A tanga is a species of culotte with a full front but with a legline cut above the buttocks, so that the buttocks are fully or almost fully exposed. The hallmark is full buttage. In addition to the bikini and underwear manifestations, tanga also may manifest in maillot rolldown and maillot tanga.
The tanga waistline may be cut high and horizontal near the navel (JD89FA), or deeply scooped in front (RD8709).
A tanga is easily confused with a g-string, but strictly speaking a g-string is a string tanga. The serious spotter will find a more detailed discussion of these differences at the end of this article, along with distinctions to other closely related species.
The evolution of the tanga in American culture during the late 1980s and early 1990s represents the conclusion of a minimalist progression that acquires momentum with the exposure of buttocks via the v-kini and halfback in the early 1980s, and which ends by the bikiniite exposing all of her buttocks (CI8906, CB9005). In addition to its high legline, the 1990s tanga evolution is also often characterized by a high waistline--often at the navel--which runs countercurrent to the trends of the prevailing 50 years during which time waistline has constantly lowered.
This is not to say tanga is not been without its early advocates (S193710), including the inventor of the bikini himself, Louis Réard, whose very first bikini incorporates tanga (LR4601). One of the first designers to flirt with tanga is Rudi Gernreich, who introduces tanga in both bikini (RG7410) and maillot tanga motifs in the mid 1970s, for both women (HN7501) as well as men wearers.
Tanga in Media
The early sizzle is caught by a young Christie Brinkley, who introduces tanga to readers of the Sports Illustrated annual swimsuit issue, even though her buttocks are partially buried in surf (CB7501). Brinkley may signal a future trend, but at this point in history tanga remains a novelty item and does not get depicted again in Sports Illustrated until 1980, when it is again Brinkley's performance, this time sitting on a boat and shot from behind (CB8001). Vogue stirs and showcases maillot tanga this same year (V8001), with Sports Illustrated catching it in 1981, again drafting Christie Brinkley to uncover her behind and again sit on it (CB8101). Although Vogue demonstrates a topless g-string in 1981 (V8106), it is not until 1985 that Vogue reveals the pure tanga culotte (V8501), again sitting, and not until the 1987 that they show a topless tanga from the front (V8705). The first advertising uses also appear this year (BT198610). In fact it is not until 1986 that Paula Porizkova finally tangas full figure in Sports Illustrated.
It is thus fair to observe that the early introductions of tanga in mass media are performed somewhat hesitatingly, often accompanied by some censorship of the full buttocks. In Sports Illustrated Brinkley is obscured by a wave (CB7501), captured sitting (CB8001, CB8101), or shot from the side. The media adopts to tanga gingerly, and it is a somewhat rare People that documents the excess of starlets like Pia Zadora (PZ8202).
Tanga at The Real Beach
Fashion and pinups aside, the breakout of tanga on real beaches is often attributed to Brazilians (N8602), who are also credited with the origin of the word, occasionally also spelled tunga, tonga.
With rare exception (LV8401) the first tangas are spotted on America beaches in the late 1980s, and then only by the very bold (FL8601, FL8607, FL8613, RP8801, RP8803, GO8801, CI8906). The drive to achieve wider acceptance on Bikini Beach gathers momentum during the early 1990s (CB9002, LV9102).
Even in the realm of the Topless Beach, tanga is embraced by only the bold (G8823), and not before the late 1980s. And it will remain an extreme silhouette, along with the g-string, on Topless Beach through the late 1990s.
The Venue of Tanga
Many of the early wearers of tanga are quite conscious of venue and will not wear tanga where bikini might otherwise be worn. For example CI8901 dons and doffs her jeans shorts before going up to the boardwalk. At Coney Island a boyfriend snuggles behind his girl friend's g-stringed buttock to cover her as they walk from their towel to the water (CI9105). But this is not always the case, such as the halter and tanga who goes for a ride on a jetski (CB9001), or the g-string and tanga pair who walk down the street at Cocoa and back to their car (CB9113-14). It may be that beaches with more tanga saturation have more domain of venue. The arousal, of course, is for the bikiniite to expand her range of venue (e.g., PB870H).
In some parts of America, Florida in particular, the tanga has been a fascination of legislative censors (MP9310). Tanga is also a silhouette of underwear (KN9202), and throughout the late 1990s the treatment of tanga in advertising and catalogs sometimes depict the buttocks and often not. This is true for both bikini as well as underwear applications.
Tangas are worn with all species of soutien-gorge, including bandeau (RD8731), halter (RD8709), bra (RD89A0), and especially topless (G8823, SM8820B). Tangas have a special affinity with the t-back, in which a vertical of cloth between the shoulder blades mimics the strip of fabric between the cheeks of the buttocks (PB87BC). In certain minimal legalistic situations tangas are worn in public with pasties (MP9650).
