Ugh, Is The Dreaded Whale Tail Trend Back Again?

by Freya Drohan

I see London, I see France, I see…. you know how it goes. Making his highly-anticipated debut as Givenchy’s newly-minted creative director, designer Matthew Williams (who is a known enfant terrible of sorts) included a daring open back dress with a visible red textured g-string. Immediately, it sent us down the rabbit hole of remembering celebrities who have—intentionally or not—dabbled with this trend.

Givenchy SS ’21 (IMaxTree)

The popularity of the so-called ‘whale tail’ seems to re-emerge every couple of seasons, but has it ever really gone away in pop culture? From X-tina and Britney to Paris Hilton and Christina Milian in the early noughties, to Hailey Bieber, Bella Hadid, and Alexa Demie in recent years, there seems to be something endearing about this ultimate bad taste fashion faux pas.

This season, aside from Williams at Givenchy, Donatella Versace also played with visible underwear; in fact, it was this time last year that Bella Hadid modeled a more extreme version of this when she appeared on the Versace runway during the Spring Summer 2020 menswear show.

While the look might evoke images of the aforementioned paparazzi fixtures, g-strings and thongs go back thousands of years; a favorite of indigenous men in the Amazon, dancers in Pompeii, Japanese men pre-WW II, and burlesque dancers in New York City in the 1930s (wearing the itsy bitsy underwear managed to side step the city’s strict anti-nudity rules at the time.) It was only when Frederick’s of Hollywood began to make more wearable and acceptable versions of the intimate apparel that it became accessible for the mass market. Ever since, the barely-there panty has become as infamous as it is prevalent. Is it any wonder that a pair is included as part of the Met Museum Costume Institute’s permanent collection?

Dare to bare? You certainly wouldn’t be the first…

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