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What the future looked like way back when

By: Laura Moss on May 7, 2012, 1:22 p.m.
 Pierre Cardin's space-age nurses uniforms

Photo: Pierre Cardin's nurse uniforms of the future (Popperfoto/Getty Images)

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For the most part, fashion has not gone the way our ancestors thought it would. (A 1950 Popular Mechanics article predicted we would wear rayon underwear that chemical companies would buy from us to convert into candy.) Still, some predictions were correct. In 1910, Thomas Edison wrote, “The clothes of the future will be so cheap that every woman will be able to follow the fashions promptly, and there will be plenty of fashions. Artificial silk that is superior to natural silk is now made of wood pulp. I think that the silkworm barbarism will go in fifty years.” He was half right: While inexpensive clothing is mass produced today, silk still comes from silkworms that are killed for the material.

Another popular prediction was the emergence of the futuristic, one-piece jumpsuit, implying that people of the future would be more concerned with efficiency than with style. But Pierre Cardin disagreed. In the 1960s and 1970s, he unveiled space-age, avant garde collections that weren’t always that practical. In this 1971 photo, models wear the Cardin’s nurse uniforms of the future.

If you’d like to see more futuristic fashion, check out this video from 1938 when Vogue magazine asked designers to predict the fashions of the year 2000. (Ladies, be grateful the "electric headlight" idea didn't take off.)