The Strand Magazine // Joshua Moore
The Strand Magazine // Joshua Moore

13 Bold Fashion Predictions from 1893

The Strand Magazine // Joshua Moore
The Strand Magazine // Joshua Moore

In 1893, The Strand magazine published a story written and illustrated by W. Cade Gall called "The Future Dictates of Fashion," in which an older gentleman discovers in his library a book that appears to come from 1993 ... 100 years in the future. The tome, Past Dictates of Fashion; by Cromwell Q. Snyder, Vestamentorum Doctor, was "oblong in shape, was bound in mauve morocco," Gall writes, and looks back at a century of fashionable clothes. The readers of The Strand, of course, would be looking forward in time at those fashions.

In the readers' present day, fashion was "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." The clothes in 1893 (shown below) are included in the book, and Gall notes that they "are familiar enough, although we note with surprise that the gentleman's coat-tails seem to have a crinoline cast, and if the turned-up bottoms of his trousers are a little mortifying, it is atoned for by a triumphant attitude which disarms hypercriticism." By 1940, fashion had become a respectable science "governed by immutable laws."

Were these illustrations meant to be true predictions or just satire? We'll never know—but at least we can enjoy them. Here are a few fashions of the future, as imagined by a man in 1893.

1. 1905

Gall first calls this outfit "subdued," then notes that "the ladies may well regard this plate as astounding. There is even a suggestion of 'bloomer' about its nether portion, and if the hat is not without precedent in history, the waist is little short of revolutionary." Here's a good example of what ladies ended up wearing in 1905.

2. 1911

Fashion at this point, Gall predicted, would be about the bows. "Silk bows have been worn about the neck for nearly, if not quite, a century, but never in the body of the attire," Gall writes. "It is true the gentleman as early as 1910 adorns his nether garments with a plain silk band, but in the elderly party of 1911 he has assumed gay ribbons for his shoes as well as at his knees and throat." Sadly, men's outfits in 1911 were without bows.

3. 1912

In 1912, Gall imagined that young men would use shepherd's crooks as accessories and adorn their outfits with ever-bigger bows (which Gall called "wing-shaped objects projecting from his person"). The lady—whose outfit is strangely medieval—"is doing her utmost to look pleasant under the most trying conditions," Gall wrote, but her outfit, despite its "novelty and perplexity ... must still be called plain. One might be forgiven for surmising that the kerchief-shaped article covering a portion of the lady's bust is formed of riveted steel, for surely nothing else could support the intolerable load she is so blandly carrying off." In reality, fashions of this time for both sexes were much more subdued

4. 1929

In 1922, Gall predicted that skirts would expose the ankles, "short enough to alarm prim contemporary dames"—a shocking thing in his own time. But in the plate from 1929, which depicts "what is presumably a husband and wife on their way to church or perchance upon a shopping excursion ... The prudes ... seemed to have gained their point, for the skirt is considerably less scanty in the region of the ankles." Gall went on to comment that "the lady is evidently looking archly back to see if anybody is observing what a consummate guy her spouse is making of himself, for with all her sartorial shortcomings she has certainly the best of the bargain." Of course, real fashion from the 1920s was decidedly sleeker—and showed much more ankle.

5. 1936

Gall called this poor "middle-aged" guy—who, let's not forget, was of Gall's own imagination—"the greatest donkey in the entire collection. ... [He is] gadding about in inflated trunks and with a fan in his hand. If it were not for the gloves and polka-dot neck-wear we should assume that this costume was a particularly fantastic bathing-suit." Thankfully for the men of 1930s, popular clothes looked nothing like what Gall imagined.

6. 1938

"This skirt seems to have been rather a weak point with our posterity of the female persuasion, for ... we find it rising and falling with the habitual incorrigibility of a shilling barometer," Gall wrote. "The Oriental influence is easily traced in the fashions from 1938 to 1945, but it cannot but make the judicious grieve to note that trousers seem to have been adopted by the women at the same time that they were discarded by the men." No word on why Gall believed the ladies of 1938 would be so inspired by watermelons and Little Bo Peep, or why they'd wear what appeared to be plates on their feet; at any rate, women's fashions didn't look like this at all.

7. 1946

Gall apparently believed that the fashions in 1946—which he imagined would be constructed of patterned materials and rife with ruffles—would be rather ugly, and that women would wear their hair in gravity-defying 'dos. "There is very little beauty about the lady's costume for 1946," he wrote, "or in that of the child in the plate." Real fashion of the era was less frump, more glam.

8. 1950

In 1950, according to Gall's story, fashion would begin to be studied as a science at the University of Dublin. But what Gall imagined is a far cry from the demure party dress and the poodle skirt. "[The costume] for 1950 is a great improvement," Gall wrote, in part because "the exaggerated chignon has disappeared."

9. 1955 - 56

According to Gall, future fashion would go a bit off the rails in the mid-'50s—especially the hats. "To accord praise to either's hideous style of head-dress would be to abandon permanently all reputation for taste," he wrote. Hats worn in the mid-'50s were nowhere near as wacky.

10. 1960

In Gall's mind, not even civil servants would escape fashion's fickle grip in the future. Take this policeman's outfit. "[He] seems to have a very easy time of it," Gall said, "for no man's person can be considered in danger from the mob who habitually offers so many points à saisir as this policeman's head displays." Dealing with the police have definitely been more amusing if they had dressed like this.

