Many tailors suggest that any button is suitable, and while it is true, it won't serve you well when the pressure is on to keep your pants up!

Suspender buttons should be between 1/2" and 5/8" in size to fit in the brace tab. They should be stylish but functional. If the buttons are going to be placed on the outside of your pants, you can be more creative in the design, but keep it tasteful. 

These types of buttons are aptly called 'Suspender Buttons’ at your local sewing store, or you can pick up them up online.

Sewing on a Button

1. Determine button placement

This is the critical step. In fact, there's a full post dedicated to this topic. Essentially, the buttons on the front should be located on a main pleat and then 3-4 inches towards the side. The rear buttons should generally be placed 1.25-1.5 inches on either side of the back center seam. The distance will depend on the distance of your brace tabs and your personal preference. Use the chalk to mark the placement.

You can purchase a pair of suspenders with brace tabs with clips on the ends to experiment with the positioning (see below):

Alternatively, you can temporarily hold the brace tabs to the pants with pins to experiment with the placement.

In my case, the popped button is the front, inner button. The button will be sewn in line with the main pleat. It lines up with the pocket line to keep the pant lines taut.

2. Choose whether to sew buttons on the interior or exterior

When every man wore braces in the 19th century and early 20th century, the buttons were located on the outside of the waistband and covered by a vest. As men came back from World War 1, vests started disappearing, which lead to brace buttons moving to the inside of the pants or disappearing altogether. Nowadays, it’s acceptable to place brace buttons on either the interior or exterior - your preference! You may choose to place the buttons on the exterior to display fancy buttons and your personality, or keep them inside and be more reserved. The choice is yours whether to place buttons on the interior or exterior.

In my case, as all the other buttons were sewn on the inside, this button will also be sewn on the inside of the waistline. 

3. Sew the first thread

Brace buttons should not lie directly flush on the waistline; there should be a small space allowed by the thread between the button and the pants. This is called the “shank”. Once you’ve inserted the thread into the eye of the needle, insert the needle into the button placement marked by the chalk. 

  • Interior buttons: Make sure that the thread goes through the waistband materials and the lining, but not so far as the exterior of the waistband. This may take some practice. If the thread is only sewn to the waistband and not the inner lining, you will have a roll-over effect and the waistline will pull up but leave the pants hanging. If the thread is sewn through the exterior waistband, it will be visible and look unprofessional. It may be simpler to start with exterior buttons.
  • Exterior buttons: the thread can go through completely as the thread marks will be hidden on the interior of the waistband.
In my case, I’ve selected a thread that matches as close as possible to the color of the exterior waistband. That way I can sew all the way through and show some of the thread. 

4. Knot the thread

Once the needle is inserted, pull the needle through, leaving about 5 inches from the end. Tie a knot with the thread to hold it in place.

Here’s a photo of the knot.

 5. Weave the thread

Weave the thread through the button hole, and then back to the waistline, through the button hole in line (not diagonal). The thread should form two parallel lines on the button, rather than an X. This will minimize the friction on the thread during wearing and reduce the changes of the button popping off. 

I recommend weaving the tread 3-4 times through each button hole to attach to the waistline. There should be 4 button holds, so this would be 6-8 loops between the button and the material on the waistline.

Here’s a photo of the woven thread.

6. Terminate the thread and complete the shank 

Once you complete the weaves through each button hole, finish by having the tread and needle come out of the waistline (not the button). Take the thread and circle around the button 7-8 times. Take the needle and insert it directly into the thread you just circled, leaving a 2 inch loop. Once the needle is through the thread, re-insert the needle through the loop and pull tightly. You can then cut off any excess thread.

Here’s a photo of the completed shank.

7. Repeat for remaining buttons

Repeat steps 3-6 for the other 5 buttons.

In my case, I only have 1 button to reattach.

8. Button on the braces

Once the buttons on in place, fit the brace tabs on to the buttons. You are set to enjoy wearing braces! 

I’ve reattached the brace tab to the button. My pants are now be fully supported by the braces.

The view from the exterior.

