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The Strand Magazine // Joshua Moore

13 Bold Fashion Predictions from 1893

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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.

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Big Questions
Why Do Shorts Cost as Much as Pants?
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Shorts may feel nice and breezy on your legs on a warm summer’s day, but they’re not so gentle on your wallet. In general, a pair of shorts isn’t any cheaper than a pair of pants, despite one obviously using less fabric than the other. So what gives?

It turns out clothing retailers aren’t trying to rip you off; they’re just pricing shorts according to what it costs to produce them. Extra material does go into a full pair of pants but not as much as you may think. As Esquire explains, shorts that don’t fall past your knees may contain just a fifth less fabric than ankle-length trousers. This is because most of the cloth in these items is sewn into the top half.

Those same details that end up accounting for most of the material—flies, pockets, belt loops, waist bands—also require the most human labor to make. This is where the true cost of a garment is determined. The physical cotton in blue jeans accounts for just a small fraction of its price tag. Most of that money goes to pay the people stitching it together, and they put in roughly the same amount of time whether they’re working on a pair of boot cut jeans or some Daisy Dukes.

This price trend crops up across the fashion spectrum, but it’s most apparent in pants and shorts. For example, short-sleeved shirts cost roughly the same as long-sleeved shirts, but complicated stitching in shirt cuffs that you don’t see in pant legs can throw this dynamic off. There are also numerous invisible factors that make some shorts more expensive than nearly identical pairs, like where they were made, marketing costs, and the brand on the label. If that doesn’t make spending $40 on something that covers just a sliver of leg any easier to swallow, maybe check to see what you have in your closet before going on your next shopping spree.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Musee YSL Marrakech
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Design
A Pair of New Museums Will Honor Fashion Icon Yves Saint Laurent
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Musee YSL Marrakech

In 2008, the legendary Yves Saint Laurent—the 20th century fashion luminary whose designs were inspired by fine art, menswear, Moroccan caftans, and peasant garb, among other influences—passed away at the age of 71. Now, nearly a decade after his death, fashion fans can pay homage to the iconic designer by visiting two new museums dedicated to his life and work, according to ARTnews.

Morocco's Musée Yves Saint Laurent Marrakech pays homage to the designer in a place he famously loved. (He first bought a house in the city in 1966, and his ashes were scattered there after his death.) In 1980, he and his partner Pierre Bergé bought Marrakech's Jardin Majorelle to prevent its destruction by developers, turning it into an immensely popular public garden. Located near the garden—along a street that is named after him—the new museum's permanent and temporary exhibits alike will feature clothing items like the designer's influential safari jackets and smoking suits along with sketches, accessories, and other archival items.

The Moroccan museum will serve as a sister institution to the new Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris, which is located at the site of Saint Laurent’s historic atelier and office in France. Following an extensive renovation of the building, the Paris institution will house thousands of sketches, photos, and fashion items related to the designer. The first exhibition will be a themed retrospective, “Yves Saint Laurent’s Imaginary Asia."

Both museums are scheduled to open in October. We’re already donning our smoking jackets.

[h/t ARTnews]

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