In Hans Christian Anderson’s famous tail, The Emperor’s New Clothes, a vain ruler is tricked by a pair or shrewd into walking around naked, in the belief that he was wearing clothes so fine and luxurious that only those with exquisite taste could see them.
Today, we are all close to sharing that Emperor’s delusions.
Thanks to advances in virtual reality and mixed reality, we could all be walking around in imaginary finery in the not too distant future.
Imagine an app with a photographic filter that changes the (dull/ cheap/ old/) clothes you are wearing into more stylish attire in real time (the same way that Snapchat and Instagram filters can instantaneously change photos and videos your face and waist line into more attractive versions of the real you). Instant wardrobe upgrade!
Too cheap to buy new clothes? Just apply app and fool your followers into thinking your are wearing designer mechanised and have actually taken then time to apply make-up before your live-video stream.
This is all, of course, entirely do-able with existing technology.
In the near future, we could spend more of our money on virtual garments that make us look good in digital images, than on regular clothes for our boring real lives.
There are already, teenagers addicted to playing the video game Fortnight, who dev exactly that – spend more money on “skins” for their game avatars than they do on clothes for their own flesh and blood bodies…
(As an aside, this, of course, would be wonderful for the environment – conspicuous virtual consumption is obviously vastly preferable to throw-away disposable fashion landing up in landfills all over the place.)
Now let’s take this concept a step further and imagine a slightly further off future, where smart glasses or contact lenses (like the ones below) have become common place…
We could all walk around in Yeezy-style greige body stockings (or even entirely naked) and yet appear dressed in the most fantastical virtual or mixed reality garment to all those who see us through their smart lenses.
As a glimpse of this brave new world, Studio PMS created a multifaceted virtual fashion and fabric installation called In Pursuit of Tactility for Dutch Design week earlier this year, illustrating just how digital fashion could work in reality:
Of course, there will be a risk that just like the two little boys in Hans Christian Anderson’s tail that saw through the illusion of the invisible clothes, someone will take off their smart goggles and see that the VR garments we appear to be wearing do not actually exist. But then again, how different will that be to meeting someone you know through (their heavenly filtered) social media accounts in real life?
The illusions become very revealing indeed.