The sidegather is an transition culotte silhouette that incorporates elements of both the more established nombril and the still-in-the-future sidetie and string silhouettes. The nombril element is, of course, the wide side brief and the sidetie element the string tie.
The sidegather augments the nombril with a cord or elastic which allows the bikiniite to adjust the depth of the side of the culotte so it is secured into a narrow bundle (MB6510). This is accomplished either by tying a string around the sides of the culotte and gathering it tighter (JB8703), or by embedding elastic strings within the garment which can gather the fabric tighter.
Because the function of the gathers is to pull fabric together and to control the width of exposure at the side of the culotte, the mechanical result is often to pull the waistline down and legline up. The visual effect is a waistline which is lower at the sides than it is at the center of the belly. This convex curve can simultaneously cover the navel yet tease out the pubic bone (MM6250).
By enabling the bikiniite to adjust the width of the sides, the sidegather provides the wearer with flexibility in moderating her exposure. Obviously a sidegather can be worn ungathered and wide with the gather ties neatly tied up (JJ7110), or with the ties dangling (WB8407), a look which is apparently conservative, yet proffers the possibility of increased exposure. The side may also be bound partly (E79P15, NH8407), or tightly gathered (fig. TC) to demonstrates preening.
Sidegather culottes may be found in the very earliest years of the bikini, and are deployed by Réard as early as 1946 (LR4603). Earlier occurrences really only hint at the intent (JP4210). Its appearance in the mainstream is also anticipated in camera magazines (US5001) and pinup literature (MA5810) of the 1950s.
The emergence of the sidegather in the mainstream emerges at the dawn of the 1960s (C195910), and is accelerated by greats such as Marilyn Monroe (MM6250). It's development accelerates in the early 1970s, as the lowering waistline and rising legline of the culotte collide, focusing attention to the side (RS7601BS) and spawning species that include the sidering, sidestrap and sidetie. Sidegathers emerge not only in advertising (HA7650) and fashion (E79P15), but make their way into the real world as well (RS7500, AU7901).
The wearing of sidegathers extends into the 1980s, where they continue to be worn by people who either don't know they are wearing antiques (Vero8406), or who choose to wear slightly older styles because they may be more flattering than newer trends. Throughout the 1980s sidegathers remain popular with older women, in accordance with the hypothesis that older women tend to wear older styles. The reasons for this may include imprints to particular points in time, marketing and fashion factors, self-image, and retaliation (greater exposure) against younger women.
Culotte sidegather should not be confused with a culotte sidetie or a string bikini. Gathers are not ties, and therefore there is no possibility of un-closure--the front cannot be separated from the back at the waistline. The sidegather creates the illusion of a fastening detail on the side of the brief, but unlike its sidetie descendent, there is no actual closure, no way to untie and open the side of the culotte, so the risk of accidental undress does not exist. Nor are the sides straps nor strings. What the bikiniite can do is adjust the width (depth) of the sides and, by pinching them in, expose more of the side of the hip for her admirers. This then becomes the measure of excess.
The sidegather silhouette may be rhythmically reinforced topside; repeating the gathering motif in the front center of a halter, bra or bandeau (US5001). When this occurs the sidegather silhouette achieves a total resonance, a user-adjustable bikini which allows the bikiniite to not only adjust the side of the culotte but narrow the fabric between her breasts and deepen her center cleavage. No one wears it better than Marilyn Monroe, whose wide spaghetti-strapped bra slight gathering front and center mimics the gathering of her culotte at the sides (MM6250). And here is a beach example from the early 1980s, this time with a detachable strap string halter as the upstairs companion (WB8407).
String Strap Bra and Sidegather Culotte.