11. 1965

Gall imagined that the military, too, would wear new outfits in the future. "It is not customary in the present day for army officers to affect umbrellas, but seventy years hence it may be found necessary to protect one's head-dress," he wrote.

12. 1984

Gall wrote that, according to Past Dictates of Fashion, ladies fashion finally came into its own in the mid-'80s. The guys, though, would not be so lucky. "[The design] 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 ... lacking in the gentleman's apparel," Gall wrote. The writer couldn't have imagined which way fashion would actually go in the '80s, which was arguably more bizarre. 

13. 1993

In the 1990s, Gall predicted, dudes would dress like ladies. This look is probably better on men than a babydoll dress, at least.

Pete Jelliffe, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0
Pop Culture
Glove Story: The Freezy Freakies Phenomenon of the 1980s
Pete Jelliffe, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0
Pete Jelliffe, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

Kids who grew up in the northeast in the 1980s were pretty invested in a fad that might have gone unnoticed in warmer parts of the country. Cajoling their parents at department stores during shopping trips, hundreds of thousands of them came home sporting a pair of Freezy Freakies—thick winter gloves that came with a built-in parlor trick. When the temperature dipped below 40°F, an image would suddenly appear on the back part of the material.

Swany America Corporation, which made, marketed, and distributed the gloves, released more than 30 original designs beginning in 1980. There was a robot, a unicorn, rocket ships, ballerinas, rainbows, snowflakes, and various sports themes, though the “I Love Snow” image (below) may have been the most popular overall. At the height of Freezy mania, Swany was moving 300,000 pairs of gloves per year, which accounted for about 20 percent of their overall sales.

A Freezy Freakies glove before and after the temperature change
Freezy Freakies

“Boys loved the robot design,” Bruce Weinberg, Swany’s vice president and a former sales director for Freezy Freakies, tells Mental Floss. “Above 40 degrees, the image would disappear.”

The secret to the $13 Freakies was thermochromic ink, a temperature-sensitive dye that's been used in mood rings and heat-sensitive food labels and can appear translucent until it's exposed to warmer temperatures. Swany licensed the ink from Pilot, the Japanese-based pen company, after Swany CEO Etsuo Miyoshi saw the technology and thought it would be a good fit for his glove-focused operation. (Though they experimented with making luggage in the 1990s, Swany has predominantly been a manufacturer of higher-end ski gloves.)

Weinberg isn’t sure how Miyoshi settled on the “Freezy Freakies” name—the president is now retired—but says Miyoshi knew they had a hit early on. “After a few seasons, they could tell they had a winner product,” he says. Swany even put advertising dollars into TV commercials, a rare strategy for glove-makers not named Isotoner.

Pilot was able to adjust the temperature at which the ink would become transparent, or vice versa. If kids were impatient, or if it happened to be during the summer, Weinberg says it wasn’t uncommon to find Freezy Freakies stuck in the freezer so they could materialize their art design. “At trade shows, we’d do something similar with some ice or a cold soda,” he says. “All of a sudden, some ice cubes would make it change, and buyers would think that was really cool.”

The Freakies were such a hit that Swany licensed jackets and considered changing the name of the company to the same name as the glove. It’s probably just as well they didn’t: While Freakies lasted well over a decade, by the 1990s, things had cooled. In the new millennium, Swany was down to selling just a few hundred pairs a year. Color-changing ink for coffee mugs or beer cans was more pervasive, wearing down the novelty; knock-offs had also grabbed licensed cartoon characters, which Swany was never interested in pursuing.

The brand was dormant when a company named Buffoonery approached Swany in 2013 to license Freezy Freakies for a crowdfunded revival. This time, the gloves came in adult sizes for $34. The partnership has been successful, and Weinberg says Buffoonery has just signed an extension to start producing kids’ gloves.

“Parents will probably want matching ones for their kids,” Weinberg says. And both might still wind up in the freezer.

Live Smarter
The Very Disgusting Reason You Should Always Wash New Clothes Before Wearing Them

It’s sometimes assumed that clothing with a price tag still dangling from the sleeve can skip an initial wash. Someone else may have tried it on, sure, but they didn’t run a marathon in it. Why not just throw it in the closet as soon as you get home?

One big reason: lice. As The Independent reports, Donald Belsito, a professor of dermatology at Columbia University Medical Center, told NBC's Today show recently that clothing fresh off store racks can harbor infestations of lice, scabies, or fungus.

You might be familiar with head lice as the dreaded insects that occupy the scalp and give school health monitors cause for concern. Head lice can be transmitted via clothing and other fabrics, and anyone who tried on a shirt or dress before you did can be a carrier. While they only live for one or two days without a blood meal, that’s still enough time to cause problems if something is being tried on frequently.

Scabies is far more insidious. The mites are too small to see, but the allergic reaction they cause by burrowing into your skin to lay eggs will be obvious.

Both scabies and lice can be treated with topical solutions, but it’s better to kill them by washing new clothes in hot water. A good soak can also get rid of formaldehyde, a common chemical used in fabrics to help ward off mold in case stock gets wet in transit. Formaldehyde can cause allergic skin reactions. For all of these reasons, it’s best to hit the washing machine before those new pants ever hit your hanger.

[h/t Independent]


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