A back closure is a
fastener(such as a zipperor button(s)) on the rear of a garment, most commonly one made for females. They were a common feature of women's and girls' clothes in the past, and were the preferred choice of some women for more dressy occasions. Their use by fashion designers mostly declined toward the end of the 20th century in favor of clothes that are easier for women to dress themselves in. Today, they are rarely found on any daily women's clothes, with the exception of bras, skirts, and certain other items that can be reversed so easily, thereby not requiring "reaching in back" to fasten. But they are still found on clothes worn by adult women for various special occasions, and on regular clothes for small children of either gender and on certain specialty garments.
Back closures throughout the past several centuries have been common on clothes designed for females of all ages, including dresses,
skirts, jumpers, blouses, sweaters, and sometimes slacks, and on certain unisex clothes such as infantand toddlerwear, costumes, wetsuits and special-needs outfits. Though usually a feature of a garment's designs for stylistic reasons, some back closures can be difficult or sometimes impossible for the wearer to operate oneself, a factor that has favored their phase-out.
In earlier centuries, buttons found on the back of a dress as opposed to the front were originally intended to give the appearance of wealth in a woman, as wearing such a garment implied the woman could afford servants to help her dress. Back closures on female clothing remained common in Western fashion even through the
Industrial Revolution, when servants became rare except to royalty and the wealthiest of women. Even then, back closures were still favored by women who wanted to appear wealthy or more attractive. It is for this reason that back closures have more often been associated with clothes intended for nicer occasions, such as formal occasions, religious services, or professional wear.
During the 20th century, however, they were opposed by feminists. In the 1970s and 1980s, women began taking on a wider range of activities and professions and began dressing to suit their more independent lifestyles. The use of back closures declined as casual wear, sports wear, and other styles of masculine origin influenced women's fashion design and became the norm for everyday wear and more acceptable to wear in the
work force, and women and girls began wearing more comfortable clothing which they could easily dress themselves in without assistance.
Certain types of women's clothing, however, continue to feature back closures out of this tradition.
Formal wearsuch as evening gowns and wedding gowns, for example, frequently fasten at the back. Many summer dresses, especially in petite sizes, feature back zippers, though in recent years, fabrics that can retain these styles without the use of a zipper have been developed. Back closures also remain commonplace in some everyday garments that can be donned backwards and then reversed, such as skirts and bras, or that can be slipped on/off without the need for a closure, where they only are present for stylistic purposes.
Advantages and disadvantages
Back closures have the following advantages on a garment:
*More dressy appearance - A garment that would otherwise look more casual is given a more upscale appearance and may be worn professionally or for other occasions in which a good impression is required while retaining the comfort level of a casual garment
*Closure-free front - Fasteners do not interfere with a solid design on the front of the garment that does not stretch easily
*Improved comfort - Particularly, back-closing bras have been reported by women as being most comfortable to wear
*Easy pullover - Allows the neckhole of some blouses or sweaters to be pulled over more easily
*More feminine appearance - Allows certain garments that would otherwise appear unisex to be obviously feminine
*Improved ease in dressing of others - In clothes made for children or those with special needs, may be easier for a caregiver to operate
Back closures have the following disadvantages:
*Reaching difficulty - Making self-dressing or undressing more difficult or sometimes impossible, either slowing down the effort of one to dress or undress, or making assistance required (depending on the person's ability)
*Lack of visibility - The person wearing a garment such as a skirt may not notice if the skirt is twisted out of line
Back closures are frequently chosen today by dress designers for aesthetic reasons, especially in
haute couture, where practicality is less important. This allows for a smooth and solid front to the garment that is not interrupted by fasteners or openings. On thinner and more fitted garments, the bulk introduced by a button placket or a zippered seam may also be deemed less conspicuous when worn at the back.
zipperwas initially popularized as a fastener for men's trousers. Though at first opposed on women's clothes due to the suggestiveness of speedy undressing, ultimaely became popular on women's clothing, particularly dresses, in the late 1930s, for their convenience over hook and eye fasteners, buttons and snap fasteners, hence the now obsolete term "zipperback dress". Zippers are typically placed at the back seamof a dress. Some such garments may sport decorative buttons, lacing or mock closures at the front, but actually open at the back.
Skirts with back zippers continue to be commonplace, especially in career lines. They are likely to remain long after other garments with back closures lose popularity because they allow for a woman to easily dress herself. The wearer can simply put it on backwards (with the zipper in front), zip it up, and rotate the skirt 180 degrees until the zipper is in its correct place. While many fitted skirts in the past had back zippers accompanied by a single waist button, most of those today are paired with a hook-and-eye closure.
Though skirts are currently the most common place for a back zipper, many skirts are made in alternative styles. Other skirt closures that are popular today include a front fly similar to those found on
pants(which is common on jean skirts), a side zipper, or a column of buttons in front. Many skirts, especially in plus sizes, feature an elastic waistband and no closure.
Prior to the existence of the zipper, buttons were the most common back closure found on women's clothes. in the past, a dress was usually made with buttons covering the back from the neck down the waist, or several inches below. A blouse contained buttons down its full back. But later in the 20th century, garments for women were made with fewer buttons.
Toward the end of the 20th century, the keyhole button closure became popular on dresses and blouses made of
nylonor silk, popular fabrics at the time. These garments, which had a roomy fit, were made to be slipped over, but the keyhole served simply as a fastener for the neck. Such clothes, mostly a part of a career line, were considered to be of high practicality. They could be worn interchangeably as casual clothes, and were easy to dress in, since they only required the fastening of a single button in a place that was easy to reach. This, combined with their T-shirt-like comfort and low cost, made them a popular choice for working women for a few decades. Since the 2000s, keyhole blouses have been replaced with sweater and T-shirt-like blouses that are elastic and are simply pulled over with no closures.
