Friday, 23 January 2015




It’s 2015. We’re living in the future predicted by Back to the Future II--only we were promised a lot more neon fabric and translucent plastic accessories (and hoverboards).

Four people in outlandish clothes stand outdoors.
Credit: Universal Pictures.
Two children in bright clothing stand beside a gaming machine.
Credit: Universal Pictures.

The costume department wasn’t too far off, though. The basic cuts, silhouettes, and embellishments favoured by the film are currently being purloined for contemporary fashion--even at fast fashion stores like H&M and Forever 21. The thing of it is, though, that the clothing is not being described as future-fashion, or a bold new look for 2015. What people in 1989 thought that ordinary people might wear in 2015 is what people in 2015 think that ordinary people in 1989 might have worn. We’re not wearing lucite headbands yet, but it’s considered an homage to the 80s to be wearing high-waisted denim and big slouchy sweaters right now. Current designers are quite happy to take what was popular anywhere from 20 to 100 years ago and give it a contemporary spin. Similarly, the designers for Back to the Future II, when faced with predicting what style might be 20 years down the road, decided that people would probably dress about the same, only weirder. Other film costumers did the same: we’re only a five years away from seeing if Blade Runner’s prediction for the return of very aggressive 80s shoulder pads is accurate (they're already returning to high fashion). 
Polaroid photo of a young woman against a neutral backdrop.
Credit: Sean Young.

Obviously, Back the Future II and Blade Runner are not controlling the fashion industry, and though their existence and continued popularity certainly fuels runway homages and 80s nostalgia, current designers are probably not intent on fulfilling 20-year-old predictions from sci-fi movies in their Spring collections. But future-fashion, when held up against the endless cycle of influence and recycled trends, starts to look less like a bold vision of what is to come, and more like a distillation and exaggeration of whatever is current. People can only predict based on what they already know; people can only create based on what they know. Even current designers, exhibiting Fall trends months in advance of Fall, are doing their own small-scale future-fashion predictions. 

The expectation that future people will wear slightly distorted versions of whatever is in our own wardrobes is not a new idea. I started to think about future-fashion when I stumbled across an online version of a satirical article for The Strand Magazine by W. Cade Gall, published originally in 1893, called the “Future Dictates of Fashion.” 

Drawing of two women in long dresses and wild hats.
Credit: W. Cade Gall.

The year 2015 falls outside of its predictions; the last drawing is for 1993. But we do get a great get-up for 1989, the year both Back the Future II and Blade Runner were released. With more than 100 years between Gall and 1989, he couldn't know that it would look like this:

Magazine cover from 1989 showing photos of men and women in contemporary styles.
Credit: People Magazine.

The weird hat (future-fashion seems to expect a lot of strange head-gear) is also a little far removed from fashion in Gall's time, but the 1989 outfit is very much a satirized and exaggerated version of a woman's dress in 1893. Moreover, even though he didn't guess that everyone would be wearing jeans, he did predict Gunne Sax and the 1960s-80s fascination with faux-Victorian and faux-Edwardian clothing.

So, what does the future hold for us in terms of fashion? More importantly, what should we save in the backs our closets in order to preserve the essence of 2015 style? 

Photo of three people standing in a large crowd, wearing formal attire.
Credit: Warner Bros.

From the upcoming film Jupiter Ascending, we have more strange headgear predicted for the future, lots of colourful fabrics, and the see-through, beaded formal dresses that have been everywhere on the runway in the past few years.

Three people and one tree being standing in front of a circular doorway.
Credit: Marvel.

And from Guardians of the Galaxy (itself an homage to the 1980s), we have leather. In 20 years or so we can browse through the stores and see what we got it right, and if our 2015 beaded dresses and leather jackets will be in textile museums as examples of original 2015 style.


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