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He pushed past me into the house, then turned and grabbed me by the shoulder.I disengaged myself coldly. I had to wriggle out of my pyjama jacket to do so, but I managed it.
"Now then!" he said.
—Bertie Wooster, Thank You, Jeeves
Narrow escapes make for big thrills, and elusive heroes slipping free of the grasp of doom is a classic. Grabbed by an enemy too powerful to fight, the overmatched hero may need to sacrifice fashion or dignity -- possibly even modesty -- for survival's sake. When you're snagged by your coattails, remember that it's better to need a new coat than a new incarnation: You can always slip out of your sleeves, and leave your attacker with a secondhand garment as a consolation prize.
Most commonly, this trope is employed when a hero or intended victim is grabbed by the bad guys, usually by the jacket or sleeve, and discards all or part of the outer garment to escape. Footwear can also be shed in self-defense if an attacker is trying to drag the victim off a high perch, or if the subject of this trope is wading through deep mud. If a fleeing character's clothing becomes entangled in briars or barbed wire, baring skin may be their only means to free themselves in time, while providing a handy excuse for Fan Service.
May be the opposite of Defeat by Modesty, depending on how much clothing is (and isn't) shed. If discarding one's clothes isn't enough to win freedom, circumstances like these may force a Life or Limb Decision.
Anime & Manga
- Happens in the fight between Captain Kuchiki and Espada #7 Zommari Rureaux in Bleach episode 196. Rureaux grabs Captain Kuchiki, who Flash Steps away leaving Rureaux holding his captain's cloak.
- In Yu Yu Hakusho, Botan escapes from an ogre's grip by slipping out of her jacket.
- During Ranma's first duel with Mousse in Ranma One Half, the latter has the former completely entangled in ropes, chains, and yo-yos. This is when Ranma, as a ploy to pass off his (mode locked) girl form as a magic trick, blows up "his" entire costume (bindings included) and emerges as a Playboy Bunny.
- The pickpocket in The Secret of the Unicorn.
- In Astro City, 'Eyes' Eisenstein gets tied up to a fence by Jack-In-The-Box's entangling confetti. He manages to escape by twisting out of his jacket; leaving it still tied to the fence.
Films -- Live-Action
- In The Golden Child, a beggar takes a $100 bill from Chandler Jarrell instead of a $1 bill. Chandler grabs him and tries to make him give the $100 bill back, but the old man disappears, leaving Chandler holding his clothes.
- In Airplane!, as Ted Stiker is going through the airport, he's grabbed by a religious panhandler. He slips out of his jacket and continues on, leaving his jacket in the panhandler's hand.
- In Tremors, Rhonda becomes ensnared in barbed wire as she flees a Graboid, and gets free by stripping down to her panties, leaving her slacks tangled in the wire.
- In Die Hard, Hans grabs Holly's wrist as he's about to fall to his Disney Villain Death. John saves her from being dragged down with the villain by unhinging her wristwatch, which looses Hans's grip.
- In The Living Daylights, Necros grabs hold of James Bond's boot while they are fighting on the cargo net dangling out the back of the plane. Bond gets rid of him by cutting the laces on his boot, causing Necros to fall to his death still clutching the boot. Bond: "I gave him the boot."
- In Octopussy the villain's henchwoman, Magda, who Bond just had a one-night stand with escapes from him with the Fabergé egg she stole (he let her do it as it had a hidden tracking device) by tying one end of her wrap to a balcony and dropping over it and descending as it unwound leaving her to get away while wearing only her underwear.
- In Strange Days, the villain grabs Lenny's necktie as he's about to suffer a Disney Villain Death from a balcony, and Lenny cuts his tie to avoid being pulled down with him.
- Happens to Carmen Electra 's character in Scary Movie. While trying to escape from Ghostface, she first loses her shirt and then her skirt. It still isn't enough as Ghostface eventually catches her.
- In Star Kid, the Brood Warrior grabs a kid by his foot, but the shoe comes off and he escapes.
- In Aliens, Hicks must quickly shed his acid-blood-spattered body armor before the corrosive can penetrate to his skin.
- In Magical Legend of the Leprechauns, one of the Fitzpatrick brothers tries to catch Seamus Muldoon to make him tell where is his pot of gold. However, the latter being a leprechaun, he simply disappears, leaving just his green vest in the human's hands.
- In Spiders, two characters fall into a Giant Spider's web. The girl escapes by removing her jacket, but has no choice but to leave her friend behind to be eaten.
- In The Thief of Always, Mr. Hood grabs Henry by the back of the jacket, so Henry slips out of his jacket to escape.
- In Beatrix Potter's The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Peter winds up abandoning all his clothes in the course of escaping the garden.
- At the end of Robert E. Howard's The Frost Giants Daughter, Conan the Barbarian tries to grab Atali, but the gossamer cloth that is her only clothing comes off in his hand, and she runs away naked.
- Jem Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird.
- Subverted in Mid-Flinx, when Flinx unwittingly steps into a "pool of water" that turns out to be alive and tries to dissolve him. He's about to remove his boot to escape when the pool/creature decides it dislikes the taste of its synthetic material and expels his foot.
- The Silk and the Song, Mara a Wild Human is gazing at the city of Falkyn where her enslaved kind are used as beasts of burden by the Hussirs. She almost misses Wiln, a hussir landowner, aiming an arrow at her from his human mount. Mara evades the arrow, but her pants are caught in a branch so she exits them.
- Doctor Who
- The Doctor is being held by his coat. He talks through his plan and leaves the angels with his jacket and a last parting piece of wisdom.
Doctor: Never let me talk!
- In The Five Doctors, the Second Doctor waltzes into UNIT headquarters like he owns the place in order to visit The Brigadier. An officer tries to stop him and grabs his coat, only for the Doctor to spin around so that he has just handed the coat to him, and thanks him for taking it.
