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"Great for dancing, not so much for cross-country."
—Abby Maitland, Primeval
Sometimes an Action Girl wears dresses, but finds a dress (unlike a Magic Skirt) to be restraining when action arises at the most inopportune moment. This will result in said woman tearing the hem of her dress in order to give her knees the ability to move and efficiently run. She may or may not remember to ditch the high heels, though.
Some Fan Service occurs, as this is a combination of Clothing Damage and She's Got Legs. A minor form of Battle Strip. Compare Rip Tailoring (a non-action version), Mini-Dress of Power, From Dress to Dressing. Contrast Kicking Ass in All Her Finery.
Anime & Manga
- Hitomi did this in Vision of Escaflowne when Millerna puts her in some Gorgeous Period Dress and immediately thereafter, a situation arises when she needs to run really fast.
- Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: Yoko tears her long skirt when she needs to rescue a child stuck in a tree.
- The eponymous Murder Princess has to make some quick modifications to her gown whenever kicking some ass. Which is to say, often.
- You're Under Arrest
- The movie of has Yoriko do this to her skirt during a hostage situation so she can move better.
- Natsumi also did it once in the TV series, when she needed to find a hidden bomb... placed in a huge clock.
- In the Ghost in The Shell Stand Alone Complex episode "Meme", Major Kusanagi is in her skirted (and rather tightly) military uniform when a situation arises. She tears it herself so she can run in it.
- Project A-ko: This happens to A-Ko's skirt by the end.
- Happens to Euphemia in Code Geass when she begins her Geass-induced massacre.
- In episode 5 of Kiddy Grade, "Day / Off", Eclair's Super Strength suddenly activates while at a fancy restaurant with a friend. She accidentally starts a fight, in which her dress is torn immediately. "Aw, and this was a new one!"
- In the first season of Slayers, Lina and co. has to disguise themselves to sneak onto a ship to where the Big Bad was waiting. Along the way, they bump into a dragon. So, she does this just before fighting. Since this was episode 17, Gourry has to do this as well.
- Azaka does this in the 6th Kara no Kyoukai movie.
- Done by Galatea in Claymore in the fight against Clarice and Miata (chapter 74).
- One Piece
- In the Alabasta Arc, Nami tears the skirt of her Dancing Girl Outfit in order to fight better against the assassin Ms. Doublefinger.
- Happens also in the 10th movie: One Piece Film Strong World.
- In the last few episodes of Pumpkin Scissors, Alice goes to a fancy ball with her fiancé, Lionel. She dresses up very nicely for the event, but when a mob shows up, intending to kill a certain philandering Lord and the other guests too, she challenges that Lord to a duel to keep the bloodshed to a minimum. He calls forth two assassins as proxies instead of fighting her himself. After fighting for a while in her fancy dress and heels, the hem of her skirt is cut/torn by her opponent, and she pauses long enough to tear it shorter and more even, so as not to trip on the ragged end.
- Pai does this in the Virtua Fighter anime.
- One of the female reporters does this in the H-anime Weather Girl.
- The flashback chapter of Keroro Gunsou that shows how Momoka and Tamama met shows Momoka doing this as she rushes to save Tamama from an alien attack dog.
- In High School of the Dead, Saeko does this to the school doctor.
- Lucy in Fairy Tail did this when she fought Juvia.
- Saya and Diva of Blood Plus rip their dresses during their final confrontation.
- Likewise, Saya in Blood C does this to give herself a makeshift Eyepatch of Power.
- Uncanny X-Men #98: Jean Grey is in an elaborate ankle-length evening dress, not designed for running from Sentinels as they are doing. When Jean tries and fails to tear the dress, Logan volunteers and rips a substantial chunk off, leaving Jean to do battle in a ragged micro-miniskirt.
Jean: Hey! Not so blasted short!