The Fitness Movement
Other factors driving tanga developments during the late 1980s include the fitness movement, in which the exercise tanga is worn both seule (e.g., Parklane Aqua RD8733, JE9164E), as well as over leggings (KP88). Here the combination with the sports bra is important (RD89A0), as is the utilization of tanga as "no-panty-line" underwear (LRNM8601).
Tanga waistlines range widely relative to the navel and are often driven by other silhouette factors, for example the influence of montante (JE8907A) or halfback v-kini, especially where the latter is permitted to slide into rugae (BT198610, KW8601, KW8606). One popular silhouette is to engineer a horizontal waistline that bifurcates the navel (JD89FA), another is to scoop the front, either keeping the back horizontal (RD8709), or to scoop as deeply as possible and mirror the scoop in the back (CI8901), possibly scooping into rugae. The diamond head culotte, in both symmetrical and asymmetrical styles, also combines well with tanga (CB9003).
Tanga incorporates all the design motifs of traditional culottes, as well as some new tricks that are unique to the species. Design details at the center of the back include tri-string at the sacrum (JE9010), faux bow ties (CB9004, CB9174, G1994822, KN9204), rings (CB7501, JE9376), and other graphics (CB9360). Of special interest is fringe (FL8715, RL9114), hanging cords (CB9106) and beads (T95NN), rolldown skirts (JE9110), and flaps of fabric suspended from the waistline which make token attempts to appease buttage (FL8604, FL8607, FL8705x, RD8731, C8908, EL9001). Such accouterments serve a dual purpose. On one hand they partially cover up the buttocks and create the illusion of modesty. But on the other hand they focus attention to this region by creating fleeting exposures which attract the eye of the voyeur.
Tangas seldom need fasteners, but they may have fasteners on the sides (RID8736, JE9112), including velcro strips which are especially useful for strippers. Zippers on the front also facilitate removal, and also allow the ecdysiast class to tease down to the pubic hair (KN9239, AB199367).
Men in Tanga
Needless to say, males can wear tanga also. Some of the earliest examples come from dance reviews (S193710). Rare examples date from the Key West beach (KW8610), New York City rooftops (NYC8801), sunning in Central Park (CP8710) and Cocoa Beach (CB9108). and making out with a girl friend in the whirlpool at Bally's in Vegas (LV9104).
The difference between tanga and related species can be subtle; the essence of the form is best seen in its extreme position. Whereas the v-kini and the halfback involves cheeking and buttage, and the rolldown and adjustable offer the possibility of tanga, the tanga bares the buttocks entirely, continuously, and without any option of coverage (except for rugage itself of course). The sacrum, that part of the back extending above the posterior rugage, is often covered with tanga.
Because the tanga evolved after the string culotte and the v-kini, it is often found highwaisted, possibly even with navel covered. Like montante, it involves a rising waistline, only with tanga the rising waistline is compensated for with a rising legline that uncovers the butt.
The tanga is also easily confused with a g-string. One key distinction lies in whether the sides and back of the suit are indeed strings, or if the sides and center back are constructed of fabric. Furthermore, the unconstructed nature of the string and a patch g-string encourage it to have a scooping waistline in the front, often inches below navel, as opposed to the higher and more horizontal waistline of tanga. The string construction of the g-string also invites many different kinds of threading and tying arrangements, a dimension of activity not possible with the tanga.
Tanga is closely related to the adjustable, whose emergence during the late 1980s also helped drive the tanga revolution. The adjustable is a culotte with a slide casing in the waistband so that a wearer to selectively gather the front or back fabric together and narrow it. In the front it can reveal inquinal, but more pertinent to the tanga is gathering the fabric together into the cleft of the buttock so as to "adjust" it into tanga (SM8854). This vector of introduction allows the bikiniite to "dial in" her amount of competitive exposure, or for that matter, to simply be athletic and let nature do the dirty work. The adjustable allows the bikiniite to keep her bottom covered on the beach but tease out her buttocks for the eyes of her boyfriend--and maybe her neighbors--back on the porch of the motel (SF8501).
A sideless with full buttage may also be considered a variety of tanga, but the very spring nature of the garment suggests it be classified as a different species. A maillot can also have a tangaed behind but is also detailed as a separate species, not being a culotte but a maillot tanga.
The Thong Word
The bikiniite who asks if it is okay to bring her thong along is most likely referring to a bare-bottomed culotte, and not a shoe with a strap that goes inside the big toe. The correct answer is "yes." Avoid questions about the particular species of thong and save the detailed analysis until the wildlife is at hand. Bikiniites, including tangaites, g-stringists, adjustababes, and even thongites, can be surprisingly casual about the language of costume. The thong word, which dates from the end of the first millennium, best described a garment worn about the groin and tied through the crotch, covering the genitals but not the buttocks. A sumo wrestler wears a thong. A thong is similar to a loincloth except that a loincloth is not fastened through the crotch, whereas the thong is. Science aside, there is no need argue about a popular culture event like "The Thong Song," since it only helps spawn more subjects for study.
Tanga is worn with all varieties of top, including coverups, halters and bandeaus, and especially, topless.