David Bruce: Clothing Anecdotes


While recording an album, all involved must be very careful not to record extraneous noises such as squeaks. While recording the album Diva!, soprano Leslie Garrett and the musicians ran into a problem because of a squeak that would not go away. Thinking the squeak might come from a wobbly music stand, the musicians moved the music stands a few inches and tried again. The squeak remained. Thinking the squeak might come from a wobbly chair, the musicians moved the chairs a few inches and tried again. The squeak remained. Then Ms. Garrett took thought, held the music engineer’s head to her chest, and asked, “Is that what you heard?” It was—the squeak came from the underwiring of her bra. Ms. Garrett removed her bra in the ladies room, then made a squeak-free recording. Since then, whenever they record a new album together, the music engineer asks her, “Have you got the right bra on?”

Track and field star Florence Griffith Joyner was known for her outrageous racing clothes and painted fingernails as well as for her wins and world records. For example, at the 1988 Olympic Trials at the Indiana University Track Stadium, she wore a one-legged green bodysuit and a one-legged turquoise-and-purple bodysuit. In addition, for one race, she painted her long fingernails mostly orange—at their ends she painted black and white stripes. At the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, Korea, she wore a fluorescent blue-and-white outfit as well as an all-lace bodysuit that resembled a negligee. At the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, she painted nine fingernails red, white, and blue, and one fingernail gold—the color of the medal she hoped to win. Actually, in 1984 she won the silver medal in the 200-meter race, but in 1988 she won the gold.

While singing for the troops in her native Australia during World War II (despite having contracted polio), opera soprano Marjorie Lawrence always wore lovely gowns. Keeping them pressed was not as much of a problem as it would seem because there was always a soldier or nurse who was willing to iron them. Once, a nurse took a gown to press it, but with the beginning of the concert approaching, the gown had not been returned, so she sent her husband after it. He found the nurse wearing it—and a half-dozen other nurses waiting for a chance to try it on. The nurse explained, “We’ve been out here in the wilderness nearly two years and this is the first lovely dress we’ve seen since leaving home. I simply had to put it on.”

Wandering artists in the American frontier days used to make money by painting portraits with no faces. The portraits might be of one person, a married couple, or even an entire family, and the people in the portraits wore fancy, expensive clothing. The artist then traveled around, showing settlers the portraits. If a settler liked one, the artist would then paint in the face of the settler, or of the settler and his wife, or even the settler’s entire family, depending on which portrait the settler bought. Thus, many settlers owned portraits showing them wearing clothing they had never worn.

After Nate “Tiny” Archibald played for the Boston Celtics, he stayed active in the inner city and did good deeds as the recreation director for the Harlem Armory Shelter. Once, he got six free tickets from the New Jersey Nets, which he gave to some residents of the shelter. All of them dressed nicely in suits and ties for the game, and afterward Tiny took them down to the Nets dressing room to meet the members of the team. One of the players asked Tiny about the people he was with: “Who are they? Lawyers?”

During the 1992 Olympic Games, Hassiba Boulmerka of Jordan won the gold medal in the 1,500-meter race. As an athlete, Ms. Boulmerka received death threats because fundamentalist Muslims felt that she should keep her body covered in public instead of running in shorts and a sleeveless top. Ms. Boulmerka, who is herself Muslim, answered her critics by saying that she is an athlete and she dresses the way middle-distance runners must dress for competitions.

During the 1981 Stanley Cup play-offs, Richard Sevigny, the goalie for the Montreal Canadiens, predicted that Montreal star Guy Lafleur would put Edmonton Oilers star Wayne Gretzky “in his back pocket.” In game one of the play-offs, Mr. Gretzky made five assists as the Oilers defeated the Canadiens, 6-3. Mr. Gretzky then skated over to Mr. Sevigny and patted the place where his back pocket would be if hockey uniforms had back pockets.

When he was a child, singer James Brown’s family was impoverished, and he was frequently sent home from school because his clothing was in such poor shape. In fact, one reason he began stealing was so he could have decent clothing. Of course, the stealing eventually led to his arrest. After being found guilty of stealing a car battery, he was sentenced to 8 to 16 years in prison.

Some stand-up comedians pay way too attention to what they wear. Comedian Jay Sankey met a comedian who tried to dress in a way that supported his on-stage character (an excellent idea), but who then asked Mr. Sankey what the audience would think of his shoes. Mr. Sankey replied, “If they notice your shoes, you aren’t funny.”

Pop singer Madonna was an original even as a schoolgirl. Like the other students, Madonna wore a uniform at school, but she kept her school locker stocked with colorful hair bows and socks so she could be different from her classmates.

When Carol Burnett was growing up, she lived with her grandmother in a small apartment—so small that young Carol hung her clothes in the shower. For years, whenever Carol put on her clothing, it was slightly damp.

Fashions in clothing change over time. In the late 19th century, both infant boys and infant girls wore dresses.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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