David Bruce: Clothing Anecdotes

Belly dancer Amaya — nee Maria Elena Amaya — well remembers her most enthusiastic audience ever. She owned her own dance studio, and at night she turned it into a club. For a performance one night, she decided to wear a red bra that fastened in the front, along with a gold vest. As she danced, the audience grew more and more enthusiastic, clapping and cheering. After the dance, she was called out for three encores, until finally one of her belly dancing students revealed the reason for the audience’s enthusiasm. Her bra had become undone, but she hadn’t noticed because she was concentrating on the dance and because her vest had kept pressure on her breasts. However, the audience had definitely noticed. Amaya’s husband had been in the audience, cheering like everyone else — and taking photographs. She had the photographs developed, then looked at them in sequence. Early in the dance, she was showing a little cleavage, which grew greater and greater as her dance progressed. The final photograph showed that the dance had stopped at the moment before she would revealed all. 

On May 10, 1775, Ethan Allen, Benedict Arnold, and their American soldiers captured the British fort Ticonderoga, located on Lake Champlain, New York. At dawn, they surprised the British. Mr. Allen ran up the steps to the quarters of the British officers, and there he met the British commander, who was still holding his pants in his hands. When the British commander asked in whose name Mr. Allen was demanding possession of the fort, he replied, “In the name of the great Jehovah and the Continental Congress.” During the capture of Fort Ticonderoga, not one shot was fired.

While attending Morehouse College, Spike Lee directed the coronation pageant, one of the biggest events of homecoming. Students dressed up nicely for the pageant, and the women usually wore slinky, revealing dresses. However, as director of the pageant, Mr. Lee decided to emulate old Hollywood musicals, and he wanted the women to be dressed in floor-length, not-so-revealing evening gowns. The male students wanted to see the women in revealing dresses, so when they learned about his plans, they threatened to beat him, but the pageant came off as Mr. Lee had planned.

Born Sarah Francis Frost, Julia Marlowe invented her stage name by taking the last name of Christopher Marlowe and the name of the heroine from a favorite play, The Hunchback. Late in the 19th century, she was asked why she didn’t act in more modern plays — after all, her finances were being hurt because she preferred to act only in the plays of Shakespeare and other classic dramatists. Ms. Marlowe replied, “Well, I don’t fancy myself in modern drama. I never look well in modern clothes.” End of discussion.

In her old age, Martha Graham became friends with fashion designer Halston, who lent her a beautiful caftan when she needed a suitable dress to wear when she presented the Capezio Dance Award at a ceremony. She liked the very expensive dress so much that she asked if she could keep it and pay for it in installments. Mr. Halston gave her the dress, and he designed costumes for her dance company and clothing for Ms. Graham to wear that flattered her and hid her arthritic hands.

Dancer Ida Rubinstein was immensely wealthy. Her estate had greenhouses growing flowers of many different colors, and her flower gardens were designed so that the flowers could be replaced so that their color would match the color of her dress when she was entertaining. In addition, she filled a room with rows and rows of boxes set on shelves. Each box contained a hat, a pair of gloves, and a pair of shoes in matching colors.

While in the Gobi Desert, Roy Chapman Andrews and his team discovered a large number of dinosaur fossils. They discovered so many, in fact, that they had no more supplies to package them safely for transport. They solved the problem of lack of burlap strips by tearing up their excess clothing — shirts, pajamas, even underwear — and using the rags as packaging material.

Robert Fulton’s first steamboat had a disadvantage. It shot sparks into the air that drifted down and burned holes in the passengers’ clothing. On the maiden voyage of Mr. Fulton’s steamboat on August 16, 1807, male passengers on the steamboat wore ruffled suits — which they quickly discovered were not suitable attire for travel by steamboat.

People who use dog sleds a lot have to become used to accidents, since dogs take wrong turns, sleds tip over, and drivers fall off the sled and are left behind. Once, author Gary Paulsen was on a run with his sled dogs when he slipped and was dragged behind the sled. In a pocket, he carried wooden matches which lit and caught his pants on fire.

After she started making lots of money, folk singer Joan Baez faced a dilemma. She enjoyed wearing expensive suits from such fancy places as Saks Fifth Avenue and I. Magnin, yet many of her songs were about the poor. She solved the dilemma by buying four of each outfit she liked and giving away three.

While carrying their boats and supplies around the Great Falls of the Missouri River, members of the Lewis and Clark expedition were greatly bothered by jagged rocks along the falls. They had to repair their moccasins at night, and every two days they were forced to make new moccasins.

When Marlene Dietrich was a big star in Hollywood, she frequently wore gender-bending clothing such as men’s tuxedos. In fact, at one time she was called “The Best Dressed Man in Hollywood,” and some newspapers referred to her and her clothing as “Mr. Dietrich and his fabulous wardrobe.”

Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg saved thousands of Jews during World War II. At times, he even had Aryan-looking Jews dress up in Nazi uniforms, descend upon a detention center in Hungary, and take away hundreds of Jews destined for the death camps.

On June 20, 1994, Aretha Franklin gave a memorable performance at the White House Rose Garden for then-President Bill Clinton and other guests. In fact, while singing “Brand New Me,” she performed so hard that while crossing the stage she lost a shoe.

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