Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Hanky Panky Lingerie Celebrates 40 Years of Cheeky Style

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Hanky Panky Lingerie Celebrates 40 Years of Cheeky Style

Article excerpt

After 40 years, a small but tenacious lingerie company co-founded by a St. Louisan can graciously thank the scourge of visible panty lines for its enduring success.

The 1980s trend of womenswear fabrics enhanced with Spandex gave rise to laments of VPL, which gave rise to a cheeky million-dollar idea.

Co-founded in 1977 by Gale Epstein and Lida Orzeck, Hanky Panky has since trademarked the dubious title, "World's Most Comfortable Thong," and can boast that they sell one thong every 10 seconds.

Hanky Panky sells more than 3 million thongs a year at a price of $18 to $39 per pair.

The item has actually been around for centuries, most commonly in menswear think loincloths and the fundoshi worn by Sumo wrestlers.

But it was not in fashion's favor much of the 20th century.

"There were a few on the market, but they were not comfortable," said Gale Epstein, the New York-based company's co-founder, president and creative director. "In fact the idea of a thong and comfort was an oxymoron."


In 1986, Epstein, who is originally from University City, said that she discovered a lace product that wasn't just a necessary evil, but a covetable first choice.

"We didn't advertise, and this was before the Internet or social media, so we grew by word of mouth," Epstein said. "We knew the thongs had to be comfortable and pretty."

And perhaps they were too pretty.

Soon after a popularity boom, a new trend flourished. Known as the "whale tail," a colorful thong crested over the waistband of a pair of pants, usually while the wearer was sitting or bending over.

"Yeah, we were always too demure to embrace that," said Epstein who noted that they actually created a low-rise thong to solve this issue, "you know, when zippers were like two inches long."

"Still it's funny, and we're happy to see waists creeping up again," she said. Although she laughed at the idea of looking into a "waistband index" of economic prosperity to rival the skirt-lengths stock market predictor.

However, the company has been ahead of the curve on a number of trends.

First, the playful name of Hanky Panky has served them well, she said. It comes from their first product, a gift from Epstein to Orzeck, of underwear made from soft vintage handkerchiefs. …

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