The 5 Most Annoying Wardrobe Malfunctions on Earth -- And How to Solve Them

Sometimes bad things happen to very good people's clothes. (Like you! And me, too.)

Sep 2, 2014 at 10:00am | Leave a comment

Ten-plus years of working as a costume designer in Hollywood has taught me many things. Namely, that being summoned to a 5:45 a.m. production meeting is almost certainly the result of having made poor life choices, but also that some sort of wardrobe malfunction will eventually happen to everyone -- celebs and civilians alike. Absolutely nobody can escape them, so your best bet is to just be prepared well in advance of when one occurs. (Unlike me with that stupid zipper!) 

I somehow never have the right tools on hand when something in my wardrobe fizzles out. JUST TODAY I had to walk six blocks with only one shoe on because I stupidly fixed my Birkis with plain old Elmer's glue last time the strap broke instead of doing it the right way and using Shoe Goo.

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Whoops.

Fixing your shoe with Elmer's glue is the exact opposite of a life hack. However, a shoe repaired with Shoe Goo will last you for years. Just make sure the parts you're gluing are 100% dry -- and that you allow the Shoe Goo to cure for a full 24 hours (preferably with the whole thing held together using a rubber band) before attempting to wear them.

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Shoe Goo in blk or neutral, $7.99 for 3.7 ounces.

1) Drips, dribbles, stains and spots 

My first line of defense when an actor has spilled something (usually a foodstuff) on their clothes is to grab a tub of every costumer's best friend: Wet Ones. They will eradicate almost any stain, as long as it's fresh. But don't think you can use just any old baby wipe for stain removal -- Wet Ones work because they contain alcohol, which helps break down stains in a jiffy. That alcohol content is also why they tingle when you use them as emergency toilet paper because the honeywagon has run out. ("Honeywagon" is the Hollywood term for portable toilets -- and yes, it's used QUITE facetiously.)

There's definitely a trick to using Wet Ones (or any stain-fighting wipe, really) for successful stain removal. First, wet the stain with the wipe. Then, rub firmly with the wipe, working away from the stain. Continue working the damp area into the dry area until the stain begins to lighten. This motion will help reduce the possibility of a ring mark on your garment once it dries. 

Wet Ones are safe for almost any fabric, but when the garment in question is a fancy or fragile silk blouse or tie, I grab a pack of Silk & Clean wipes. They are especially great for removing fatty stains like salad dressing or butter. Silk & Clean wipes are highly unlikely to leave a ring on your clothes because they contain only two ingredients: alcohol and isopropyl alcohol. The solution evaporates fast -- within two to three minutes of being on your garment. (An extended drying time is what actually causes some solutions to leave a wet-looking ring on your clothes.) 

Silk & Clean is indeed an amazing product -- but the ingredients sound suspiciously like something most workplaces already have on hand: those alcohol cleansing pads in the office first aid kit. If your place of employment doesn't have first aid supplies, shame on them! But you can buy yourself a pack of 100 alcohol wipes for less than $3 and be prepared for both stain care and wound treatment for years to come.

2) Sliding bra straps

There's nothing more annoying than your bra straps sliding down all day long. This is where the bra truthers out there get worked up, insisting that if your straps are slipping, it means your bra doesn't fit -- but babes with naturally sloping shoulders are going to have bra strap slippage no matter what they do. So instead of wringing your hands over this problem, grab a set of these pin-in strap keepers, which are basically a strip of fabric with a snap sewn into each end, intended to hold your bra straps in place.

If you're not in the mood to wait, (and you know how to sew on a button) you can actually make your own strap keepers with a simple snap, any ribbon you like, and a small safety pin.

If you REALLY can't wait, just dispense with the snap and ribbon altogether and pin your bra strap right to your shirt. This works best with smaller safety pins. And don't try to pierce the pin through your bra strap -- it's too thick! Run the pin through a seam in the garment's shoulder and use the top of the pin as a loop to hold your strap.

3) Dirty, gouged, or broken shoe heels

I recently went to an outdoor wedding where the bride (a fellow costume designer, duh) had thoughtfully set out a bowl of these clever "Heel Hero" heel protectors to stop her guest's stilettos from sinking into the grass. I have sworn off high heels almost entirely (I'm fighting bunions) so I was wearing platforms -- but these little heel gadgets are GENIUS!

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"Heel Hero" by Braza, $6.95 for two pairs.

They have small grooves to help fit a variety of heel sizes and are made of transparent Poron material -- the same protective cushioning used in bike helmets. While their main purpose is to prevent sinking into grass and mud, they are also an excellent way to protect your heels from sidewalk cracks and subway grates -- the two biggest heel-killers around.

4) Falling hems

I usually just "fix" my busted hems with a stapler, but I don't actually recommend it. To easily repair a dragging hem or just shorten a pair of pants without sewing, slap in a piece of men's toupee tape -- also known as Topstick.

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Topstick double-stick tape, 50 strips/$5.50.

Topstick is used by stylists the world over to quickly repair or fasten two pieces of fabric to each other. It seems hard to use at first until you get the hang of it. To start, peel off the long, unbroken side of the strip and adhere it where you want on your garment. It will then be easy to peel the two remaining halves away from the other side of the strip and press down to stick your new hem into place.

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Top: the long strip! Bottom: the two bottom halves.

I always run a hot iron over the Topstick to really "set" it into place. Topstick is pretty perfect because it doesn't leave any horrible sticky reside on your clothes, and it lasts through more than a few washes. You can peel it off any time you like and replace it with a new strip. There's really zero reason to ever learn how to sew in this brave new world.

5) Armpit stains

The only way to prevent armpit stains from ruining your clothes is to prevent them before they start. And that means always using a set of stick-in underarm shields. They not only block sweat from staining and ruining your tops, they also allow you to stretch the time between dry-cleanings -- because your stinky armpits never actually touch your clothes!

An ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure when it comes to solving wardrobe malfunctions. And for the love of all that is holy, put a safety pin or two in all your purses RIGHT NOW. (You can thank me later.) 

To learn about all the tools I use to on set to keep my actors looking good, click here!

I'm on Twitter: @IveyAlison