These days, you don’t have to look too far on any given red carpet to see a G-string baring the backside of some A-list starlet or other, usually sparkling beneath a sheer designer garment or peeking out above an ultra low-back dress. But before the G-string was de rigueur evening wear for Hollywood elites; it was a risqué, oft-policed garment reserved exclusively for strippers and burlesque performers.
If the mainstream stars flaunting their G-strings at awards shows today still manage to turn heads for their racy yet increasingly common displays of rear cleavage (and of course they do); it’s thanks largely to the sex industry workers and performers before them who made the G-string the ultimate erotic undergarment.
Jo Weldon, Headmistress of the New York School of Burlesque and author of The Burlesque Handbook and Fierce: The History of Leopard Print, recently detailed the history of the G-String in the Morbid Anatomy lecture, “The Ultimate Triangle: An Illustrated History of the G-String.”
Part of her ongoing anthology of sex industry fashion, Sex Worker Style, Weldon’s lecture traces the G-string’s origins in cultures of antiquity, through the eroticization of the exotic as the G-string was introduced to the Western world by the stripteasers and showgirls of the early 20th century; to the garment’s eventual role as an underwear drawer staple/red carpet fashion statement; after the “stripper chic” aesthetic went mainstream ahead of the new millennium.
Throughout its various incarnations; the G-string — at least in Western culture — has always been something of an inherent contradiction: a garment meant to be seen and unseen, to cover yet expose.
Many women wearing G-strings today do so simply to avoid the sartorial sin of visible panty lines; donning the oft-eroticized garment beneath jeans or leggings to go to work; hit the gym or carry out various other mundane responsibilities of everyday life. But if we’re getting ready for a date; the G-string serves a dual purpose: it won’t show beneath a little back dress; but it will look sexy once that dress comes off.
For performers who strip down to G-strings on stage or celebrities who show them off under sheer couture; the G-string is as much about showing skin as it is covering it. It toes the line between nakedness and coverage, between exposure and censorship.
In untangling the G-string’s perhaps surprisingly rich history and reputation; Weldon taught us a few things your average wearer (or admirer) of women’s undergarments may not know about fashion’s sexiest underwear.
A G-string is not the same thing as a thong
First, let’s get clear on what we’re talking about here. While we might consider the G-string a subcategory of the thong (and the terms are sometimes used interchangeably) they’re different things.
While both are composed of the same basic elements; — a triangle of fabric in the front that narrows to a thinner strip in the back, all connected by a waistband — a G-string is, well, stringier.
G-strings have a thinner strip in the back than thongs, and typically thinner waistbands as well.
No one really knows what the “G” in “G-string” stands for
According to Weldon, no one is entirely sure of the etymological origins of the “G-string.”
There’s some reason to believe that the “G” might stand for “groin,” but other prominent theories suggest the “G” spelling actually evolved from an earlier spelling, “geestring,” and refers to a violin string tuned to a G.