- Subverted on Thirty Rock: Pete gets his arm stuck in a snack machine while trying to get a dangling treat. He realizes that he's stuck because his jacket is caught on a sharp piece of metal, so he starts slipping the jacket off. He successfully removes himself from the jacket, but finds that he is still stuck.
- Star Trek: Enterprise: Hoshi is the only one who is small enough to achieve an Air Vent Passageway escape after bad guys take over the ship and lock everyone in their rooms, and then her top gets caught on something in the vent, leading to Fan Service.
- On Mash, Klinger got his skirt caught under a fallen school-bell when he and Father Mulcahy were retrieving some stolen medication hidden underneath it. One of the thieves started taking potshots at them, so he let the skirt tear away from him and ran for their jeep in his undershorts.
- Chouriki Sentai Ohranger: Juri does this in one episode. Bara Clothes tries to take control of her via her outer clothing as he'd done to her team-mates, so she casts off her swimsuit and fights in her underwear.
- In The Twilight Zone episode "What You Need", a man's tie gets caught in an elevator's doors. He nearly strangles, but cuts off his tie with scissors just in time.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer. When Buffy is Brought Down to Normal in "Helpless", she escapes a vampire by slipping out of her red coat when he grabs it. Unfortunately the vampire uses that same coat to trick Buffy's mother out of the house by wrapping himself up in it and lying on the ground outside.
- Monty Python lampshaded it severely in the 'Making of "Scott of the Antarctic"' skit, as the starlet on the run loses one clothing item after another on cactus plants she could have easily avoided going near.
- New Tricks: In "Dark Chocolate", Gerry gets his jacket caught on a Conveyor Belt of Doom and is almost dragged into a chopping machine. He escapes by taking off his jacket.
Myths & Religion
- This was probably Truth in Television in ancient times before zippers and tailored shirts, when clothing was more just cloth wrapped or draped around the body.
- The Bible
- Mark 14:51-52.
- Joseph escapes from Potiphar's wife this way. She later uses the torn garment as evidence to accuse him of rape.
- Likewise pops up in mythology and other ancient stories from time to time. For example, Pyramus & Thysbe, that inspired William Shakespeare on a couple of different occasions. Thysbe is waiting for her lover in a forest by moonlight and is attacked by a lion, dropping her shawl which the lion mauls.
- At Wrestlemania 20, Eddie Guerrero escaped from Kurt Angle's Ankle Lock by removing his shoe.
- Mark Henry once tried to assault one of The Undertaker's druids. The lights turn off, and when they turn on, the druid is gone and Mark is left holding his cloak.
- In Sherlock Holmes, Billy escapes from one of Moriarty's men this way.
- In the first act of The Playboy of the Western World by John Millington Synge, Michael James Flaherty attempts to strong-arm his son-in-law-to-be, Shawn Keogh, into a plan that Shawn wants nothing to do with, and Shawn abandons his jacket to get away.
- Girl Genius
- In Sluggy Freelance, Sam wears breakaway capes to escape capture, as shown during the "Muffy The Vampire Baker" storyarc.
- Leads to one of the funnier moments in the Touhou Project fancomic Life of Maid. Santa Rinnosuke tries to leave his Santa outfit on a Ninja Log in an attempt to escape from Marisa. It works, but the eventual consequences are... highly unfortunate for him.
- Batman the Animated Series
- In "Christmas With the Joker", Batman attempts to grab the fleeing Joker, only to end up holding the Joker's cardigan, complete with a false set of arms.
- In "The Last Laugh", the robotic Captain Clown snatches Batman's cape and attempts to reel him. Bats is forced to ditch the cape and is seen without it the rest of the episode.
- In the "World's Finest" crossover with Superman, Batman's cape gets stuck in some gears and he's forced to remove cape and cowl to save his life. In front of Lois Lane, who isn't thrilled that her latest love interest Bruce Wayne is a vigilante dressed up like a bat!
- In "Heart of Steel", a mook grabs Bruce Wayne, who removes his jacket to escape.
- The World of Peter Rabbit and Friends: In the TV adaptation of "The Tale of Jemima Puddleduck" the fox escapes from the dogs chasing him, but not without losing his clothes first -- presumably to make it easier for him to throw the dogs off him and escape.
- In House of Mouse, Baby Shelby does a variant; he escapes from Donald Duck by unhinging his shell and running about in just his diaper.
- G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero:
- In "Grey Hairs and Growing Pains", Lady Jaye gets turned into a child, and in a fight she's forced to drop her pants because they are now too long to run in (strangely, the two guys who got turned into children didn't have this problem). Afterwards, she uses her now over-sized shirt and jacket like a dress. Leads to a Crowning Moment of Funny when she gets turned back to normal and awkwardly covers her panties with her hands.
- In "In The Presence of Mine Enemies", a monster grabs Slipstream's foot, but his boot comes off.
- Proving that COBRA members aren't always dumb, during the five-part series where Dr. Mindbender created Serpentor, Zarana (that would be Zartan's sister, in case you didn't know) breaks into a tomb to steal the DNA from a mummy, only to fall into a temple trap that grabs her foot with a stone vise, then triggers a Descending Ceiling that threatens to crush her. She eventually slips her foot out of her boot to free herself and escape.
- In the climax ofThe traitor part 2 Lady Jaye chases down a cobra mook. She tackles him and they fall off screen. She then comes back up laughing and holding the guys boxer shorts. (his uniform had gotten destroyed before hand)
- The Counter-Earth version of Green Goblin loses his pants to escape a symbiote blob monster in Spider-Man Unlimited. He lampshades this by mentioning that he's the only superhero on the planet that would consider doing this.