If reality’s got you down, there’s a growing fashion trend that’s designed to take you away from the humdrum of this everyday life. Introducing futuristic clothes, an aesthetic that is out of this world with high-shine chrome, galaxy prints, and celestial crystals. While it’s safe to say we are still light years away from actual space-age getups or actual dystopian fashion, it’s hard not to imagine what sartorial choices we have if Earth as we know it is obliterated and we resorted to living elsewhere in the Milky Way. Will we all be wearing neutrally-toned jumpsuits that blend us into the dusty background — or, rather, will it be the opposite, and we’ll look completely outlandish, flashy, and influenced by a digital forcefield?
To help us better understand the futuristic fashion trend and how it’s already manifesting in these contemporary times, we spoke with Los Angeles-based film/TV costumer (and sci-fi enthusiast) Katie Reibman about the style elements that make certain clothes feel “futuristic.” “I first think of clothing that incorporates technology, like the suits from Dune, or the light-up outfits from Tron: Legacy,” says Reibman. “But I also think that ‘futuristic fashion’ suggests total freedom to think outside the box and not be limited to the rules of any time period — it takes bits of inspiration from everywhere to create something new. It’s what costume designer Shirley Kurata did so well in Everything Everywhere All At Once.” In that Oscar-winning film, the fantastical costumes of multiverse-traveling villain Jobu Tupaki include an ethereal cloud empress, a gothic and leather-clad Lolita, and a deconstructed chaos clown — fresh, unique outfits that are not exactly of our world, but still of heightened versions of our world.
But for a long time, viewers’ ideas of “futuristic” fashion were determined much by classic sci-fi films that inadvertently set the standard. Reibman notes examples like Princess Leia’s Hoth jumpsuit-vest outfit from The Empire Strikes Back (costume designed by John Mollo), Zhora’s clear raincoat from Blade Runner, 2001: A Space Odyssey (costume designed by Hardy Amies), and the looks from both 2021’s Dune (costume designed by Jacqueline West and Bob Morgan) and 1984’s Dune (costume designed by Bob Ringwood) that have shaped pop culture’s idea of futuristic fashion. The aesthetic appears to be courageous, vibrant, and even celebratory of technological advancements, but only when you consider how these digital innovations in clothing are used to further remove us from the analog world. Futuristic fashion, still to this day, resides more on the dystopic side of things — think: The Hunger Games or Wall-E.
“The way, way, way future as I imagine it is not a friendly place. I think of futuristic clothing as being practical at its core but at the same time something totally out there and not based in reality, like a coverall in a reflective fabric,” says Reibman of future fashion’s often peculiar juxtaposition of utilitarian silhouettes blended with impractical materials. “To me, anything chrome or iridescent screams ‘future,’ as does clothing that incorporates molded plastic or 3D-print pieces that give off an armor vibe. Or anything that’s sheer mesh with crystals. Basically, any innovative fabrics or materials that are used in a non-traditional way. “
The fashion industry has always had an obsession with dystopian jumpsuits. Does it feel a little doomsday? Sure. But there’s also something very satisfying about this kind of utilitarian, 15-second dressing that’s core to the “future” of fashion.
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When we think of futuristic clothing, we inevitably think of metals, armor wear, and protective layers. While wearing full-on metal would be uncomfortable and heavy, we can still achieve the look via loose crochet knits or mesh dresses that mimic chain-like details.
The future is bright….with iridescence and chrome. While metallics is nothing new (even in our world), you can always rev up the sci-fi factor by opting for a total head-to-toe shiny look. Don’t forget to apply frosted makeup, give yourself a gravity-defying hairdo, and slip on a pair of patent leather shoes.
If the muted dystopian jumpsuit is at one end of the “futuristic fashion” spectrum, then heavily graphic designs evoking digital motifs are on the other end. Generally speaking, these fashion pieces are bodycon, abstractly patterned, wildly colorful, and give off the illusion that technology-infused clothing is at work.
Chic characters in highly stylized sci-fi movies seem to gravitate towards clothing with severe, not-so-practically placed cut-outs. Perhaps it’s that these types of “cutting”-edge silhouettes are a way to display “innovation” in the distant future — but, lucky for us, these pieces are still constructed from wearable fabrics like spandex and poly blends.
Crystals! Mesh! Starry skies! Glamming up your look with rhinestones can instantly make you feel celestial and otherworldly. To really let the sparkles shine, layer these sheer gemstone pieces over simple shapewear or a black catsuit.
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