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If you want to destroy my sweater
Hold this thread as I walk away
Watch me unravel, I'll soon be naked
Lying on the floor (lying on the floor)
I've come undone
, "Undone (The Sweater Song)"
It's a law of cartoon physics (occasionally crossing over into live-action) that anything made of cloth can unravel into a single thread as though it were knitted like a sweater. Obviously more realistic (if you care about that kind of thing
) when it involves an actual sweater, but even then unraveling a sweater typically isn't as easy as pulling on a random loose thread.
A variation of this trope concerns undoing a mummy's
wrapping this way, usually causing the mummy to spin. Of course, this has the same problem in that a mummy isn't covered by one single long wrapping any more than a shirt is made of one single thread.
In especially cartoonish examples, this also applies to an animal's fur or feathers
Related to Clothing Damage
and The Nudifier
. Only metaphorically related to Pull the Thread
. Occasionally combined with Giving Them the Strip
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Anime & Manga
- Happens to Chisame in Mahou Sensei Negima!, while onstage at a cosplay contest. Negi and Kotarô end up pulling the threads in her costume without realizing what it is, causing the costume to fall off and leaving Chisame in only her underwear. The crowd naturally starts cheering. It is, however, a little bit better in that her costume isn't reduced to a single string. It's that that particular string was keeping all the pieces of the costume together. But still...
- In Change 123, Hibiki leaps off a bridge onto a truck. A thread from her sweater gets caught on the bridge railing, unraveling her entire sweater. Later becomes an awkward moment when her primary persona opens her coat...
- In Girl Got Game, after Hamaya's clothes get torn, the loose threads get caught and eventually unravel entirely, leaving him completely naked (though he seems baffled as to how his underwear got caught up in it too).
- Maicchingu Machiko Sensei is one of the first ecchi series where the main character always found herself disrobed. Many times, it was due to a single thread being yanked from her sweater. One gratuitous example was an episode in which no Fanservice was provided until the last thirty seconds or so of the episode... where she goes ice-skating, her student pulls a thread and slides her across the ice, revealing her breasts. (By the way, it was a kid's show.)
- Detective Conan-A series of bizarre and improbable events results in Haibara's sweater unraveling until she's down to her underwear, while trapped in a freezing cold delivery truck.
- In Kill la Kill, Nui Harime manages to easily defeat Sanageyama by severing its Banshi, a Life Fiber that has been imbued with the will to become clothing. One of the few examples of actually weaponizing this trope.
- This is a common gag in Mortadelo y Filemón.
- Generally, they'll start pulling the thread into a ball, but the thread belongs to a buff man's sweater or something. The owner of the garment will hit them (usually Filemón) for ruining his clothing.
- If the mummy wrapping variation counts, they do that sometimes, too.
- Happens to Little Audrey at the end of one short story. She walks on oblivious as her panties are on display.
- In the comic strip adaptation of The Flintstones, Betty asks how Wilma knows her dress is unraveling. Wilma replies that the man following them is a string collector, and he has accumulated a very large ball of string.
Films — Animation
- In Aladdin, Jafar magically unravels the Magic Carpet into a purple string, even though it's multiple colors with purple as the base. Literal case of A Wizard Did It. This is also an example of a Conspicuously Light Patch. When the carpet was together, it was created with a combination of traditional animation and digital mapping. Unraveled, it was only traditional animation, so it was reduced to a single solid color.
- Happens in The Man Called Flintstone when Barney Rubble tries to use Fred's tie to get down a 100-foot drop from a prison cell window. The entire tie unravels into a single thread as Barney tried to climb back up it. Watch it here, 2:15-2:30.
Films — Live-Action
- In the film MouseHunt, Lee Evans's character is stripped by a string factory. For anyone curious, see here for how it was done.
- In Laurel and Hardy's Way Out West, Stan is helping Ollie get a locket off his neck — Stan starts pulling at a loose thread and soon unravels most of Ollie's underwear.
- In The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the mummy version happens when Rocky is unwrapped.
- The 1992 comedy The Nutt House has a scene where a woman has her dress unraveled in this manner.
- The kids of The Monster Squad dispose of The Mummy using this method.
- In The Dark Knight, the Joker sticks a grenade into a prone bank employee's mouth. The guy can only watch helplessly as Joker strolls away to his getaway vehicle, trailing an unravelling thread from his jacket, which pulls the grenade pin once it gets slammed in the door. It was just a smoke grenade. The guy is not amused.
- The Homer Price story "Mystery Yarn" has a woman mysteriously beat two men to become World's Champion String Saver, even though her ball of string was smaller. The story doesn't explain, but astute readers will notice that when she starts unrolling it, she's wearing a "robin's egg-blue dress with the pink trim at the bottom", which is later described as a "robin's-egg-blue blouse with the pink skirt" and finally a "dress with the robin's-egg-blue trim at the neck".
- In Shirley Jackson's very slightly autobiographical book Raising Demons, on a family trip to New York, 6-year-old Sally ties the loose thread of her knitted hat to a seat in the train before getting off: "I'd like to see that train get away," she says. Things don't get really challenging until the hotel turns out to have a revolving door.
