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Clothesline Stealing

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Arnold Layne... had a strange hobby
Collecting clothes
Moonshine, washing line
They suit him fine.
Pink Floyd, "Arnold Layne"

Typically a Comedy trope where a character in need of new clothes takes spare garments from the next best clothesline. Bonus point if the scene involves a close-up on a piece of clothing slowly moving across the screen as the clothesline is being pulled from one end. Often the stolen clothes are the wrong size, intended for a person of the other gender, or both.

May be becoming a Forgotten Trope due to the increasing ubiquity of tumble dryers.

Sister trope to Mugged for Disguise and Stripping the Scarecrow. Compare Gone Swimming, Clothes Stolen, which can be either an alternative place to steal clothes when there are no washing lines around, or the reason why they need clothes to begin with. May involve Naked People Trapped Outside.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • In Cavewoman: Shorts, Meriem finds herself naked yet again, and 'borrow's a pair of Daisy Dukes and a slightly too small shirt from a clothesline on the outskirts of Marshville.
  • In issue nine of Immortal Hulk, Bruce tries to steal a shirt off a trailer park clothesline, only to get shot in the gut. Unfortunately for the shooter, this happens just before nightfall, which releases the Hulk - who proceeds to smash everything he owns except for the shirt. And then Agent Burbank comes along later and shoots him.

    Fan Works 
  • In Bahkeeta, a naked Harry snags jeans and a shirt from a clothesline after Snape helps him escape Voldemort's captivity.
  • Happens in Discworld fic Slipping Between Worlds. Two uniformed British soldiers who abruptly find themselves in the alien setting of Ankh-Morpork, pursued by the City Watch and Guild of Assassins, reason this is the best way to blend into their surroundings and remain undetected.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Minions, after landing in New York City, the minions scavenge clotheslines for outfits to replace their parkas and have a "Eureka!" Moment when they find denim suspenders, their Iconic Outfit in the chronologically later earlier movies.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Full Monty, two of the male strippers steal sheets from a clothesline when fleeing police who have busted their rehearsal.
  • In The Hollywood Knights, some guys are being hazed and have to get to a radio station in town while naked. They pull some sheets down from a clothesline, and unfortunately end up looking like the KKK outside a black family's house.
  • The hero of I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang has just escaped prison and comes across a farm where clothes are hanging out to dry. He "harvests" the clothesline and runs away with his new garments that turn out to fit perfectly.
  • In Man of Steel, Clark steals some clothes off a clothesline in a remote fishing village when he emerges from the ocean following the oil rig explosion.
  • In Scary Movie 4, when Cindy and Brenda arrive at the Amish village, they decide to steal clothes from a hamper to better blend in with the villagers.
  • Sucker Punch: A deleted scene shows that after Sweat Pea escaped from the asylum, she stole a dress from a clothesline to replace her Institutional Apparel.
  • A variation in The Terminator. Having been Naked on Arrival, Reese is caught in the searchlight of a police car stealing pants from a homeless vagrant. He flees into a department store where he also steals shoes and a coat while dodging the police officers searching for him. Then he lifts a shotgun from one of their squad cars after slipping outside.
  • In the first X-Men, after being mutated by Magneto and using his new power of semi-amorphism to escape, Senator Kelly lands naked on a public beach and grabs a swimmer's change of clothes.

