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For forty years only cads bathed
April 25, 2014 5:00 AM   Subscribe

"Whatever may be the merits of the spring fashions for 1978, it would appear to have been universal (to speak of the future in the past tense), for both these young gallants are dressed precisely alike. Of the three remaining designs, that of 1984 appears to us to exhibit the contour of the lady's figure most generously, and to have certain agreeable and distinctive traits of its own which are not only lacking in the gentleman's apparel, but are absent from the inane conception which appears to have obtained vogue five years later." -- Future Dictates of Fashion, as imagined in an 1893 issue of Strand Magazine. Click on the illustrations to enlarge them. (In general, Marcus Rowland's Forgotten Futures website is a treasure trove of Victoriana and steampunk related material.)
posted by MartinWisse (27 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
God, how did they know?!?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 5:17 AM on April 25 [3 favorites]


It's amusing how, even as they strive to portray costumes that look outlandish by Victorian standards, the costumes remain so essentially Victorian. Our imaginations are constrained by our times. One thinks of Star Trek: The Next Generation (well, a nerd like me thinks of that): so futuristic then, so firmly dated in the 90s now. Half of predicting the future, it seems, is being able to see the water you swim in.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 5:26 AM on April 25 [18 favorites]


They just couldn't imagine we'd be frequently running about in undergarments.
posted by Omnomnom at 5:43 AM on April 25 [4 favorites]


TNG did nominally have dudes in skirts though.

But yeah, all of those look like they still want to express the ability to afford lots of fabric and to ornament the body of the wearer with lots of additional space and poof.
posted by postcommunism at 5:48 AM on April 25 [3 favorites]


Our imaginations are constrained by our times.

Disneyland's Tomorrowland is thrilling for how mid-century modern it is (or was, before the various re-imaginings over the decades sullied it).

Also thrilling: archive.org.
posted by notyou at 5:55 AM on April 25 [1 favorite]


this is such good stuff. Also: I am very pleasantly surprised that the other articles in the strand magazine look so similar to the printing of Sherlock Holmes that I have on my shelf.
posted by rebent at 6:13 AM on April 25


You could absolutely have worn this in the 70s. They're just a little off on the date. Uncanny!
posted by Erasmouse at 6:15 AM on April 25 [4 favorites]


Nothing would puzzle a Victorian about the real 1978 so much as the way everyone, men, women and children, seemed to wear blue trousers.
posted by Segundus at 6:24 AM on April 25 [4 favorites]


You've got to give it to them-- they did predict bell-bottoms.
posted by supercres at 6:29 AM on April 25 [3 favorites]


Nothing would puzzle a Victorian about the real 1978 so much as the way everyone, men, women and children, seemed to wear blue trousers.

Those blue trousers seemed to puzzle (and inexplicably, anger) a lot of high school principals in the 1970s as well.
 
posted by Herodios at 7:11 AM on April 25


You could absolutely have worn this in the 70s.

Mr. This looks like an average member of Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band at any time between about 1965 and 1980. So yeah.

EEee leck TRISS it tee.
posted by Herodios at 7:22 AM on April 25


the costumes remain so essentially Victorian

Yeah, I love that everyone's apparently still going to be wearing big hats instead of letting our hair show like slatterns.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 7:24 AM on April 25 [8 favorites]


This is fantastic. :)
posted by zarq at 7:39 AM on April 25


This is really cool, thanks
posted by etherist at 7:58 AM on April 25


I love Victorian/Edwardian "future history." I like to think of it as possible histories from an alternate timeline where Nothing Bad Happened. They're extrapolations based on whatever was going on at the time, imagining that it wouldn't ever stop. And in that sense even the pessimistic, curmudgeonly ones are optimistic, as they rarely predict anything quite so bad as what the 20th century actually brought with it.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:37 AM on April 25 [3 favorites]


...but I don't wanna be a pirate!
posted by fairmettle at 8:50 AM on April 25


Aileen Ribeiro's "Utopian Dress," in Chic Thrills : a fashion reader, on future fashions as imagined by utopian novelists is relevant here.

Nothing would puzzle a Victorian about the real 1978 so much as the way everyone, men, women and children, seemed to wear blue trousers.

I think the average Victorian of 1878 would be most shocked, probably, by the notion of women wearing trousers. But to the more advanced or bohemian Victorian of 1878, it would only be evidence of the ultimate success of the dress reform movement which was advocating simple, functional clothing. In 1874 Abba Goold Woolson's Dress Reform already looks toward
" ... that promised land of the far future, wherein women shall move about, no longer swathed and hampered by floating raiment, but clothed simply and serviceably as men are clothed, [and] we may yet express a conviction that any changes the wisest of us can today propose are only a mitigation of an evil which can never be done away till women emerge from this vast, swaying, undefined, and indefinable mass of drapery, into the shape which God gave to his human beings.
You could absolutely have worn this in the 70s.

