Saturday, September 22, 2012

Preventing and Repairing Broken Braces

Given the high level of pulling, tugging, and stretching that braces and suspenders endure, its no surprise that they break. And when they do, it can be an embarrassing moment, especially if your pants start slipping down. 

Where braces break 
On braces, the most common break occurs around the button holes on brace tabs (see diagram). This is where the braces experience the full extent of the pull on the button to hold the pants up.

There is an ongoing battle between the braces pulling on the button to hold up the pants, and the button pulling on the brace tabs to stay attached to the pants. Eventually, one or the other will succeed in breaking away, resulting in either a torn buttonhole and intact button on the pants, or a popped button and an intact buttonhole. 

Take for example, this picture from Norman Rockwell. You'll notice that the front, inner brace button has popped off, likely due to the sudden jerk to get away from the dog.

The battle of the button and the brace tab may be short-lived, if the button thread cuts into the brace tab, the thread will cause the tear. It's nearly impossible to repair a broken buttonhole on a brace tab, so it's recommended that buttons be sewn in just enough to hold the braces to the pants, but not so securely that the button doesn't pop-off when needed. This will help save many brace tabs and braces from being ruined.

The ability for braces to stretch is what makes them useful. But when braces are pulled or stretched beyond capacity, the buttons should pop-off to avoid the damages listed above. This saves the braces, and its an easy repair to re-sew a button on to a pair of pants to use the braces again, rather than buy a new pair of braces.

Here's some photos of people who could use a seamstress to sew on missing buttons. 

Both front, exterior brace buttons are popped off

The front left, exterior brace button has popped off

The front right, exterior brace button has popped off
Again, the front left, exterior brace button has popped off

Another example is presented below - this girl was a little over zealous when stretching her braces, or the button was not sewn on correctly. Regardless, the front, inner brace button is popped off (see below and close-up). This inner button is the common place for a button to be popped off in the front (although not always the case). This is because people pull your braces away from your body or you stretch the straps away from your body, putting the most strain on the front inner buttons, not the outer ones.
Notice the popped inner brace button
Close-up of popped front, inner brace button

When buying braces, inspect the brace tabs for firmness and quality - genuine leather is recommended (left), or woven material (right):

Secondly, a common place breaks occur is at the adjuster clip on the strap. The metal can wear down from frequent adjusting and use, causing it to lose its ability to hold the clip in place. A worn out clip will not hold the straps in place. 

A broken adjustor clip
A third place area suspenders and braces break is in their elasticity. Elastic straps wear down over time and become brittle. For instance, the braces shown below are starting to show signs of deteriorating condition.
Deteriorating elastic straps

A fourth place is around the brace tabs. These can become brittle, frayed, or simply wear out.
Frayed brace tab

Where suspenders break
Suspenders are attached pants and skirts with alligator clips that grip material. This is the frequent breakage point, when the clip fails to grip the material, either due to excessive use or poor quality. When you purchase suspenders, examine the clips for strength. If one of your favorite suspenders has a broken clip, head over to a sewing store and pick up a new clip.

Suspender straps may also be attached by buttons, rather than clips. In the photo below, both ladies are wearing the same outfit of shorts with suspender straps. The lady on the right hasn't noticed yet that her rear right button has popped off, leaving the strap hanging loose. This was likely due to the extra strain on the straps while riding.

Another area suspenders break is a tear on the brace strap. This is less common, but does come from getting snags. The suspenders are likely past repairs. However, before you throw them out, why not use the clips on another pair of suspenders?

Torn suspender strap

What to do with broken braces and suspenders
If you have broken braces or suspenders, consider re-purposing them by getting the necessary supplies from a sewing store. If the brace tabs are broken, you can try a leather store to inquire if they can repair them. If not, donate it to a thrift store and someone else may value your reject!

Discussion time:
  1. Where do your braces/suspenders break?
  2. Do you have any stories of braces or suspenders breaking at unfortunate moments?

Note: all photos are used solely for non-commercial use and to illustrate braces in fashion. No plagiarism is intended.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Brace Tension

How tight do you wear your braces or suspenders? Are they lax and falling off your shoulders? Or are they firmly pulling up your pants and giving you a constant wedge? How do you find the right balance?
Braces and suspenders have different material – elastic, boxcloth, leather, and more (see Brace Materials). You can find the balance of tautness versus slack in the tension of braces over a short period of time simply by wearing them.

If the material is boxcloth, braided leather, or cloth, there is very minimal tension so the straps should remain at the same tension when you are standing as to when you are sitting. Set the length that you find most comfortable standing, sitting, and bending. You should be able to determine this within 10-20 minutes of wearing the braces.

If the material is elastic then there can be anywhere from minimal to super-stretch tension in the straps. If your pants are bobbing up and down every time you move, then the elastic could be worn out and you will need a new pair. If your braces are too tight and do not provide sufficient stretch when you bend down, you should loosen the straps. Firm suspender straps can cause stiffness in your shoulders, so be careful when wearing a new pair of elastic braces.

Generally, the wider the braces strap, the stiffer the tension, and the narrower the strap, the more stretch will be in the strap.

Avoid super-stretchy suspender straps, like these...

To find what works for you, try a few different brace materials (elastic, boxcloth, leather). Wear them for a day to determine their comfort and feel. You may discover that you prefer boxcloth over elastic straps.

Discussion time:
  1. How do you find the tension in your braces/suspenders?
  2. Do you find your pants ride up by wearing braces?

Note: all photos are used solely for non-commercial use and to illustrate braces in fashion. No plagiarism is intended.