- In the Mahabharata, Yuddhisthra has lost everything in a dice game against his brother-in-law Duryodhana. Including his (and his brothers') wife Draupadi. Duryodhana and Karna want to "put Draupadi in her place" for scorning them, so they try to rape her in front of their court (and her now-defeated husbands). She prays to Krishna for help, and since she had once bandaged a wound on his finger using a piece of her sari, he returns the favor: as Dushasana pulls on her sari, it's extended until the Kauravas just give up and stop.
- The Wizards of Waverly Place episode "Wizards vs. Werewolves" includes the mummy variation.
- It happens to Turbo's poncho in Lift Off. Unlike other examples, however, they are able to get Ricardo to repair it before too much damage is done.
- In an episode of Bewitched, Samantha Stephens used this trope to get revenge on a Rich Bitch (part of the same episode described on the It's a Costume Party, I Swear page, incidentally).
- One recurring sketch by Armstrong and Miller involves an accident-prone presenter who continually ends up destroying priceless historical artifacts. Guess what happens in the one where there's a centuries-old tapestry.
- In a Childrens Hospital episode, a nurse has her uniform scrubs stripped off in this manner.
- In the Doctor Who story "The Space Museum," the titular museum is labyrinthine enough that Ian unwinds Barbara's cardigan in order to use the wool à la Theseus. To be fair, he is shown to have some trouble starting the sweater's disassembly, and Barbara has to take it from him and pick open a starting point; but after that it's just treated as a ball of yarn with a long single thread (which, as usual with string in a labyrinth, runs out too soon).
- At the beginning of the Doctor's fourth regeneration, the Fifth Doctor completely unravels his previous incarnation's scarf while wandering about the TARDIS hallways searching for the Zero room, presumably so he could find his way back to the console room.
- In a (possibly ad-libbed) bit from the opening of one episode of The Sonny And Cher Show, Cher finds a stray thread on her dress and quips that it's held together by three threads, so stay tuned to see whether she finds the two others!
- Happens in The Lucy Show when a thread from Lucy's dress gets snagged as she exits an elevator.
- This is the standard method of defeating a mummy in Toon. What you find once the bandages are completely unravelled is up to the Animator, but, as always in Toon, Rule of Funny applies.
- In Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day, Piglet is being carried away by the wind. Pooh grabs Piglet's scarf, but it unravels to a single string, and Piglet holds on to it as he soars like a kite.
- One Looney Tunes short has Sylvester hiding from Granny in her knitting basket as she is knitting. His fur gets caught in the yarn and it starts unraveling, so he knits it back in and ends up an argyle lower half.
- On more than one occasion, Scooby-Doo and friends would grab a trailing strip of mummy wrapping and give a tug, unravelling the mummy like a top.
- This happened to Popeye's swimsuit in one of the Al Brodax shorts.
- In one episode of Ed, Edd n Eddy, Eddy pulls a thread of Jimmy's shirt, unraveling the shirt and removing his outline.
- Happened to June's sweater once in KaBlam!
- In an episode of Potatoes and Dragons, a yeti is defeated in this way. His fur is unraveled until most of it is gone.
- In The Perils of Penelope Pitstop episode "Carnival Calamity", Penelope slowed her descent by clutching a thread on the Hooded Claw's pants, revealing his Goofy Print Underwear.
- Used in The Simpsons parody of Face/Off, where two characters' faces are sewn onto each other's heads. A loose stitch is mistaken for a loose collar thread and unraveled from one side of the neck to the other, causing the face to flop forward horrifically. And then the same thing happens to the other character.
- Dexter's Mom inflicts this to an alien overlord in an episode of Dexter's Laboratory, scoring a Defeat by Modesty.
- Happens in two Woody Woodpecker shorts:
- In Buccaneer Woodpecker, when he confronts Buzz Buzzard (who appears here as a pirate), Woody notices a loose thread on his coat and starts pulling on it, unravelling the coat and the hat (but oddly, leaving the buttons and everything else in place).
- In Wrestling Wrecks, Woody pulls a thread from a wrestler's shorts into the piece an old lady is knitting next to him. In the next shot, when she finishes knitting the shorts back together, she gets scared and embarrassed at the same time, as the guy recovers his shorts and wears them again offscreen.
- Happens at least once to Kick Buttowski.
- Taz-Mania: In "Here Kitty, Kitty, Kitty", Kitty unravels a comforter of the bed and Taz has to knit it back together.
- Gargamel's robe gets unraveled in this fashion at least twice in The Smurfs, not to mention Sassette's overalls and Brainy's bandage wrapping.
- The mummy variant happens in The Mr. Men Show episode "Science".
- In the Phineas and Ferb episode "Runaway Runway", at one point Ferb's entire outfit is accidentally unraveled.
- Happens to Billy in The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy episode "Dumb Luck", when some kids at school pull a loose clothing string on the back of his shirt, revealing his disgusting body. Trust us, it is not something you want to see.
- This was the basis for a now defunct dance that used to be performed in Tahiti, at least as far back as the 18th century and until a few decades ago. The female performer was wrapped in a long piece of tapa cloth and would then slowly sway and spin, slowly "unwrapping" herself, accompanied by drumming, slow at first, then faster and faster and going crescendo as the final reveal approached. The dancer was nude underneath in the old traditional form or topless in more recent performances.
- This is possible to do with the elastic waistbands of underwear. It's also really annoying.