If you are more of a visual learner, here’s a short video that describes the process above. The person on the video sewed the buttons 2" apart, but I would recommend the buttons be 3.5-4" apart, to balance out supporting the pants and to spread out the brace tabs as they naturally fall.

Should the belt loops be removed?

Yes. Pants should never be worn with both braces and a belt, so why keep the belt loops? You shouldn’t switch between a belt or braces on the same pair of pants. Additionally, the empty belt loops look out of place when wearing braces. They are not needed and add clutter to the waistband. Cut them off or ask a tailor to remove them.

My story
I started sewing on brace buttons onto my pants when I realized that it was too expensive to get a tailor to do it. And most tailors did not know where to put them, how to sew them in without ruining the waistband, and did poor workmanship. So I learned by trial and error.

I learned how to sew buttons into dress pants after many years. I would only wear button-on braces with dress pants. Then one day I remember wearing a pair of jeans with a belt. The bottom cuffs were dragging on the ground and fraying. I started wearing suspenders with the jeans but they didn’t seem to support the pants correctly; the 4 connection points didn’t feel comfortable. One day as I reached for the jeans next to dress pants, it dawned on me that I could sew buttons into my jeans to see if that improved the comfort. I sewed on 6 buttons to the inside of the waistband of the jeans and put on a casual pair of braces. The instant I strapped on the braces onto my shoulders it felt right. The jeans were supported on the front crease and side seam, and at the rear. The jeans were a higher rise, and to be worn at the natural waist line. The jeans were made for braces, but I never knew! I’ve been wearing braces with this pair of jeans since then and enjoying the comfort.

Discussion time:

  • Have you sewn on brace buttons or do you go to a tailor?
  • Any helpful tips you’ve discovered when sewing on brace buttons?

Friday, December 5, 2014

Ramblings of a Brace-Wearer: A Popped Button

It is inevitable: when you wear braces you are bound to have a button pop off occasionally. The 6 brace buttons undergo strain and tension throughout the day to support your pants from the constant pull of gravity. Yesterday it happened to me: one of my brace buttons popped off on my jeans. I was wearing a pair of jeans that I only wear with braces (no belt loops). I should not be surprised, but I am!

My surprise came from the fact that I was not doing strenuous activity. The braces were not being pulled or stretched - I was simply walking in the kitchen, when I felt my left brace strap suddenly shift to the left. I looked down to find the freed button on the ground and a dangling brace tab.

Drooping waistline from the popped brace button

I think most people assume brace buttons pop off when pulled or with a significant tug. But I share this story because buttons can also pop off simply by everyday wear and tare. This gradually results in the threads losing their hold with the button slipping from the threads and coming off.

Fortunately I was wearing inverse-V brace tabs so the change in brace tension was minimal. The braces continued to support my jeans and I made it through the day. If I had been wearing braces with inverse-U tab, the strap would have been ineffective to support the pants. Here's the result:

My front, inner brace button popped off
The button that popped off was the front, inner button on the left side. I’ve mentioned in a previous post that the front-inner buttons are frequently under a lot of strain; hence they are likely to pop off. Now I’m wearing lopsided braces until I spend time to sew on the button.

Where the brace strap should be

Buttons are better than clips - even when they pop off

Braces are designed to be attached to pants or skirt with 6 buttons – 2 on the front left, 2 on the front right, and 2 in the rear. Any less than 6 buttons and the equilibrium is thrown off. Brace wearers will feel that the pants/skirt isn’t correctly supported without 6 buttons. Because the left strap is further to the side and not as taut, the strap has started to slip off the shoulder. I should sew this button back on soon!

A few days later I decided to wear clip-on suspenders with another pair of pants. I haven't worn clip-on suspenders in a while, so I thought I'd try them out again. This was a big mistake: within 2 hours of wearing them 3 of the 4 clips had snapped off. I was constantly reattaching them. I wondered why I was even wearing suspenders, as they were not keeping my pants up! 