  • Mercy Thompson had to do this in "Silence Fallen." After escaping Bonarata's captivity in Europe, Mercy in coyote form sneaks onto a bus and steals some clothing from some tourist's luggage. She had no choice since she needed to shift to her coyote shape and therefore abandon her clothes to escape. She would leave notes in the said luggage with her phone number on it so she would compensate for the stolen clothing.
  • The Time Traveler's Wife: Henry has involuntary time-travelling episodes and is Naked on Arrival. The first thing he has to do during a trip is find clothes, and stealing from a clothesline is one of his go-to methods.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Charmed (1998): In "The Good, The Bad, And The Cursed", Cole and Prue end up in the Wild West and steal outfits from a clothesline to blend in. Prue gets harassed for wearing men's clothing.
  • Doctor Who likes a very specific variant involving the Doctor, usually shortly after regenerating, stealing new clothes from hospitals:
    • The Third Doctor chooses his distinctive ensemble, cape and all, from a hospital changing room (after we watch him take a shower).
    • Eight also gets his duds from a hospital locker room, though the outfits in question were actually intended for a costume party — the employee in question was going as Wild Bill Hickok.
    • "The Eleventh Hour": After he gets tired of being called "the raggedy Doctor", due to wearing the remains of Ten's outfit, the Eleventh Doctor steals clothes from a hospital changing room, including a vast selection of ties, to create an ensemble he likes. Amy calls him out on this, and he calls the theft fair in exchange for saving the Earth.
  • In The Dukes of Hazzard episode "The Ghost of the General Lee", the Duke boys are skinny dipping when their famous car gets stolen. With their clothes inside. Fortunately, there's a home nearby with laundry hanging out to dry.
  • Hustle: In "The Henderson Challenge", Mickey and Danny are dumped naked in the centre of London. While Danny bolts for a taxi, Mickey ducks into a workman's tent and emerges wearing a set of coveralls that—unusually for this trope—are a little bit short on him.
  • Occasionally on The Incredible Hulk (1977), David will find a clothesline with a shirt hanging in order to reclothe himself. Since he's an honest person, when he can he leaves a few dollars in its place so he's not stealing the shirt in question.
  • Happens in Luke Cage (2016). After escaping the experiments that gave him his powers at Seagate prison, Luke Cage steals a change of clothes off a clothesline, which just happens to (combined with the restraints from the procedure he's still wearing) exactly replicate his original comic book costume.
  • MacGyver (1985): In "The Gauntlet", Mac makes a pea shooter out of the map so he can steal clothes from a clothesline.
  • Mako Mermaids: An H₂O Adventure: Nixie, Lyla, and Sirena are Naked on Arrival when they turn themselves into humans. They jump back in the water and snatch clothes that hang from clothelines on the boats in the marina. In a later episode, Rita tells them to stop doing that because she can just buy them clothes.
  • Psychopath Diary: After escaping from prison, Dong-sik has to get rid of his prison uniform, so he steals clothes from the nearest clothesline.
  • Siren (2018): While Ryn doesn't mind walking around naked, she does mind the weird looks she gets for doing so, which is why she makes a beeline for the nearest clothesline upon walking onto land.
  • In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The City on the Edge of Forever", Kirk and Spock take clothes to blend in in 1930s America. They get noticed by a police officer.
  • In Star Trek: Enterprise episode "Carbon Creek", three Vulcans who crash-landed on Earth in 1957 have to blend in by stealing from clotheslines. The female crewmember accidentally puts a dress on backwards.
  • In The Umbrella Academy episode "The Frankel Footage", Diego and Lila pilfer street clothes from a clothesline in order to get out of their asylum whites.
  • The crew of The Orville find a planet that swaps between their own universe and a parallel dimension that they later figure out the other dimension runs on Narnia Time (the planet spends 750 years in it's "home" universe which only takes 11 days to pass in The Orville's, then pops in to visit for a few hours each cycle where the time syncs up). On their first visit they just attend in their uniforms as the culture is roughly bronze age and they tried and failed to stay hidden, but the second time they take clothes from a clothesline to try and blend in better with the now more Renaissance era equivalent locals.

  • Russian band Otava Yo set their folk-rock songs to video in various aspects of an idealized rural Russia. An incidental detail in the video for "Sumetskaya", set in a peasant village in the country, involves Yulia Usova being distracted from hanging out her washing, enabling a furtive-looking Dimitri Shekhardin to sneak in and steals what looks like women's clothing items from the line, stuffing them inside his jacket and sneaking off.
  • Pink Floyd's early song "Arnold Layne" is all about a man with a humorous habit of stealing clothes from washing lines. Not just any old clothes. The... uh... frillier and more delicate sort.

    Video Games 
  • Not actually done, but mentioned when speaking with one of Corporal Vale's "irregulars" in Dragon Age: Inquisition. The soldier in question talks about how the refugees are freezing for lack of warm garments and blankets, and laments that they're so far from a city because otherwise he could just steal some from people's clotheslines.
  • Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga: After being informed that the princess is in danger, Mario - who had just gotten out of the shower and was only wearing a towel - runs outside and jumps into the clothesline Luigi was hanging their clothes on, coming out fully dressed and with Luigi tied to his leg.
  • Near the beginning of Star Ocean, Roddick is tasked with bringing clothes for Ilia so she can blend into Roakian civilization. One option is to steal them from an elderly woman's clothesline, but that is not recommended unless you want Ilia's affection towards Roddick to drop.
  • Hidden & Dangerous: An objective in the sixth mission of the first game. Not that it accomplishes much, because Fascists Bedtime is in effect and the patrolling enemies will shoot you on sight even if you're disguised as civilians.


    Western Animation 
  • Adventures of the Gummi Bears: In "Friar Tum", Tummi dons some monk robes he found hanging on a clothesline in front of a monastery.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: In "The Headband," when the Gaang settles in the Fire Nation, they have to steal Fire Nation clothes from a clothesline to blend in. Aang doesn't realize that his chosen outfit is actually a school uniform; he's promptly picked up for truancy and sent "back" to class.
  • In The Beatles episode "What You're Doing," Ringo is being subjected to a shotgun wedding to a gypsy queen. John, Paul and George steal a dress from a clothesline and uses it to have George pose as Ringo's "fiancee" and rescuing him from the wedding.
  • The Pink Panther steals items from a clothesline so he can become a superhero ("Super Pink").


Video Example(s):


Mermaids steal clothes

Nixie realizes the mermaids will run into a problem if they walk around naked. They solve the problem by cobbling together outfits from whatever they find hanging in the marina.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

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Main / ClotheslineStealing

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