Welcome back SF writers, to the sixth episode of the Mad Inventions Series, or M.I.S. for short, a place to generate ideas for your SF stories based on our technological developments. Today we briefly look at clothing.

The story so far:
Intro; Digital Wallets; House Technology; The Pen; Digital Afterlife; Cars.

From fig-leaves to manufactured cloth, from shapeless tunics to Victorian bustiers, from practical garments to the extravagant style of the fashion walk, from synthetic fibres to spider silk – clothing has certainly come a long way.

For most people, seeing a Prêt-à-Porter dress is like viewing a piece of modern art – the kind that keeps you wracking your brain for hours because you can’t tell which end is the top and which is the bottom, or if there’s even any way to put it on at all – Ready-to-Wear, my ****!

When it comes to setting the scene, clothing plays a fundamental part, as they allow you to determine a time/period reference at a glance. On a movie screen or on a theatre stage, this visual impact doesn’t require any explanation – the viewer simply sees the clothing and instantly processes and contextualises them. With books, it’s different, because the image in the reader’s head is painted by your words. As with every aspect of the world you build, clothing also needs attention. If your SF book is set well into the future, chances are that clothing fashion and materials will have been affected. And if it’s set in a not-so-distant future, there may not be any drastic changes, but you can still introduce some innovations. After all, fashion has already merged with technology, so let’s see where we are.

Clothing has been developed to provide safety. Think reflective stripes or high-vis vests for those who work outside on roads, or at night. Those who are fashion-conscious may find bike helmets look pretty dire. If only there was a more stylish way to protect yourself from that pavement. Wait a minute! There’s Hövding, the inflatable airbag collar for cyclists, developed by Anna Haupt and Terese Alstin. Watch the safety video if you don’t believe me!

In a bid to help the environment, we are also recycling junk to make clothing: inner tubing from bicycles, radiator copper, old clothing, pencils, plastic, bottles, etc. Turns out Zoolander was ahead of the curve with its Derelicte clothing range.

On the topic of environmental clothing, there are some that can detect levels of pollution in the air and then display it with the use of LED (by DIFFUS).

Solar, kinetic and wind energy are also employed in clothing manufacturing. We have bags, necklaces and bikinis with mini-solar panels on their surfaces that can store enough energy to charge a phone. Or shoes which can convert your movements (walking, dancing, jumping, etc.) into energy, to then allow you to charge your phone or mp3. One of the most innovative designers is CuteCircuit, maker of the Kinetic Dress, a Victorian inspired evening gown that’s reactive to the wearer’s activities and mood. A gust of wind can make a dress light-up, thanks to Stijn Ossevoort and his wind-sensitive electronic devices.

If you can’t stay away from social media, then the Twitter Dress could be just the thing: wear it and watch those Tweets display across your body … for everyone to see! I can only imagine the mischief here …

By CuteCircuit

More generally, LED has found wide applications in fashion, from accessories to full gowns, like the Galaxy Dress below, from CuteCircuit.

Another interesting technical application is laser-etched clothing, to create incredible designs on a finished product.

Finally, a mention should go to nanotechnology in clothing. Nano-textiles involve dealing with nano fibres at the atomic and molecular levels in order to modify their properties. This can create water-resistant and dirt-free clothes, and intelligent clothes that can perform climate control for you – say goodbye to your smelly socks!

There is really a lot out there, and not all innovations are coming from the military: ingenious fashion designers are helping to push the boundaries every day. Not to mention writers.

How fashion conscious are we in our stories?

  1. Have you created a new material?
  2. What kind of clothing do your characters wear?
  3. Is there a feature you would like to see in clothing that could make your life easier?
  4. How can a piece of clothing advance the plot of your story?
  5. Analyse your work-in-progress novel/story from the point of view of clothing: have you used them to their full potential? Have you created the right clothing for your story? is there something you could add that would enrich the story or the world?

As always, happy writing!