Author Imagines in 1893 the Fashions That Would Appear Over the Next 100 Years

The world of tomor­row, today, has been the promise of so much futur­ism of the mod­ern indus­tri­al age, in times that now seem quaint to us from our dig­i­tal perch­es. Today’s self-appoint­ed vision­ar­ies can’t seem to imag­ine life on Earth a hun­dred years from now. They pour their resources into inter­plan­e­tary ven­tures. But even if some con­tin­gent of human­i­ty goes on to col­o­nize the solar sys­tem and beyond, there will always be a role for fash­ion, even in the aus­tere envi­rons of deep space.

Still, if pre­dict­ing the future of human­i­ty is a risky propo­si­tion, giv­en the num­ber of unpre­dictable vari­ables at play, pre­dict­ing future fash­ions may be even more fraught with per­il. Trends don’t come out of nowhere—they draw, self-con­scious­ly or oth­er­wise, from the past. But which pasts end up in the lat­est season’s col­lec­tions might be anyone’s guess. Unlike tech­nol­o­gy, in oth­er words, fash­ion doesn’t appear to fol­low any sort of lin­ear tra­jec­to­ry from inven­tion to inven­tion.

“Fash­ion,” writes W. Cade-Gall in an 1893 arti­cle in the Strand Mag­a­zine, “is thought a whim, a sort of shut­tle­cock for the weak-mind­ed of both sex­es to make rise and fall, bound and rebound with the bat­tle­dore called—social influ­ence.” All of this will be reme­died almost fifty years in the future, the author assures their read­ers. “It will inter­est a great many peo­ple to learn that Fash­ion assumed the dig­ni­ty of a sci­ence in 1940.” Cade-Gall’s sci-fi satire is not, per­haps, the most seri­ous attempt at pre­dict­ing future fash­ions, but it may rank as one of the most amus­ing­ly lit­er­ary.

The arti­cle, “Future Dic­tates Fash­ion” (read online here and at the Inter­net Archive) pur­ports to describe the con­tents of a book, dis­cov­ered by “an elder­ly gen­tle­man of our acquain­tance,” from one hun­dred years in the future, or 1993, a time, as you can see in the draw­ing at the top, in which the 18th cen­tu­ry has come roar­ing back, with what appears to be a tri­corner hat perched on what appears to be the head of a man smok­ing a pipe and wear­ing an ankle-length skirt. Cade-Gall describes the sci­en­tif­ic sys­tem of fash­ion in detail, with each his­tor­i­cal peri­od acquir­ing both a “Type” and a “Ten­den­cy.”

The peri­od between 1915 and 1940, for exam­ple, the last one list­ed in the future fash­ion his­to­ry book’s table, is said to be of the type “Hys­ter­i­cal” and the ten­den­cy “Angus­to­r­i­al.” Cade-Gall not only invent­ed the word “angus­to­r­i­al” and this clever sto­ry with­in a sto­ry (which turns out to be a dream) but also illus­trat­ed the fash­ions of the imag­ined 20th cen­tu­ry, with the con­ceit that these are print­ed plates from the future. Read­ers famil­iar with the cos­tume designs of the Bauhaus school might see the 1929 illus­tra­tions as some­what uncan­ny.

Oth­er fash­ions look like the kind of thing David Bowie might have worn onstage in the ear­ly 70s, and some are clear­ly port­man­teaus of dif­fer­ent eras and their qualities—from the “bizarre,” “ebul­lient,” and “hys­ter­i­cal” to the “severe,” “opaque,” and “lato­r­i­al,” a word, like “angus­to­r­i­al,” that Cade-Gall made up for this occa­sion. The descrip­tions of these fash­ions are as detailed and ridicu­lous as the illus­tra­tions. “Taught by the Dar­win­ian the­o­ry” in 1930 we learn, “soci­ety dis­cov­ered whence its ten­den­cy to bald­ness orig­i­nat­ed. They had recourse by degrees to flex­i­ble tiles of extra­or­di­nary cut.”


The hair­piece inno­va­tion fol­lowed some inde­ci­sion over mens’ pants ten years ear­li­er, which led to a peri­od of knee-breech­es. “Trousers, which had been waver­ing between nau­ti­cal but­tons and gal­looned knees—or, in the ver­nac­u­lar of the peri­od, a sail three sheets in the wind—and a flag at half-mast—were the items sac­ri­ficed.” It’s all in good fun—more a send-up of the over­ly-seri­ous mean­ing attached to cloth­ing than an attempt to look into fashion’s future. But imag­in­ing a 20th cen­tu­ry dressed the way Cade-Gall imag­ines it might make us pine for a more osten­ta­tious­ly (if imprac­ti­cal­ly) dressed past—or a more ebul­lient and lato­r­i­al future, whether on Earth or gal­looned amongst the stars.

via JF Ptak Sci­ence Books/Pub­lic Domain Review

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Kandin­sky, Klee & Oth­er Bauhaus Artists Designed Inge­nious Cos­tumes Like You’ve Nev­er Seen Before

In 1911, Thomas Edi­son Pre­dicts What the World Will Look Like in 2011: Smart Phones, No Pover­ty, Libraries That Fit in One Book

9 Sci­ence-Fic­tion Authors Pre­dict the Future: How Jules Verne, Isaac Asi­mov, William Gib­son, Philip K. Dick & More Imag­ined the World Ahead

In 1964, Isaac Asi­mov Pre­dicts What the World Will Look Like Today: Self-Dri­ving Cars, Video Calls, Fake Meats & More

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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