Futuristic Fashions that Never Came to Fruition


Let's get one thing out of the way: Fashion doesn't have to "get it right." Fashion is art. Fashion looks to the future like a dreamer, not a gambler hedging his bets. The more extreme examples of futuristic fashion serve to guide us, comment on the human condition and make emaciated humanoids look intensely cool instead of just hunger-weakened.

But we can't help but look back at our fashionable visions of the world to come. We can't help but wonder why contemporary clothing is so devoid of spikes, space globes and computerized visors. Let's walk the catwalk and see what we're missing out on...

An Evening Gown for Space
© Bettmann/CORBIS

Here's a 1957 take on future fashions. As ridiculous as this might seem today, I suppose it's as good a way as any to wear an evening gown in the cold, unforgiving void of outer space.

Swimming in Space?
Photo by RDA/Getty Images

Here's a vision of a futuristic bikini, cape and space helmet from the 1962 Reard Collection, entitled 'Bathing suit for the Year 2000." Beyond ridiculous? Sure. But if you saw someone wearing this at Burning Man, you wouldn't bat an eye.

Still, where is she planning to swim?

Spaced Out
Express Newspapers/Getty Images

Here we see a delightful 1966 take on futuristic helmet-style headwear designed by Italian-born French fashion designer Pierre Cardin, who made a name for himself in the 1960s with his space-age unisex designs. The blog Avengers in Time offers a nice overview in "1968, Fashion: Pierre Cardin Space Age Look."

Bosom Battery?
© Bettmann/CORBIS

Here's American fashion designer Oleg Cassini's 1960s predictions for what fashionable garb might consist of in the year 2,000. The outfit's leotard would feature wires encircling the bosoms and a radiotelephone attached to the belt buckle, wired to earphones and antenna in the hood.

"The suit will be temperature controlled," Cassini explained. "There is a battery under the bosom which controls the warmth needed."

I'll leave you to wonder why bosom batteries never took off.

Your Unisex Future
© Bettmann/CORBIS

Here we see the futuristic fashions of Austrian-born fashion designer Rudi Gernreich. As I explored in a previous post, Gernreich is best known for his topless unisex bathing suits of the 1960s, but his futurist ethos takes full form in these 1970 designs. Gernreich considered this the future of fashion: unisex clothing, baldness and nudity. Gernreich believed that, "with age, the body will be covered completely. If the body can no longer be accentuated it should be abstracted. For youth, a time for physical display. Nudity and baldness."

He believed nudity would be equated with freedom, rather than sexuality - a beautiful post-humanism ideal if you ask me.

No-Nonsense Space Fashion
Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

Here we see a 1972 futuristic ensemble from the fashion designer Jacques Esterel. It very much captures the look and feel of a space suit with the helmet removed, and I have to say it's probably my favorite design from this gallery. So retro-futuristically elegant.

The Microchip Dress
© Roger Ressmeyer/CORBIS

As humans, we're always making garments out of yesterday's technology. Right? Designer Melissa Panages thought so in 1983. Here we see Panages, center, and two models dressed for cyber success in a trio of computer chip dresses. You can explore more of her work at Famous Melissa & Co! High Tech Couture.

Don't Touch Me
PYMCA/UIG via Getty Images)

Somehow this 1998 design from the London Alternative Fashion show didn't become the standard, but I suppose all the spikes, electrodes and plastic casing serve to protect the wearer from rampaging post-apocalyptic war tribes. We simply don't require this outfit yet.

Future Undies

Oh I don't know, Victoria's Secret. Here we see the 1998 unveiling of the "Angels 2000" line of bras and panties. If the "futuristic liquid-looking fabric" isn't enough to drive home the concept, then please notice the giant UFO in the background. Somehow the underwear is the least-futuristic aspect of the photo.

Robot Couture

Visitors view "Robot Couture," a silver cyborg outfit by French designer Thierry Mugler at "Love and War: The Weaponized Woman" exhibition at New York's Fashion Institute of Technology in 2006. I believe a few plates are missing for proper weaponization.

Hologram on the Catwalk
Andy Paradise/WireImage

Holograms? Why of course. Here we see a Kate Moss hologram "walking" the catwalk for Alexander McQueen's Autumn/Winter 2006 show. I will say this: virtual appearances via hologram certainly remove a lot of the temperature and environmental concerns of personal fashion.

Meta Fashions of 2007
© MIKE BLAKE/Reuters/Corbis

Here we see model Noura Shamoon in an experimental knitted dress, designed by Daniela Rosner and Kimiko Ryokai. It's made entirely from the very magnetic tape used to record the process of the dress's creation. How loveably meta!

The designers unveiled the dress at 2007's SIGGRAPH (Special Interest Group for Computer GRAPHics) in San Diego, Calif. The annual exhibition showcases innovative and interactive works in fashion inspired by new technology by international designers.

The Muttering Hat
© Mike Blake/Reuters/Corbis

Model Abigail Rosenthal wears a "muttering" hat, designed by Kate Hartman as an exploration of what it would be like to extricate the noise of the thought process and put it into physical form, also from the 2007 SIGGRAPH exhibition. Why not? The human thought process isn't nosy enough.

Face-Shackled to Tech
Photo by Stefan Gosatti/Getty Images

Here we see a model in a futuristic visor at the 2012 Mercedes Benz Fashion Festival. Wearable computer displays like this are still in an awkward stage of development (See Google Glass), but clearly we WANT to shackle our smart phone displays to our skulls and stumble through life like that. Maybe this is the way to achieve our dreams.

The 3D-Printed Dress
Image via Design Boom

Back in 2013, 3D printers Shapeways worked with fashion designer Michael Schmidt and architect Francis Bitonti to create the world's first articulated 3D-printed gown (worn here by burlesque star Dita Von Teese). Of course, it's important to note that they merely printed the parts, which then required a great deal of manual assembly. The age of 3D-printed fashion is still a ways off, but its more a case of "when" rather than "if."

Fear is the Mind Killer

I love Rick Owens. His designs tend to either look like the fashions of an emotionless vampire-ruled future or like something out of the "Dune" space opera universe. These designs from his Spring/Summer 2013 ready-to-wear collection are clearly reflect his more cosmic tendencies. I for one hope everyone in the future dresses like a Bene Gesserit reverend mother.

Fashion Fresh Air
Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

You'd think we'd actually see more ventilation masks in our fashions given our environmental concerns. Here we see a design from 2015's China Graduate Fashion Week in Beijing. If we all have to breathe artificial air through a mask, we might as well look good doing it.

Tentacles and Tubes
Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images

Oh, and here's one last recent one! A model displays a futuristic creation made of industrial materials by Indian designer Pooja Aggarwal during a fashion show inspired by the 'Make in India' initiative in New Delhi on April 30, 2015. Is humanity's future this full of neck tents and metallic tentacles? We can only hope.

About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.