Rihanna’s open-back leggings are part of 'thirst-fashion’ trend: ‘Sexy, moody’

·3-min read
Rihanna's Savage X Fenty open-back leggings are an extension of the whale tail trend. (Photo: Savage X Fenty/Subsurface)
Rihanna's Savage X Fenty open-back leggings are an extension of the whale tail trend. (Photo: Savage X Fenty/Subsurface)

Rihanna's Savage X Fenty open-back crotchless leggings aren't new to the celebrity's catalogue of lingerie. However, after going viral just last week, the look divided those who are ready to "normalize butt cleavage" from those who aren't, as people are eager to show more skin this summer.

The controversial item is one of a seemingly long list of risqué clothing styles trending this summer, among low-rise pants, miniskirts, micro crop tops and even exposed thongs. Amanda Sanders, a New York-based fashion consultant, says that the trends are a welcome treat after over a year in quarantine.

"I think it’s a matter of freedom," she tells Yahoo Life, referring to a return to normalcy after the coronavirus pandemic. "People were stuck with the monotony of what they had in their wardrobe, and now they’ve got the ability to buy things that are kind of fun and risqué. It’s kind of like coming out of your cocoon."

While athleisure and sweat sets had a moment during quarantine, Sanders calls today's most popular trends "the anti to that," as they encourage people to show off some skin. Mélanie Mollard, fashion editor at the trend forecasting agency Heuritech, echoes a similar sentiment.

"This reemergence of sexy dressing is related to the fact that 'going out' looks are super popular now since people are eager to dress up after being locked down for months," she says. "This skin-baring trend is also related to the recent popularity of Y2K aesthetics, particularly amongst Gen Z. Some of the token elements of Y2K style are low-waisted pants or skirts, the exposed thong, miniskirts and cropped top."

Halle Berry at the Sony Studios in Los Angeles. (Photo: Steve Granitz/WireImage)
Halle Berry at the Sony Studios in Los Angeles. (Photo: Steve Granitz/WireImage)

But while teeny cropped tops, low-rise bottoms and exposed thongs, referred to as the whale tail, were seemingly reserved for supermodels on runways or celebrities doing red carpets in the past— including infamous looks by Christina Aguilera and Halle Berry in the year 2000 — social media has seemingly democratized the trend upon its return in 2021.

TikTok star Olivia Ponton and Instagram fashion influencers alike are rocking the trends in their street-style looks. 

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Stylist Lindsay Albanese refers to the phenomenon as "thirst-fashion," explaining that "people are just trying to get likes or go viral" by wearing some of these striking looks. "I think in a photo where it's posed and the lighting, outfit and aesthetics are right, it can be a sexy, moody and nuanced shot," she says. "But the reality is, the translation in real life is very hard to pull off when you go full-on whale tail."

Still, brands in both the luxury and fast fashion spaces are cashing in on that desire by offering various takes on the strappy, skin-baring styles. Most are even using social media to illustrate these trends as wearable fashion.

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"The trends may not be for everyone," Sanders notes. But for those who are onboard, the excitement to get into some skimpy clothes is palpable. "We’ve all not been able to express ourselves and our feelings, and now that we have the opportunity, people are going for things that might be racier than they were before."

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