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This is supposed to be an article for the Fashion & Kitsch section covering the Science Fiction topic of the month. However, I must warn you from the very beginning that Sci-Fi will not target the future here. I am facing a complete blocker while thinking about the future style trends (right now, I must admit having zero knowledge about that). And although it is a very unfashionable thing to do, some people (like me!) are still learning to live THIS day and avoiding to draw projections for tomorrow. This being said, I’m inviting you to look retrospectively of how people of long-gone days used to imagine the future and, specifically, how it reflected on fashion and style. The “historical sources” to be used for such an investigation will be various covers of vintage Sci-Fi comic books. So, welcome onboard. We are taking off to the past. 

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Catch up on Science Fiction basics

“The paradox of Sci-Fi is its fundamentality as a fantasy, which by its nature is not real and sinks into the perspective of futurism. On the other hand, Sci-Fi is only legit if it manages to remain true to life, believable and involving. ”

The concept of Science Fiction is based not only on futuristic elements or inventions but also it is about being able to interact with somewhat impossible, for instance, time travel, space exploration, parallel universes or aliens and robots. Basically, something that has been always perceived as not realistic at the time, but what possibly could be achieved by future generations. The paradox of Sci-Fi is its fundamentality as a fantasy, which by its nature is not real and sinks into the perspective of futurism. On the other hand, Sci-Fi is only legit if it manages to remain true to life, believable and involving. Of course, fiction often relies on the element known as suspension of disbelief, which lets the creator to digress from logic or reality without taking away the enjoyment of a story from the audience, but a crucial criterion for Sci-Fi is to accurately follow the Laws of Science. For completion, the futuristic narrative should be cocooned into an outstanding character’s attitude, dictating the tone of the story. 

Mesmerizing visually

“The most interesting and inventive are Sci-Fi comics created during the so-called Golden (1938-1946) and Silver (covers period from the ’50s to ’70s) periods when Sci-Fi comics had caught the tsunami of popularity.”

Speaking of characteristics, everything representing a story has to be reflected and displayed on the cover, because that is what sells the whole idea. The most interesting and inventive are Sci-Fi comics created during the so-called Golden (1938-1946) and Silver (covers period from the ’50s to ’70s) periods when Sci-Fi comics had caught the tsunami of popularity. And this is completely convincing, as covers are brightly colored, dramatic and are filled with some aftertaste of kitsch. Overlaying overreactions on the covers and narrative inside the pages is one way of telling a story graphically, but when giving it another look, you start noticing some other ideas. 

Fashion as a Tool

“When going through various covers of vintage Sci-Fi comics, you can’t help but notice the same patterns. Leaving spaceship and skyscrapers in the background, mankind is always in the centre as the main protagonists. ”

When going through various covers of vintage Sci-Fi comics, you can’t help but notice the same patterns. Leaving spaceship and skyscrapers in the background, humanity is always in the center as the main protagonists. In most cases, both a man and a woman who could be seen as imaginary “you and me.” Identifying oneself with various heroes is quite a common thing in every type and form of a text or visual, but what could be “read” in their clothes? Besides tight and bold costumes with glass helmets and laser guns, which represent a classical cover of such a magazine, the most dominant are women apparel: extremely short silk slip-on or metallic bikinis matching with a fainting pose or heavy-ass weapon. Not very futuristic, is it? 

“All looks had become more and more expressive and free in their form and individuality, yet Sci-Fi comics very likely on purpose drew a different, more fantasy loose image of a future woman.”

Well, at some point, an author reimagines people of his own time, so they don’t have to look too different; it is one way of explaining why such a style for the cover art was chosen. But otherwise, we are looking at the time right after the WW2 and women fashion then was pretty elegant and subtle. This was the time when Dior presented the New Look of a woman style. Moreover, pin-up trends had a big swing at the parties, keeping it very feminine with a twist of funkiness. ’60s and ’70s being so trendy these days, brought bright-colored patterns with mini-skirts and wide-leg pants. All looks had become more and more expressive and free in their form and individuality, yet Sci-Fi comics very likely on purpose drew a different, more fantasy loose image of a future woman.

The Aftermath of the Gaze

“Understanding the expectation of a future woman had one possible outbreak, the empowerment. Not implying that Sci-Fi comic books were the main reason for such a result, yet it was one of the channels transmitting the role women had in a respective society. ”

A comic book cover is created to represent a story, and heroes of the story represent the society – its achievements and desires. Meanwhile, seeing a barely dressed woman on a cover – strong and dominant or fragile and in need to be rescued – was one way of receiving a perception of a woman’s role. As French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan’s theory of the Gaze describes, seeing ones’ reflection helps them, in this case, women, to see their image of how they should project themselves. Another type of the gaze – the desired look – belongs to the consumer of an image, in other words, the reader of a story. 

Understanding the expectations of a future woman had one possible outbreak, the empowerment. Not implying that Sci-Fi comic books were the main reason for such a result, yet it was one of the channels transmitting the role women had in a respective society. The deeply rooted tradition of seeing femininity as being weak and helpless wasn’t a surprise. Maybe more like a confirmation that it had never been taken away and became quite a trigger to represent that heroic and strong female, who was wearing “something more” comfortable” than a tiny and shiny bikini. Such self-awareness has emerged as so-called Second-wave feminism, working hard on a different view on women, which doesn’t seem like a Sci-Fi story in the far away future anymore.

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