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Skirts and Ladders

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Theti-Cheri: By Isis! What a horrible sight!
Papyrus: Not from where I'm standing!

They don't mix.

As You Know, the Magic Skirt is a trope in place to preserve the modesty of women before the audience. The trope can't be counted on to be in effect in-universe with regards to the other characters. Some skirted female characters are aware of this, and thus this trope.

Basically, any situation where a savvy, skirted woman refuses to climb, scale, ascend, mount, or escalate a ladder or ladder-like device while men are nearby for fear of subverting Magic Skirt, and letting said men catch a glimpse of her panties (assuming she's even wearing any, that is).

She's not always successful. But if she's lucky, not all men in-story are perverts. If it's the cameraman who does this, then it's an example of Male Gaze. Of course, this is often a Real Life concern for women, and part of the rationale behind Modesty Shorts and Proper Tights with a Skirt. See "No Peeking!" Request when they ask the character below them not to look.

The trope's name is a reference to the popular Board Game Snakes And Ladders (sometimes called Chutes and Ladders).


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Matsuri of Ayakashi Triangle, having only recently been living as a girl, often forgets how a skirt can end up showing off his underwear. This comes to a head while Sky Surfing above Soga, where his own gust of wind provides a view that sends Soga running.
    Matsuri: What just happened!?
    Shirogane: It's because you showed him your panties. (How shameless!)
    Matsuri: Huh?
  • In Bastard!! (the anime), when Dark Schneider goes off to rescue Tia from a ninja along with the royal army AND the Royal Princess, they run into a problem like this during the assault on the tower. Since the ground-floor is a battleground, DS has to go up last to protect the ladder, but the princess refuses to go up first since she's wearing a rather short skirt. (She originally wore it under a rather fancy set of armor, but DS had her take it off once it became clear that it was completely useless and very encumbering.) DS rolls his eyes, throws her over his shoulder, and climbs up the ladder with her hanging there. Thus, instead of him potentially looking up her skirt, she winds up having her boobs bouncing off his back and her hips grinding against his face all the way up. Judging from her expression, she'd probably have preferred it the other way around.
  • In Bizenghast, heroine Dinah ends up climbing a ladder ahead of her best friend and possible love interest Vincent. While wearing a very short skirt. Vincent is told, "Don't you dare look up," and complies, but turns bright red.
  • The first time we met Kamome in Cyber Team in Akihabara, she is going first up stairs in a very short skirt providing a Panty Shot; when some boys enjoying the view remark her this, her first action is to demand money from them in exchange for the fanservice, so she doesn't denounce them as perverts.
  • Invoked in Daily Lives of High School Boys, as the boys call for Ringo to "fix their internet connection" (which happens to be a router bolted to the ceiling, requiring a stepladder to reach). While Ringo's up there, they all take the opportunity to peek, but Ringo remains oblivious. Afterward, the boys remark that doing so actually made them feel more guilty than happy.