- Another X-Men story subverted this: When the Fury starts to attack the X-Men, Logan points out that Storm's dress isn't really suitable for fighting in, and makes the appropriate adjustments with his claws with just as much glee as before. Storm looked rather annoyed, and then switched off the holographic image inducer she was wearing, revealing that she was actually wearing trousers, which are now shorts.
- Black Canary did this in the first Birds of Prey comic, a one-shot.
- As shown in this strip of the French comic Game Over (a spin-off of Kid Paddle), it is best to warn beforehand your female companion when you're about to do this to her dress.
- Kate Bishop made her debut in Young Avengers by tearing a slit in her bridesmaid's dress when some goons stick up her sister's wedding, and helping the Young Avengers take them down.
- In Superman, Lois Lane did it with a wedding dress while shooting up a church at her undercover wedding to a drug lord. And then storms into the Daily Planet like that to re-accept Clark's marriage proposal. No-one at the Planet really notices, because Lois has a certain reputation for pulling this kind of crazy shit twice a month, and Metropolis is wild and crazy like that. Hell, their high schools' PE classes probably teach the art of the action dress rip regularly, in case Superman and an army of Nazi mecha-ninjas suddenly fall through the ceiling during your black-tie prom and you find yourself in need of throwing around some kung fu. It's just basic common sense.
- Lady S once has to climb on the roof, and she wears an impractical dress. So she could have used this trope. But she subverts it by removing the dress instead, proving she's a Shameless Fanservice Girl.
- Being Genre Savvy, Modesty Blaise has invested in a skirt with Velcro instead of stitches on one side so it can be removed quickly. If she happens to be wearing something else when the mooks of the day surround her and ask her to step into their car, she'll do an Action Dress Rip and (sometimes) complain that she just bought it later. Modesty Blaise ditches both her skirt and her high heels before the fight in several episodes. She could have named this trope... except that, as noted, she typically removes the skirt entirely rather than just rip it open.
- A variation/aversion/deconstruction: In the notorious Ranma One Half Fanfic Girl Days, the characters find a store which specializes in Fighting Skirts: skirts which, thanks to conveniently placed fabric fasteners and snaps, can open on the sides and give the wearer more freedom of movement without having to rip the clothing. The discovery leads to the following exchange:
Ranma: What the heck gave anyone an idea like that?
- In the Mobile Suit Gundam Wing doujin OZ, the cast enters a virtual reality game which, due to a programming bug, is putting every newcomer in Relena's body briefly before giving them a new role. When Wu Fei shows up, he rips Relena's school uniform skirt for mobility. Heero chews him out, saying that Relena wouldn't do that even in a fantasy world and that he won't allow it. This strong reaction is what clues Wu Fei into Heero's feelings for Relena.
Films — Animation
- The Princesses in Shrek the Third.
- Mérida of Brave does this so she can shoot during the archery contest. Not the skirt, but the back, shoulders and sleeves... pretty much by flexing, quite realistically.
Films — Live-Action
- Indiana Jones ripped off part of Marion's dress in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
- A variation occurs in Licence to Kill, where Pam's evening gown zips off at the knee.
- The same variation occurs in the first Charlies Angels film, where Dylan strips off the bottom half of her ballgown to reveal more action-friendly leather pants.
- Occurs in Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow before Polly starts running away from the robots attacking New York City. She carefully rips the side hems of her longish, straight skirt—but leaves on the heels.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: After switching places during time travel, April O' Neil wears Kenshin's samurai outfit in feudal Japan. Later, after escaping from the dungeon with the Turtles, we see her ripping part of the samurai clothing off by the lake while Leo and Donatello are looking.
- Hel in Bitch Slap.
- A male version in The Hunted, in which a 20th-century samurai rips off his own shirt sleeves half-way through a fight with a band of ninjas, in order to give himself proper freedom of movement.
- In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie, Buffy rips off the bottom 2/3 of her prom dress, when she has to fight off the vampires that attacked the senior prom.