Some variations of the keyhole were blouses or dresses that had two or three buttons in back. Others had a fitted turtleneck-like collar, accompanied by either a single button or buttons covering up to the top half of the blouse. Some blouses were made with a full length of buttons, but with a roomy fit, allowing them to be donned and removed with just a single button open.
Most bras close in the back with a series of
hooks and eyes. Since bras are elastic, they can still can donned with the closure in front and reversed. Some bras have front hooks, and others, particularly sports bras, have no closure at all. [citation|title="Uplift: the bra in America"|first1 = Jane|last1 = Farrell-Beck|first2 = Colleen|last2 = Gau|publisher = University of Pennsylvania Press|location = Philadelphia|year = 2002|isbn = 0812236432]
While front closing bras and pull-over bras (commonly known as "sports bras") do exist, back closing bras remain the most popular type.
JC Penneyreported in 2004 that back-closing bras accounted for 62% of all bra sales.
Other women's garments
During the 1980s and 1990s, one-piece pants or shorts outfits that had back zippers or occasionally buttons were popular. These posed the problem that the wearer would be required to reach in back to unzip the garment simply for bathroom usage. Only those who were capable of reaching in back to zip/unzip these garments themselves could wear them. These garments are rarely seen today.
In the early 2000s, pants with back zippers, which have existed in the past, were popular. These were easier to operate than outfits with full back zippers.
Other types of clothes
; Small children : Many clothes made for 3 year old or younger children of either gender have zippers or buttons on the back. Such children mostly dressed by their parents or other adults, and this location can add ease, as well as style, to the child's outfit. Additionally,
costumes made for children up to around age 12 frequently have back zippers.
; Adult males : Generally, regular clothes made for adult males do not ever have back closures. However, an exception is the
cummerbundof the men's tuxedo.
; Wetsuits : Rear openings on
wetsuits and diving suits can make it easier for a wearer to enter them. Most such suits are intended to be worn as skin-tight garments and are made of rubber or neoprene, which do not stretch easily at the thicknesses needed to insulate the wearer against cold water.
; Protective clothing :
Aprons and smocks typically fasten at the rear as they have no openings at the front which could admit staining or hazardous substances. Most household aprons are designed to be donned quickly and can simply be slipped over the head and tied at the back of the waist.
; Special needs : "Adaptive" garments designed for those with physical disabilities (such as arthritis) often open at the rear so that they can be put on without having to bend the arms backwards. Such garments are also easier for caregivers to put on an unresponsive, wheelchair-bound or bedridden person.
Hospital gowns traditionally tie at the back for this same reason.: Garments with rear closures are also used on patients with dementia(such as those with Alzheimer's Disease) to prevent them from disrobing at inappropriate moments or interfering with their diapers. These are typically one-piece jumpsuits with back zippers.
Alternatives to back closures
In the past, when back closures were the norm, clothes that contained them were seen as more "classy" or "dressy" by women on this basis alone, and were sought by many women. Due to the difficulty in self-fastening or unfastening a back closure, designers have employed a number of alternatives in order to make dressing and undressing easier while retaining fashionability by focusing on improving other elements of design. The alternatives, which are often used in combination, include:
* Elasticity: The garment may have elastic panels added or be made of a more elastic fabric to allow the garment to simply be slipped on and off without the benefit of a closure. While some elastic is hidden by being covered or placed on a less noticeable part of the garment, other elastic bands are designed stylishly.
* Front closures: Some garments are made with front closures, similar to fly openings on men's trousers and button plackets on men's shirts, but may retain a feminine cut. Other garments (such as uniform dresses for service workers like waitresses and cleaners, for example) may feature a front zipper, but concealed in a seam or flap of fabric.
* Looser fit: A larger neckhole and/or a looser bodice allows the garment to be slipped on over the head without the need for a fastener.
* Side closures: Side zippers have been around from before the 1950s, and are in fashion on and off. These are not as hidden from frontal view of the garment, can cause fabric to bunch up and look odd, appear less clean in outline silhouettes, and on dresses require the neck to be somewhat scooped. Side zippers are easier for the wearer to reach. Side zippers on skirts, especially for petite women, are common. They are also found sometimes on trousers. Side buttons are often found on
jumper dresses and overalls. In the past, many blouses and sweaters were made with shoulder buttons, a feature rarely seen in today's fashion.
* Shoulder closures: On sleeved garments, such as
crew-neckand mock-necksweaters, these allow the neckhole to be opened far enough for the garment to be pulled on or off over the head. On sleeveless garments, a shoulder closures are typically shoulder straps which can be undone at the top or detached from the front of the garment.
*Back closures for show: Some dresses, blouses, and sweaters contain a zipper or buttons on the back for aesthetic purposes only, but opening or closing it is not required in order to don and remove the garment easily.
In popular culture
*The children's song
Miss Mary Mack(of unknown origin) contains the lyrics "All dressed in black, black, black, With silver buttons, buttons, buttons, All down her back, back, back." [ [http://www.kididdles.com/lyrics/m008.html KIDiddles Song Lyrics - Miss Mary Mack ] ] .
*The song Buttons by the
Pussycat Dollshas been interpreted by some as a request by a woman for help to remove a dress or blouse with buttons on the back, while the male described in the song is refusing, as "fronting" refers to the front, opposite of where the buttons are located. This interpretation has been given little credibility as the song, a hit in 2006, presumably reflects modern times in which back buttons are rare.
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