  • An early episode of Digimon Frontier had Zoe suspect this trope was in effect once she was offered "Ladies First" up a ladder.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • In Dragon Ball Filler, Bulma wants to watch the Preliminaries matches of World Martial Arts Tournament and has Oolong give her a boost. Oolong is at first annoyed, until he suddenly realizes this is a golden opportunity to perv since she's wearing a mini-skirt. But he is soon caught by Bulma, who stomps his face. However, this causes Bulma to lose balance and fall over, exposing herself to a crowd of nearby men.
    • A similar moment happens in Dragon Ball: The Path to Power when Oolong falls out of his house wagon. While laying on the ground he looks up, excited as Bulma is stepping over him. However, Bulma doesn't notice as she steps on him.
  • In E's Otherwise, Yuuki, Kai and Asuka are being pursued by a killer cyborg. Escaping into the sewer, Yuuki leads them up a ladder while carrying Asuka on his back. Asuka (who's wearing a short skirt) requests that Kai go up first. Not understanding, Yuuki heads up the ladder anyway, giving Kai a perfect view (he blushes tomato-red). She cries afterwards, since Kai is basically her Love Interest (and Yuuki still never got it).
  • Inverted for humor (and arguably the only genuine fanservice in the entire series) in the last episode of Ghost Stories. Desperate to save Satsuki, Momoko has Hajime and Leo boost her into a high window in the old school building. It's only after the two boys (and the camera) look up and get an eyeful that this possibility occurs to any of them. Momoko doesn't catch on and the two boys are too embarrassed to mention it.
  • A variation happens the third special of Girls und Panzer, when Anglerfish Team climbs a steep flight of stairs in the school ship (unbeknownst to them, they're going up the "down" stairs). Saori desperately tries to prevent Mako from seeing what's up her skirt, but the other four girls are not nearly as concerned about this trope.
  • Komari has this worry while climbing a ladder around Riki in an episode of the Little Busters! anime.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: Misato and Kaji are trapped in an elevator during a power blackout at NERV. Trying to open the ceiling trapdoor, she ends up kneeling on Kaji's shoulders, warning him not to look up her skirt. Kaji clearly wants to just get out of there and has no intention of doing so, especially when Misato says she urgently has to go to the bathroom.
  • In One Piece, this is one of the reasons why Robin firmly refused to "dock" with Franky, Usopp, Chopper, Zoro and Sanji as apart from it being too embarrassing, it would require Franky to dangle her upside down while she's wearing a skirt. When Sanji the Handsome Lech realizes this, Robin shoots him a scary Death Glare as if reading his mind.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!:
    • A variation happens in the first chapter of the manga, where Anzu quits a class basketball game in disgust after noticing how the boys would only pass the ball to the girls when they were in a spot where they would have to make a jump shot...
    • In a scene cut by 4Kids, during the Duelist Kingdom arc, Tea/Anzu and the cheerleading squad (lead by Tristan/Honda) were scaling a secret tower via rope. Honda suggests that Anzu go first so that if she falls they can catch her. She refuses initially, blushing and indicating her skirt. Honda doesn't understand, so Bakura explains the problem. She ultimately allows it so long as they both wear blindfolds (which eliminates the original purpose of catching her if she falls). And then the way they climb makes it a moot point, as even if the guys weren't blindfolded, they were walking up the side of the tower in a manner that prevents them from looking up her skirt anyways, except maybe when she went in the window.

