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Capitol fans, check your bedazzled bottoms before you sit

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How to put this delicately?

The guardians of the people's house -- the ones who make sure the Statehouse is clean and polished, maintained and preserved -- have a concern.

And those fancy jeans some folks are wearing -- the ones with the hardware and bling on the derrière -- are rough on the Capitol's historic wooden benches and leather chairs, maybe even its marble and tile floors. 

People come to their Statehouse for tours, presentations, meetings and hearings. They sit on furniture and floors that have been around since the Capitol was completed in 1932. 

Between 500 and 600 school children visit the Capitol each day, especially when the Legislature is in session and fourth-graders are taking field trips that coincide with their study of state government.

The guardians are seeing damage, more than the usual wear and tear.

Bling jeans are the ones embellished with rhinestones, studs, metal buttons, crystals and hardware.  

To Bob Ripley, Capitol administrator, it's an unfortunate fad, one that will likely run its course and disappear.

"From our perspective, it can't disappear soon enough," he said.

A group of students came to tour recently and Ripley had to tell them: If you have bedazzled bottoms, please don't sit while in the Supreme Court.

Caretakers hadn't given it much thought until they saw the amount of damage that was occurring to the seats, primarily in the Supreme Court chamber. They've had to repair the benches in the court at least a couple of times in the past 12 to 18 months. The problems are driven specifically by those jeans, which scratch and scrape wood and leather, Ripley said.

It could end up being a serious issue that could lead to permanent scars or damage to surfaces.

"It's not that we're critical of their design sense or their taste in clothing," Ripley said.

They just ask that people stand rather than sit on the leather and wooden furniture, and other surfaces that could be scratched or gouged -- if they are wearing those dazzling jeans.

Ripley said those who take care of the Capitol don't like putting restrictions on anyone in their own building, but they are trying to find ways to judiciously mind the beloved landmark and its valuable furniture.

The conservators are preparing to reinstall some "pretty magnificent seating" in the Governor's Hearing Room soon, about 40 chairs that are more than 80 years old, he said. The wood is being refinished, and the backs and seats are being covered with embossed polychrome plated leather that had to be imported from Belgium.

If the chairs were in a museum, they would be roped off or put behind glass, and the public would never be allowed to sit on them. Not so at the Capitol. Visitors are allowed to sit anywhere.

"It's the way it should be done, in my opinion, in this building," said Ripley. "People shouldn't be kept from the really nice features that are meant to be there."

But they do need to be aware to help preserve them for their children and grandchildren -- and so on and so on.

Bedazzle away, Capitol fans. Just do it while standing, please.

Capitol architect Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue would surely thank you.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7228 or On Twitter @LJSLegislature.


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