Monday, February 22, 2016

World Blip – Fashion for Science Fiction

Two weeks ago, I gave you suggestions for expanding the fashion of your fantasy world. Vibrant fashion makes a vibrant world.

But this extends beyond your average fantasy novel (of which I am a fan, to be sure), to other novels. Historical fiction, for instance, are often set in the rather overused Victorian England or Civil War America (with a few World War One Germany exceptions). These places had rather… boring fashion. Sure, the Victorian gentlefolk had ridiculous get-ups (those wigs, though…), but the common folk wore browns and grays and whites, all in very strict gender- and age-restricted sets of clothing.

What about other historical eras? Ancient Egypt, for instance, was much more varied in what it did and did not allow people to wear. India, on the other hand, was quite strict, but it was a different sort of strict.
People are looking for something new when they read. Fashionable English ladies in corsets and skirts more voluminous than their husband’s stomach aren’t new. They’re old hat (much like the well-rounded husband’s hat).

Now. What about Science Fiction? What about the daring fellows who fly through space or time or between planets or even just around this earth?
For them, I want to give you something special.

The Freedom of Unknowns

One of the greatest things about writing a non-historical novel is the freedom you are given. People can wear whatever you want them to wear. It’s up to you. This can be a bit overwhelming, especially when you’re trying to come up with a completely new form of dress. I know the feeling. So I’ll give you three simple tips this blog post.
Because fashion is fun. Even if you hate shopping and don’t actually care much about fashion yourself (like me), designing what people wear can be really quite interesting. I never thought I’d be that one author fellow who likes designing clothes for his characters. 
What have I become? Ew.

What Goes Around, Comes Around

My parents are always talking about how something that used to be cool when they were kids is coming back. This hairstyle, that color of shirt, those pants, this or that. It seems that fashion from the 1970s is coming back to haunt the 2010s. I’m not sure I like it – I mean, I’ve taken modern history, I know what 1970s looked like… - but the weird things are coming back into style.

That’s the thing about style. About any kind of style, clothing, food, technology. Take audio devices. We started with the tape recorder, right? The boxy thing you clip so elegantly to your belt, and then buy a second belt to support the first belt. It got smaller as the Compact Disk came out, then even smaller as “IPods” came into being. These things got so small they started beating out Cheez-its as the smallest square thing people accidentally ate.
Now, all the sudden, our iPods are growing again. They’ve transformed into iPhones, now, and many of them are so big they don’t fit in our pockets. Instead we buy little belt clips we stick them on, then we go buy another belt to support the first one.

Oh, look, we’ve come full circle.
The same thing with fashion.
Sometimes, what comes around will come around again in forty years.
As you plan the fashion of your near-future (~200-500 years from now), keep in mind that fashion does evolve and change, but at a slow, circular pace. Things that used to be cool will be cool again, but they’re change in small ways. Eventually, they’ll be unrecognizable.

“All the Popular Kids are Doing It!”

One of the most common ways to make something popular is to give it to a famous person. In our day, give a Hollywood star a plaid shirt and converse, and suddenly every teen wants a plaid shirt and converse (of course, all the hipsters will be scrambling to find a new style, but I digress). Give that same star a different set of clothing and a new rush to the stores begins. Fashion is a fickle thing. It changes on the whims of a few influential people.

So as you design clothing for your near-or-far future story, consider the influential people. What do they wear? Obviously, what they wear will be more elaborate, shiny, and expensive than what your average Joe and Jolene can buy, but the products they purchase are often “dumbed-down”, cheaper knock-offs of the $2,000 outfit of the rock star.


As I stated in the last post on fashion, color is important. In fantasy, color can distinguish class and wealth. In the future, color makes a statement about your very being.
So what colors do people wear? Why?
As you pick these colors, don’t settle for your average futuristic colors: gold and silvery with lots of platinum and black. How about a few old throwbacks: violets and soft reds, with hints of brown and peach?

Fashion can help your story stand out. It can bring to life your characters by adding a spicy bit of color and realism to their world.
And hey, even if you don’t like worldbuilding, you might like fashion. It’s more of an art, in some ways. And you’re an artsy person, are you not?
What do you think? Do you have any science fiction novels you’ve designed fashion for? What do they wear? Leave a comment and share!

Related posts:

Featured Post:

No comments:

Post a Comment