- Occurs in the 2006 remake of Night of the Living Dead as Barb attempts to flee from a horde of zombies. She doesn't ditch the high heels, though.
- Morgan (Geena Davis) in Cutthroat Island.
- Helena in Mirror Mask.
- Played with in the Russian miniseries Catherine's Musketeers, where the dresses of the protagonist Action Girls are specially designed to be easily convertible.
- In Snow White and the Huntsman, the Huntsman does this to Snow White's dress when they're trekking through the forest.
- Heralds of Valdemar
- There's a scene in By the Sword by Mercedes Lackey where Kero tells her brother's betrothed (whom she had just rescued from a wizard and a large creature she was going to be fed to) to slit her skirts so she need not ride sidesaddle. The latter was horrified about the prospect of being so "unwomanly" until Kero made an observation:
"That leech-thing might not be dead, you know."
- Got lampshaded in a different book. Talia, whose job is, among other things, to guard the Queen at formal functions, has a formal dress made specifically so she doesn't have to do this.
- In Andre Norton's Ice Crown, the kidnapped Princess Ludorica borrows the heroine's knife, and calmly and pragmatically slash-tailors her long nightgown into a serviceable coverall (she not only slits it, she cuts strips to bind the fabric to her legs) so she can move more easily while they escape from the Mooks guarding her.
- In Phillip Reeve's Larklight, Ulla doesn't stop at ripping off the hem—she rips the entire skirt off. However, the book being a Steampunk fantasy, she's still wearing knee-length underwear.
- Used as a Noodle Incident in The Immortals Quartet by Tamora Pierce, referencing a fight where Queen Thayet rips and ruins a gem-encrusted dress in a fight.
- Creel of Dragon Slippers is forced to rip her heavily embroidered dress (a showcase of her talent in order to get a sponsor) in order to ride dragon back, and thus save the kingdom. she is able to save most of it, though, by simply slitting the sides.
- However, in Dragon Spear, Creel is forced to utterly destroy her wedding dress in order to save Veilkca's eggs from falling into the sea this time it doesn't get better.
- In Breaking Dawn, newborn vampire Bella goes out for her first hunt in a tight evening dress that Alice put her in. As she gets ready to jump the river, the dress rips. Bella then rips both sides in order to get the mobility needed to run, much to Alice's chagrin. Prior to this moment, she had ditched the high heels.
- In Mistborn, Vin rips away the entire dress when in a hurry. Later she gets a dress designed for Mistborn who wish to avoid doing this and loves it.
- Akroma does this in the Magic the Gathering novel Legions.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer
- Buffy does this in "Hell's Bells" when she fights the demonized Stewart Burns when he attacks Anya.
- And in "Flooded" during a fight in the bank, when she has dressed up to get a loan.
- On Burn Notice, Michael's ingenious plan for escape involves ripping Fi's very nice and expensive dress, much to her dismay.
- In the Chuck episode "Chuck Versus the Ring", Sarah Walker does this to her bridesmaid dress as she prepares to take on Fulcrum agents.
- Xena: Warrior Princess
- In an episode which has Xena and Gabrielle reincarnated in the modern day, the reincarnated Xena does this, signaling the moment that she's stepping into her previous incarnation's shoes and is about to kick serious ass.
- She also did this in Season 1 episode "Chariots of War".
- She does this any time she has to dress nice, like the time she and her princess lookalike have to Freaky Friday Flip because princess lookalike is being hunted by assassins.
- Miu from Kamen Rider Fourze does this to her own prom dress as she and Shun race off to help out the other members of the Kamen Rider Club.
- Xev does in the pilot episode of Lexx.
- Supergirl — (see photo) Sara and Alex do this when the Earth-X Nazis attack during a wedding.
- In Castle Falkenstein, the heroine does this to a Worth of Paris gown when attacked at a ball (and it is mentioned as a standard tactic for female characters who are attacked at formal affairs).
