The bottom line between thongs and big knickers

Deirdre Reynolds says big knickers are making a comeback for 2015 but these ‘granny pants’ are a far cry from the baggy bloomers immortalised by Bridget Jones.

The bottom line between thongs and big knickers

SO long G-string — and thongs for the memories. More than a decade and a half after Sisqó immortalised the racy underwear style in song, the bottom has fallen out of the thong market here.

Less than one in 10 undies now sold at Marks & Spencer is a thong.

Perhaps even more tellingly, of the store’s brand new ‘Rosie for Autograph’ range of knickers, modelled by Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, just one out of 15 is cheekless.

But style is just as important as comfort.

“Our customers are loving anything lacy at the moment including bigger knicker shapes,” says M&S head of lingerie design Soozie Jenkinson.

“In terms of style, there is no place for Bridget Jones boring knickers in our ranges.”

She is, of course, referring to that unforgettable scene in Bridget Jones’s Diary, when Hugh Grant caught a glimpse of Bridge’s enormous bloomers and exclaimed: ‘Oh Mummy!’

Two sequels and 14 years on, Taylor Swift, 25, Ellie Goulding, 28, and Calvin Klein spokesmodel Kendall Jenner, 19, are just some of the young starlets transforming ‘granny pants’ into something of a misnomer.

“Thongs have had their moment,” confirms Bernadette Kissane from market intelligence firm Euromonitor International.

“Within millennial and Generation Y consumer groups, it’s considered cool to be wearing full-bottom underwear.”

Back at the turn of the millennium, it was a different story when Britney Spears dazzled in a rhinestone thong and sheer pants at the MTV Awards and Gillian Anderson flashed her G-string in a backless dress at the Oscars.

As demand for the triangular scrap of material skyrocketed, brands such as Juicy Couture began making low-cut jeans specifically designed to show them off.

“In the noughties, flashing your whale tail was all the rage thanks to celebrities like Britney and Christina Aguilera,” recalls Dublin-based stylist Nicole Spain of Flutterby Fashion Styling.

“Between the decade’s skintight dresses and hipster jeans, it’s no wonder that big knickers fell out of fashion. Thankfully, now there’s a better way to beat VPLs!”

Brazilians, boy shorts and briefs are just some of the supersized styles being snapped up by women as big knickers make a comeback in 2015 — leading lingerie labels Charnos and Lepel are set to axe thongs from some of their collections altogether.

“Brands are becoming more aware that women want comfort and style, not just one or the other,” says Rachelle Hanley, lingerie and hosiery buyer for Arnotts in Dublin.

“Full briefs that sit high on the waist and cover the bum are our most popular style, making up about 40% of sales.

“Bikini briefs are our next bestselling style at 20%, followed by boy shorts at 18%. Meanwhile, sales of thongs are down 23% since last year alone.

“Although most brands still carry thongs within their ranges, nowadays they are more likely to be a fuller style such as a tanga [a cross between a bikini brief and a thong] rather than a g-string,” she adds.

“Interestingly, ’90s-style Calvin Klein boyfriend briefs with large logoed waistbands have also become really popular with younger female shoppers.”

It’s a far cry from 2003, when the g-string accounted for almost a third of the women’s underwear market.

So where did it all go wrong for the thong? When a US politician proposed a ‘Baggy Pants Bill’ in 2004, making it illegal to expose butt cleavage in public, it was perhaps the first sign that the defining look of the decade had gone from trendy to tacky.

By the mid-noughties, What Not to Wear presenter Trinny Woodall had damned the whale tail craze as “disgusting”.

Meanwhile, the recent rage for high-waisted and sheer clothes — combined with new technology such as laser cutting and the celeb stamp of approval — has helped introduce granny panties to a new generation of fashionistas.

“High-tech fabrics such as polyamide, spandex and micro-mesh have really been a game changer for the underwear industry,” she continues.

“Today’s granny pants are much more glamorous than the Bridget Jones ones.

“Although I’m not a fan of seeing people’s knickers in general, with this season’s sheer trend, I’d much rather see girls wearing big knickers under a see-through dress than a thong. It’s classier.”

The bottom line, according to supermodel Elle Macpherson, who has her own underwear range, is that: “G-strings are uncomfortable. Girls want real knickers now.”

Apart from being comfier, big knickers — preferably cotton ones — are better for you, according to health experts.

“Thongs were an issue a few years ago,” tells Dr Shirley McQuade, medical director of Dublin Well Woman Centre.

“Most are made of synthetic material, which traps moisture, leading to increased levels of [yeast infection] thrush and bacterial vaginosis, as well as general discomfort.”

“Although thongs have gone out of fashion, now you see a lot of women wearing tight leggings or black tights, which can cause the same kind of imbalance in normal bacteria.

“Some people look at me in horror when I say this,” she adds, “but the best kind of underwear for women to wear is big, white, cotton briefs that allow air to circulate.”

What then about the politics of pants? Stateside, big knickers have become a feminist issue — not least after cult fashion label Me and You launched a pair of sold-out white cotton pants with the word ‘feminist’ emblazoned across the bum in April.

“Most lingerie is designed to appeal to a man,” explains Julia Baylis, who co-founded the company with best pal Mayan Toledano.

“For us, that’s not even a consideration.

“This is underwear you wear totally for you. Maybe no one will see it, or maybe you’ll put it up on Instagram to share with everyone you know.”

One member of Cork Feminista, a voluntary feminist organisation, www.corkfeminista.com, thinks that’s a load of pants.

“There is no inherent link between feminism and underwear,” argues Siobhan Ramos, “apart from the fact that putting [the word] ‘feminist’ on them may allow the designer to charge more for them.

“Young women should be able to wear whatever they want without feeling shamed or belittled.

“Turning underwear choices into a feminist/non-feminist dichotomy only fuels the misogynistic policing of women’s bodies — something we’re definitely against.”

With the ultra low-rise jean tipped by fashion bible Vogue to make a return though, don’t toss the thongs just yet.

“Underwear trends come and go depending on what clothes are in fashion,” says Nicole Spain of www.flutteronby.ie.

“If low-rise jeans come back into fashion, so will the thong — and vice versa. For now though, granny pants are here to stay.”

Thongs, but no thongs — what Ireland’s undie models think

Tiffany Stanley

“Thongs are great if you’re wearing a tight dress and don’t want anything to show. And I think guys will always prefer skimpy undies to big knickers. Chilling out at home however, chances are I’ll be wearing the comfiest option.”

Tia Duffy

“Underwear, like all clothes, is trend-driven. Thongs or briefs, personally I think women should choose their underwear based on what they like to wear, not what they think guys like. If you ask me, the Bridget Jones type are the most comfortable.”

Jane Lyons

“As a model, my underwear drawer is full of thongs to help avoid VPL. Off duty though, I’m obsessed with Calvin Klein’s simple but sexy boxers and briefs.

"I feel most confident when I’m comfortable — and my guy friends agree there’s nothing hotter than a girl in a plain white T-shirt and boxers.”

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