Button-on braces attach and stay securely attached to pants much more than clip-on suspenders. Even though I didn't have all the buttons attached to the jeans, I was not constantly reattaching clips. When suspender clips pop off, you lose the only anchor on that part of the pants. With braces, when a button pops off, you still have 1 anchor holding your brace strap in place. I will wear button-on braces over clip-on suspenders any day!

Now you might think that buttons should be sewn in so securely that they never pop off. However, this is counter-productive as a popped button will save the brace tab and strap when under significant strain. A good tailor knows how much to sew the button on to keep it in place but also to give way if needed.

Given my particular situation, I think it’s fitting to explain how to sew on a brace button in my next post. Stay tuned!

Discussion time:

  • Have you popped any buttons? How did it happen?
  • Which button(s) do you find pop off?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Latest Evolution in Children’s Braces

Have you noticed the latest evolution in children’s braces? If you don’t have children or go shopping for kids clothing, you may not be aware.

To set the foundation, all children should wear braces to keep up their pants and/or skirt. Braces hold up pants as the child's hips are not fully developed – refer to my previous post for a full explanation.

The latest evolution in braces/suspenders for children is to have button-on style braces in the front and then a Y-back strap in the back that attaches to a single button – see below. 

Braces attach to pants with a single strap Proper button braces

This is a step backward, not forward, for wearing braces – let me explain. Button-on braces are more stylish and sturdy than clip-ons. Clips pop-off a lot faster than buttons. The brace strap attached by 2 buttons at the rear is twice as sturdy as having only 1 button in the rear. And it’s at the rear where most of the strain on the braces is placed, as the child bends forward and twists over the course of the day. So why have clothing manufacturers using only 1 button instead of 2? Here are some possible reasons:
  • the single strap at the back allows the suspenders to be lengthened and adjusted as the child grows. However, this can be accommodated with other braces with the levers on the front straps. In fact, the best type of braces for children have an adjustable lever on the rear strap so the back junction can also be moved to accommodate the child's size.
  • there is less material, so the pants don’t cost as much to manufacture. Costs should not determine style!
  • some straps do not have metal clips (levers), which avoids them from snapping off and hit the child. Braces are not meant to be so tense and tight that they release their potential energy when the buttons come off. The straps should be firm and comfortable, not tight.
These latest children’s pants and skirts look like they have been quickly sewn together, and added braces as an after thought. Braces should have brace loops on the front and back.  

Give children proper pants with braces, and let them play!

Discussion time:
  • Have you bought kids pants or skirt with only 1 button in the rear?
  • What do you think about this style?

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Hiding Braces

Do you hide your braces under a jacket, vest, cardigan, or other layer of clothing? Are you embarrassed to be seen wearing your braces? Why?

Braces were originally part of a man’s undergarments, similar to sock garters. However, braces have come of age and now hold up their own (pun intended!). If you wear braces, and like to wear braces, display them proudly to bystanders – just be tasteful and classy.

That is what I did today. It was a beautiful, sunny day, and so I opted to wear a pair of light grey pants with Trafalgar braces and a green, blue, and white plaid dress shirt. These Trafalgar braces were one of my first purchases of braces, and I’m glad I invested in a quality pair that I’m still using today. The brace straps are stripped, with grey strip in the middle surrounded by a thin white line and a navy border strip.  The Y-back braces also have a dash of burgundy color in the rear, to keep it exciting! Here’s the look:

Trafalgar braces Rear burgundy strap

While I was at the bank a clerk commented on the outfit saying, “I like your look; very traditional with the suspenders”, by which she meant braces (I’ll excuse her for not knowing the difference). But this the point - as people wear braces the general population learns that they are called braces, not suspenders. It's not embarrassing to be seen exposing your braces. The bank clerk sees hundreds of people a day, and appreciated seeing me wear braces. The comment was not a criticism, but an appreciation of style.

So don’t feel embarrassed to display your braces in public. Wear them with class and people will appreciate the time and effort you put in to your outfit for the day.

Discussion time:
  • Have you been embarrassed to show your braces or suspenders in public?
  • How do you feel when you take off your jacket, vest, or cardigan and display your braces or suspenders?
  • What outfits have you worn recently with braces?