- World of Darkness Armory mentions this as a required tactic for any female characters who feel like using an inner thigh weapon sheath/holster.
- Naomi in Metal Gear Solid 4 Guns of the Patriots. In order to run from incoming Gekko, she rips her stockings and gets rid of her shoes in other to move faster. Other than being somewhat sexier (she wasn't wearing a bra, in the first place, and left her lab coat unbuttoned. Plus if you got a stocking foot fetish well...), it doesn't have anything to do with the plot.
- This happened in Tomb Raider: Legend when Lara Croft visited Japan in a very fetching Little Black Dress. The Yakuza showed up, and Lara dove for cover behind the bar and strategically ripped her skirt before coming up with guns in both fists to return the favor.
- Unfortunately averted in the "Dreamcatcher" module for Neverwinter Nights, in which your Love Interest (be she Anera or Teira) will trot ahead back to your bedroom to change before going into action.
- Joanna Dark in Perfect Dark, when a reception at the Carrington Institute has some unwelcome visitors.
- Officer Hipbone in Girly doesn't destroy her dress, but when a below-the-knee hem rises way above the knee, she thanks the attacker and does a ludicrously high kick to destroy him.
- Done by Irene Adler in Mayonaka Densha when the lights go out in the museum, while chasing a criminal. Subverted by Jessica Queen who manages to kick some ass and keep her dress intact.
- Averted in Sluggy Freelance when Torg and Gwynn, out on a pseudo-date, have to run when the cops show up. Gwynn responds, "Like I'm going to run in this dress." She then proceeds to slowly shuffle away.
- Fey Winds, Kit ditches her fancy dress when the fighting begins. Inexplicably, Nigel also strips.
Sid: Why did Nigel take off all of his clothes, too?
- In RPG World, Cherry wears a pimped out dress to a ballroom dance. But when the bad guys attack, she rips the thing down to a miniskirt and breaks out the crossbow.
- Played with in Exiern when Tiffany's ball gown resists her best efforts.
Tiffany: (rucking up her skirt) What is this thing made of?
- Kim Possible
- "Trading Faces": Kim is in a gown in which she can barely walk, much less catch up with the escaping Camille Leon. However, one appropriate tear later, she's free to move about.
Fashion Designer: I love It!
- This also ends up happening in So the Drama, after her dress gets singed.
Kim: Do you know how much babysitting I had to do to pay for this dress?
- In the Justice League episode "Maid of Honor", Diana alias Wonder Woman rips off the hem of her dress in order to rescue the captured Princess Audrey of Kasnia.
- Charlotte Pickles does this at one point in Rugrats Go Wild.
- In the first and only canonical episode of the third season of Gargoyles, Elisa is dressing up for Goliath when the Quarrymen jumps in and ruins their date, forcing them to flee across rooftops. When Goliath takes a wing injury, Elisa tears part of the hem of her dress to use as a bandage, making the skirt of the dress visibly shorter. She also kicks off her high heels, since from this point on their escape isn't going to involve gliding.
- Samurai Jack Episode XXIX "The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful": Josephine tears off the hem of her Gorgeous Period Dress to not only better attack Jack, but also to access the two six shooters she had holstered to her bloomers.
- Done in Totally Spies to sari. They even ditched the shoulder sashes, causing them to bare their midriffs.
- Chun-Li did this once in the Western adaptation of Street Fighter. Extra fanservice involved because the ensuing fight scene had quite a few panty shots.
- In Re Boot, Dot did this after tripping in Morticia Addams's dress. Then used the torn-off cloth (showing her fishnet-stocking clad legs) to tie her hair back.
- Adventure Time: The Gender Flip episode "Adventure Time with Fionna and Cake" features Action Girl Fionna attending the ball in a Pimped-Out Dress, only to need to rescue Prince Gumball. Fortunately Ice Queen's attack tears the hem of her dress so that she can jump to the retractable sword in her purse.