    Comic Books 
  • Gunther, the criminal fencer that Meleka Fray works for, is a mer-man that lives in a water tank whose roof is the glass floor of the room where Fray goes to meet him, so Gunther expresses disappointment that Fray never turns up in a skirt. This becomes a Brick Joke when Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Gunther.
    Buffy: How long has he been down there?
    Gunther: Orange polka dots.
    Buffy: Ack! Mer-sleaze.
  • There's a scene from The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen where Mina climbs up something before Alan, and he's clearly taking a look up her dress. Mina is none too pleased. Half the comedy comes from the fact that Mina is wearing ridiculously modest Victorian bloomers under her dress anyway... this is the 19th century's idea of Fanservice!

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The 51st State reverses it, with Emily Mortimer looking up Samuel L. Jackson's kilt.
  • In Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, Vanessa climbs a ladder in an extremely short skirt. Austin watches appreciatively for a few seconds before remembering he has to go beat the Bad Guys and save the world.
  • The Mel Gibson/Goldie Hawn movie Bird on a Wire features this in the trailers for the movie. Hawn's character doesn't invoke this, though, until they're halfway up a fire escape and the wind is lifting her skirt.
  • David Fincher's The Game. When climbing out of an elevator, Christine wants Nicolas to go first. Nicolas complains that it'll be that much harder to pull Christine up than for her to go first. Christine says that she's not wearing any underwear. A few minutes later, when they are chased by dogs in the alley, Christine doesn't hesitate. Nicolas calls her on it.
  • Dry Summer: In one scene, Osman the sleazebag tells his sister-in-law Bahar to climb a ladder and check on the dam for the express purpose of getting a look up her skirt at her bloomers. The second time he gets a look up her skirt as she's up in a tree gathering fruit; she dumps all the fruit on him.
  • Lizzie Borden's Revenge: When Mallory climbs up on a box in an attempt to get a signal on her cellphone, Bobby takes the opportunity to film some upskirt shots under her nightie for his website.
  • Parodied in The Naked Gun: Jane climbs up a ladder until only her legs can be seen.
    Frank Drebin: [looking up] Nice beaver!
    Jane: Thank you, I just had it stuffed. [she hands down to him a taxidermied beaver]
  • Spaceballs has the droid Dot Matrix climbing a ladder between spaceships, followed closely by Barf. She tells him to "stop looking up my can!"

