Not sure what to call fashion’s latest craze? Us too. Here’s a few options: stretchy stringy, wrappy wears, lacy legs. Here at CR, we think “fashion floss” fits best.

A new genre of garments, made perfect for the age of Instagram and TikTok have not only defined our social media feeds of late but are quickly trickling into the mainstream of global fashion runways. Fashion floss has captivated wearers looking to merge the sects of comfort and sexiness. Stringy wears started to take off on social media just before the onset of the COVID -19 pandemic, and have become even more widespread through the incorporation of multi-faceted knitwear and comfortable textiles that so many are craving right now. Stringy garments are not only perfect for comfortably strutting around your apartment but will make for the ideal going out look when social events are safe again (whenever that is.)

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Although one would be cautioned against tanning while wearing a strappy-stringy look, warped garments have seemingly become a mainstay of the fashion lexicon due to its deep-rooted evolution. Despite the widespread emergence of fashion floss, onlookers have been left wondering where in the world the trend comes from and why its boom has been so widespread.

The modern version of fashion floss is seemingly derived from the outfits of Burlesque and Flapper dancers from the ’20s and ’30s. Though these iterations were much less “stringy,” the advent of these entertainers in wider popular culture marked one of the first times in which the “strings” of undergarments, such as thongs and garters, were visibly shown and not masked beneath layers of clothing. Clad in bedazzled bras and bundles of feathers, entertainers marked the humble beginnings of a fashion buzz that would evolve into new silhouettes: the modern fascination with wrapping and accentuating the body’s curvature in a sexy, bondage-esque way surely makes our fashionable burlesque ancestors proud.

Fashion Floss’ next evolution came in the form of ’80s decadence and power-dressing. Leg-warmers, fishnet stockings, and neon camisoles brought in a new wave of elasticized wrappings to the mainstream. Cut-out tank tops and sheer layering are wholly reminiscent of the iterations we are seeing today, once again proving the cyclical nature of fashion trends.

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Burlesque Icon Julie Bryan, 1936 

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Jane Fonda, 1982

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The thong-craze of the ‘90s proved to be vital in shaping the course that fashion floss would follow. The love for exposed thongs and sex-fueled media such as Sisqo’s “Thong Song” marked a new era in the development of the string fad. The proliferation continued during fashion week where high-profile tastemakers like Anna Sui and Azzedine Alaïa produced some of the first runway inklings of fashion floss. The prolific designers featured asymmetric wrapped jersey dresses and laced model’s legs with bright-blue velour, helping bring the fad into the new century while maintaining the era’s stylistic codes. Not only spurred by celebrities, you could catch fashion onlookers haphazardly ripping their tights, tops, and stretch leggings into questionably stringy creations that would come to define the late ‘90s and much of the next decade.

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Azzedine Alaïa Spring/Summer 1991

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Anna Sui Spring/Summer 2001 

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Often marked by strong colors, maneuverable material, and lots of tears, stringy garments defined much of the Y2K decade. Body-positive factions of society such as exotic dancers and sex workers donned creative iterations that showed off their figure and toyed with themes of bodily autonomy and sex-positivity. These garments, often DIY creations, featured skimpy stringy side-paneling and an asymmetric cut that accentuated the body in all the right places. Combined with other 2000s cornerstone such as bold colors and low-rise silhouettes, there were some pretty outlandish fashion moments to say the least. As stars such as Pamela Anderson and Christina Aguilera tantalizingly wore exposed thongs and cut-out paneling, a new subset of style emerged in wider sartorial circles and paved the way for the silhouette’s recent renaissance.

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Pamela Anderson at the VMA’s, 2001 

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Christina Aguilera at the Grammy’s, 2000

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Although dozens of fast fashion retailers have hopped on the floss bandwagon, the silhouette still retains its highly authentic DIY attitude that made it a stylistic cornerstone of the late ‘90s and early 2000s. TikTok trends and patchwork tutorials have contributed to the liberating sense of sexuality and freeness that has become synonymous with fashion floss. The breathable and agreeable textiles of contemporary iterations allow for more size-inclusive creations that highlight one’s figure and portray an unrivaled aura of confidence.

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Along with a social media-spurred boom, there has been a recent set of indie brands making a name for themselves off the proliferation of stringy fashion. London-based Nensi Dojaka frequently uses ties, ruching, and knotting to accentuate her chiffon-focused pieces. Many of the designer’s silhouettes are reminiscent of the deconstructivism of ‘90s stars such as Jean Paul Gaultier and Maison Margiela. Dojaka adds a unique flare that perfectly suits her minimal, sexy aesthetic while offering a subtle nod to the sensual origins of the silhouette.

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Jean Paul Gaultier Spring/Summer 1994 

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Nensi Dojaka Fall/Winter 2020

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Like Dojaka, the Berlin brand Ottolinger has become synonymous with fashion floss, showcasing their elaborately strung pants and tops over the past few seasons. Cosima Gradient and Christa Bosch, the duo behind the edgy brand, have dubbed their intriguing creations “strappy dresses.” The brand’s “strappy dresses” often have several elongated strings that the wearer can tie in many different fashions, allowing for the infusion of connectivity and intricacy into the brimming world of fashion floss.

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Though the development of fashion floss as a major stylistic staple may have many rolling their eyes, the mania speaks to fashion’s love for self-empowerment and nostalgia. With its roots embedded in 1930s dance wear and developed through subcultures and celebrity style, modern fashion floss merges the realms comfortability and sex-positivity. Lace up, fashion lovers.