Mr. 1908 vs. Marc Bolan

The piece itself is a satirical take on the Aesthetes of the period—Lord Arthur Lawtrey, in his violet coat and pale heliotrope trousers is the very stereotype of Wilde, Whistler, Swinburne, etc. A sort of "If This Goes On—" of fashion. But I was struck by the sentence "But it will interest a great many people to learn that Fashion assumed the dignity of a science in 1940," (the joke being that nothing could have been further from the manly respectability of science in 1893 than fashion) and I thought "Ah! Roland Barthes avant la lettre!"
posted by octobersurprise at 9:16 AM on April 25 [2 favorites]


Nothing would puzzle a Victorian about the real 1978 so much as the way everyone, men, women and children, seemed to wear blue trousers.

They would just think that everyone dressed like Italian sailors because 70s fashion pretty much just ripped off late 1800s Genoan naval clothes, right down to their tight tee shirts and blue, high-waisted, bell bottomed "Gênes".
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:23 AM on April 25 [2 favorites]


I picture my next meetup looking like this.

Hey, a boy can dream.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:46 AM on April 25


In 1874 Abba Goold Woolson's Dress Reform already looks toward " ... that promised land of the far future, wherein women shall move about, no longer swathed and hampered by floating raiment, but clothed simply and serviceably as men are clothed, [and] we may yet express a conviction that any changes the wisest of us can today propose are only a mitigation of an evil which can never be done away till women emerge from this vast, swaying, undefined, and indefinable mass of drapery, into the shape which God gave to his human beings.

That sentence is a bit overdressed, too.
 
posted by Herodios at 9:47 AM on April 25


Mawkish describes the attire of the civilian of the same year, but in 1970 we notice a distinct change for the better, although personally many of us would doubtless strenuously object to wearing neckties of the magnitude here portrayed.

Well, even a pig with a bad cold finds a truffle once in a while....
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:01 AM on April 25


You're a wizard, Harry.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 10:07 AM on April 25


Great as there are, I fear they only highlight the superiority in fashion design of the French. I desperately want that knickerbocker/pencil-skirt. But NOBODY foresaw the unthinkable- the end of the hat!
posted by Erasmouse at 10:42 AM on April 25 [1 favorite]


OK, so obviously a good bit of the text is based in the old, “If we let women wear trousers, men are going to start covering themselves head to toe with perfumed lace ruffles until they look like scrunchie bath sponges” folderol, but there were some nuggets of prescience in there!
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:56 AM on April 25 [4 favorites]


The interesting difference between something like this and Tomorrowland or Star Trek:TNG is that these are just illustrations. Nobody had to go out and procure the fabrics, use current-day sewing techniques to create the garments, consider the aesthetics of the day so that men still look masculine, women look sexy, furniture looks like something to sit on, people can find their way, etc.

And yet, divorced from all the constraints that force TV costumes and theme park environments to conform to modern reality, the Victorian ideas of the future still look Victorian.

That said, the 1908 look for men is shockingly psychedelic. I can totally imagine that guy wandering through Yellow Submarine and not looking too out of place.
posted by Sara C. at 6:56 PM on April 25


Oh man! Forgotten Futures! That was the source of the first eBook I read (The World Peril of 1910, on my Palm Pilot: Don't remeber if it was the IIIe or m500 though). I've not visited there in years.
posted by Canageek at 9:37 PM on April 25


It's probably impossible to design a "modern" wardrobe without modern fabrics, which of course they didn't have in the Victorian era. Maybe a better futurist would have predicted synthetics, since it does solve the age-old problem of clothes being really expensive, but you'd have to really hit a bunch of predictive holes-in-one to go from there to the type of synthetics that exist, to how they're typically used (to add stretchiness, frequently, as with elastics), and to how that's affected the design of clothing (thinner, lighter, more form-fitting, etc.).

Rayon probably wouldn't make a lot of top-ten lists in terms of technical achievements, but it throws the predictions of what the future would look like, made prior to its invention, completely off.

Interesting to think about what little but game-changing things we're doubtless missing when we try to make similar predictions into the future.

A subtle ongoing one is LEDs. They didn't even exist in a practical sense until the 60s, today they're stupidly ubiquitous and in another few decades they'll probably wipe out fluorescent lights completely. Everything will look just slightly different as a result than what anyone would have imagined, if they'd bothered to think about such details.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:37 AM on April 26 [4 favorites]


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