  • In the first Adrian Mole book, Adrian helps his neighbor, Mrs. O'Leary, to put up street decorations for the wedding of Prince Charles and Diana. When she climbs a ladder, he can't help noticing her knickers, which he finds surprisingly sexy for someone who goes to church every day and twice on Sundays. ("Black lace! With red-satin ribbons!")
  • Anita Blake is climbing down into a sewer with a friend below her. For added fun, Anita explicitly says that if a skirt covers her buttocks, it's long enough for her, and she's wearing a thong. Oh, and she knows her friend is looking up her skirt, but is so... empowered? or something that she doesn't care.
  • There's a comment at one point in the Book of the New Sun where Severian, the hero, says that he should walk in front of a female character because he's seen the state of her undergarments.
  • A lifesaving variation in Ciaphas Cain: While on a set stairs, he pauses and lets Colonel Kasteen pass in front of him so he can admire the view. This is turn allows him to spot a flicker of movement where there shouldn't be any, so when the weaponized servo-skulls swoop in he can give the alarm, foiling the assassination attempt.
  • The shop owner's wife, Judith Toumignon, in Gabriel Chevallier's novel Clochemerle is the hottest woman in the titular town. When coming to the shop, men often request an item from one of the top shelves. Guess why?
  • Discworld: In Maskerade, Walter Plinge insists that Nanny Ogg precede him while descending a ladder, so he can't look up her dress. If any other man had mentioned it, he'd probably be due a thumping (as Nanny's in her seventies easily, and rather plump to go by official art), but he's sincere and more than a bit daft so it's clearly honest concern. As the series' Dirty Old Woman, Nanny just contemplates that this may be the first time anyone's said that to her...
  • In Christopher Paolini's Inheritance Cycle series, when Eragon and Arya are escaping from one of the cities in the Empire, Arya makes Eragon climb up a ladder before her, stating "A dress is considerably more breezy than pants."
  • In Stephen King's It, it's mentioned that as a kid, Ben Hanscom always looked up when passing under the staircases in the library because once, when he was looking up for no reason, he saw the panties of a pretty high-school girl.
  • The Takers by Jerry Ahern. Mary-Frances Mulrooney is boarding a nuclear submarine and gets a Wolf Whistle from a sailor down the hatch. An officer tells off the seaman responsible, then explains that none of the women who boarded earlier got a whistle like that.
  • In The Wheel of Time series, Elayne Trakand is lifted into a ship on a plank attached to ropes, and has difficulty with the boatman who rowed her out there staring. Aviendha (who doesn't understand wetlander customs relating to nudity) hurls a knife into a wooden post to make the boatman understand that he mustn't look...then lifts her skirts to climb over the seats and retrieve her knife before riding up. The boatman is understandably confused.
  • Ladders aren't involved, but in the Xanth series, it's a good idea for a woman not to wear a skirt when crossing the invisible bridge that stretches across the Gap Chasm, as anyone walking below could look up and see what color her panties are.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In 2 Broke Girls, Han accidentally looks up Caroline's skirt while she is standing on a ladder writing on the blackboard. He rushes off in embarrassment but not before thanking her.
  • 'Allo 'Allo!: When Helga reports that her silk underwear was stolen off the line (by Monsier LeClerc in order for the resistence to mend a tattered hot air balloon), Hans is able to identify them as the ones with the little swastikas around the waistline. When pressed by the Colonel, he reveals he knew about that specific pair when Helga was hanging up the holly for the last Christmas party.
    Helga: No wonder you were so keen to hold the ladder!
  • In Are You Being Served?, Miss Brahms refuses to go up a ladder with Captain Peacock standing at the bottom. He goes up himself. Then a door opens and he ends up wearing a new hat.
  • During an extended sketch on The Benny Hill Show taking place on a cruise ship, Benny is standing next to a ladder/stairway when a few lovely birds in short skirts go up. He gets his eyeful, then calls a buddy over so he can peek too. As the buddy arrives and sets himself up, a Man in a Kilt starts his way up the stairs, giving Benny's buddy a glimpse of what they don't wear beneath the kilt.
  • Doctor Who:
    • An Inversion: In the 2012 Christmas special, "The Snowmen", Clara and the Doctor ascend a long spiral staircase to a cloud where the Doctor has parked his TARDIS. The Doctor asks Clara to go first, but she refuses, telling the Doctor to keep his "eyes front". While the Doctor says he always keeps his eyes in front, Clara admits otherwise.
      Doctor: ...Stop that!
      Clara: No.
    • There are a couple of occasions in The '70s where the Third Doctor followed his mini-skirt-wearing companion up a ladder, and he's not exactly looking away...
    • Frazer Hines, who played the kilt-wearing Jamie under the previous incarnation, had fun with the crew trying to get this kind of shot by weighting the hems — supposedly a method favored by one of the show's more famous fans.
  • In Keeping Up Appearances, Rose climbs a ladder outside the church, while wearing a mini-skirt, to prim Hyacinth's horror.
    Rose: It needs someone with a good head for heights.
    Hyacinth: And someone with a longer skirt. Rose, I forbid you to go up that ladder wearing that skirt!
    Rose: [cheerfully] Do you want me to take it off, then?
    Hyacinth: No, of course not!! [Beat] Though I doubt if anybody would notice the difference.
  • Reign: In "Kissed", while playing ball with Prince Charles, Mary kicks the ball too hard and it gets stuck on a tree, and she climbs it to retrieve it, and Greer and Tomas walking on her, with Tomas teasing her being a noble girl who strolls in trees. She asks him to turn around so she can get down without them getting a peek under her skirts, and just as they turn, Mary ends up slipping and falling right on top of Tomas instead.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • The finals of Terri Runnels' "Terri Invitational Tournament", where the winning team got $100,000 and her managerial services, between the Hardys and Edge/Christian was a ladder match at WWF No Mercy 1999. To promote it, she did a promo where she was climbing a ladder while wearing a skirt, complete with commentator Jerry "The King" Lawler, in full pervert mode, looking up, though, uncharacteristically, nothing was actually shown. The fact that her top was almost open likely had something to do with it.

