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For example referring to an extremely cautious woman as a belt-and-suspenders kind of woman. Is it correct English (Am. English)?

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It suggests something quite different to me. – Barrie England Oct 13 '12 at 15:43
@BarrieEngland Yes, it manages to appeal to fetishists on both sides of the Atlantic. – StoneyB Oct 13 '12 at 15:47
'Cautious' is not the first image that springs to mind, so maybe the metaphor isn't really working. – Roaring Fish Oct 13 '12 at 16:02
up vote 5 down vote accepted

I believe that suspenders when worn by men are what are called braces in British English. Hence we have the expression belt and braces, applied to a course of action in which the participants wish to be doubly sure. Maybe this is what you have heard. It is not necesssarily applied to either a man or a woman.

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That's very helpful. Thanks! – mis-n-salem Oct 13 '12 at 18:08
In AE usage, however, a belt-and-suspenders kind of guy would be immediately understood and entirely idiomatic. – StoneyB Oct 13 '12 at 18:49
Barrie, while that is some nifty knowledge, this doesn't do anything towards OP's question. And OP had stated this was for American English, which StoneyB has kindly and correctly nudged that belt-and-suspenders was correct for AmE. (I've only edited to supply the tag to make this even more clear.) – Souta Oct 13 '12 at 21:10
Oh...so the idea is that one is so cautious that one wears both a belt -and- suspenders (two different methods) to make sure one's pants do not fall down. – Mitch Oct 13 '12 at 21:20
@Mitch: That's certainly the case with the British version. – Barrie England Oct 14 '12 at 6:11

In days when suspenders (BE:braces) were standard attire for men, wearing both a belt and suspenders was a common expression for excessive caution: making assurance doubly sure, so to speak.

But women (except the young-and-hip, especially in the late 1970s, when Annie Hall* was popular) have rarely worn suspenders. And as the comments to the question tell you (and as you probably realized), the phrase suggests garterbelt/suspender belt when applied to a woman—only mildly salacious, perhaps, but Not Suitable For Work, as it may contribute to creating an actionably hostile work environment.

So what can you use instead? I don't know of an established catchphrase, but I offer this analogy as a stopgap:

Belt and suspenders suggests not "getting caught with your pants down". Once upon a time the feminine equivalent would have been "getting caught with your slip showing", but that's pretty obsolete by now. A more contemporary indiscretion is jocularly labeled a wardrobe malfunction.

So one who takes redundant measures to avoid such embarrassing exposure might be described as a tape-and-safety-pin kind of woman.

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I don't get the suggestion. I've never heard the phrase before, and it is somewhat self-contradictory (it's strange to wear both a a belt and suspenders). Also, what does this have to do with 'suspicious'? Can you elaborate the connection and give any 'in the wild' examples that show your expected usage? – Mitch Oct 13 '12 at 21:18
I've never heard the expression before either. I have a hard time conjuring a NSFW image that has to do with applying this phrase to a woman. Also, I would have no idea what a tape-and-safety-pin kind of woman would be. And "getting caught with your pants down" is not anywhere close to a "wardrobe malfunction" unless you interpret it literally. – Kit Z. Fox Oct 13 '12 at 23:24
Not only have I too not heard "belt and suspenders" (though I like it), I don't think "tape and safety pin" is an idiom at all. OP would have to make it one, and I don't think too-large strapless prom dresses resonate with enough people that it could be trusted to be understood by most people. – JAM Oct 14 '12 at 2:25
@StoneyB, I guess I could ask my husband or daughter...;) – JAM Oct 14 '12 at 15:31
@JAM Caught with my pants down! ... I was just trying to make up an alternative expression applicable to female attire, and I couldn't think of a doublet for hem weights. – StoneyB Oct 14 '12 at 16:12

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