  • Referenced in an episode of The News Quiz, where Kevin Day refers to the international sexual equality league table as "the ladder of feminism", before getting sidetracked by his own metaphor. "If there was a ladder of feminism, there'd be a bloke underneath it wolf-whistling."

  • In Cactus Flower, Toni, perched on a ladder stacking records on a top shelf, displays a lot of her legs to Juliannote :
    Julian: Say, do you always stand up there like that?
    Toni: Like what?
    Julian: Well, if any customers stand where I'm standing... let's just say it's quite an angle.
    Toni: [shrugs] Oh, that. Nobody here looks. Most of our customers are classical.

    Video Games 
  • The first game in the Disaster Report series features a point where a female character asks the male protagonist to climb up a ladder before she follows. Her stated reason for asking is: "I'm not wearing... um..." The game won't allow you to proceed until you agree. Later you can view photos stored in the camera of another character she traveled with and it reveals that he took a photo of her (clothed) butt when he climbed a ladder behind her.
  • Though not a ladder, in Final Fantasy VII, if you choose to climb the stairs up the Shinra Tower, Tifa will eventually realize she's wearing a miniskirt directly above her two male companions, stop, and refuse to continue until you go ahead of her.
  • In The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel, Angelica orders the boys to first go up, then the ladies, and finally her. Crow was the only one who got it and got pissed at Angelica for getting the good stuff while the rest of the girls aren't pleased when they finally climb up the ladder. Later on in Cold Steel II, the party sometimes have to crawl through ventilation ducts to reach things.
    Alisa: Why do we have to crawl through these ducts?
    Millium: Who cares if the boys get a sneak peek of your panties?
    Alisa: I do!
  • Early in Obscure the bathroom in the Administration Building, requires Josh to boost Shannon up on his shoulder so she can open the vent and giving himself and the player a blatant view up her mini-skirt. Averted if it's Ashley being boosted since she's practical enough to wear jeans.
  • Happens before the first full moon in Persona 3 where Yukari warns the MC and Junpei. However, in Persona 3 Portable she only warns Junpei no matter what gender the MC is and after Junpei retorts to her warning Yukari suggests burying him and leaving him behind. Also odd, as she wears a skirt that, in battle, would show everything if not for the fact that her legs end in shadow past the hemline.
  • Resident Evil 2:
  • Subtly implied in Silent Hill 3. The Otherworld transition in Brookhaven Hospital involves Heather ascending a very long ladder. About 3/4 of the way up, she passes by Valtiel, projecting 90 degrees from the wall in such a way that, if he had a face, he'd be looking right up her skirt. Given the game's near-constant imagery of molestation and stalkers, this is almost certainly intentional.
  • In Star Ocean: The Last Hope, the group is on top of the tower Citadel on Lemuris, they find a long cloth leading down to the ground. Edge suggests he go first to test for strength, at which Reimi complains and calls him a pervert. She gets her wish and heads down the cloth first (this entire scene makes no sense; she doesn't wear a skirt but a panel of thigh armor over top of leather shorts).
  • Subverted in Tales of Graces, where at one point, Cheria is standing at the top of a stepladder that would provide the character you're controlling with a clear view if you were to stand underneath her. However, anytime you approach the ladder, she'll conveniently decide to crouch down to prevent this from happening (She's shown to be wearing Modesty Shorts in some cutscenes, though).
  • In TimeSplitters Future Perfect, Cortez is with the beskirted Jo-Beth for the horror-movie–themed level. Halfway through the level, they find an ominous hole in the ground with screams and roars coming from it. We then get this little gem:
    Jo-Beth: [hearing the screams] you go first.
    [Cortez pauses; the camera focuses on her skirt]
    Cortez: Okay.
  • Yakuza: Like a Dragon: While in a dungeon, the party have to cross a chasm by walking on a bundle of power cables.
    Saeko: I hope you guys didn't look up my skirt.
    Adachi: That's the only thing you were worried about?

    Visual Novels 

    Web Animation 
  • In RWBY episode "No Safe Haven", Ren and Nora are pinned against a wall by the Nuckelavee. Nora is pinned higher up than Ren, so he unintentionally gets a look up her combat skirt.
    Nora: Stop looking! [covers herself, looks away, but then smirks]
    Ren: Gah! [hurriedly looks away, covering his eyes]


    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • Averted by the U.S. Navy, and maybe others. Sailors respect a lady's modesty (and perhaps the occasional Scotsman) by facing away. To hear some people tell it — not as much as you'd hope.
  • The Savannah College of Art and Design had, very briefly a clear glass staircase. This was quickly replaced by a frosted glass staircase for this reason.
  • An Invoked Trope in certain strip clubs which have glass floors on an upper level for the dancers.
  • While filming Alfred Hitchcock's Lifeboat, Tallulah Bankhead always got a round of applause from the crew when she climbed out of the titular lifeboat at the end of a shoot. Not for her performance — but because she was Going Commando. Some did complain to Hitchcock, and he said "I don't know whether that's a concern for wardrobe or hairdressing" (some nude photos of her survive, showing she was very far from the modern depilatory fashion in that regard).

Alternative Title(s): Skirts Ladders