Starting an Outfit Feature series, where I’ll talk about one or two looks, rather than doing big outfit dumps. I still log all my outfits in Airtable and post any with photos to Instagram, but I’m not sure that posting outfit pics every day on Instagram and collecting them all in two-week sets on the blog are the best use of time with how helpful for me or interesting they are to readers. So I’m switching to about 2x a week posting to Instagram and the blog after this week of very long working days.
As usual, the intention is not for this to be a prescriptive fashion post, but as an example showing how you might evaluate different options when styling an outfit to push it more towards a particular goal.
Last costume inspired post for a little while! But here are two outfits I’ve done for recent themed submissions in reddit. Left was for sci-fi and right was for fantasy.
I didn’t set out to do it this way, but it turned out that the basic description for each look was really similar: long dark gray outerwear, green top, high-waisted gray fitted bottoms, pointed-toe shoes. These are both casual, but it was cool to see how the details created a different vibe.
Longline cardigan // H&M
Dark green velvet camisole with covered buttons // Madewell
High-rise distressed knee washed black jeggings // Madewell
Metallic oxfords with ribbon laces // Louise et Cie “Adwin”
Snake buckle crossbody purse // Topshop
I usually prefer to have outfits with a larger variety of color value, but I liked the dark almost monochrome here with the high-contrast textures.
I wanted to go for a more luxe, wizard-inspired outfit here, since I usually go for more earthy fantasy looks. Something more Merlin or Morgan le Fay – jewel tones, rich fabrics, bling, and sweeping robes.
I also wanted it to be casual. More “running errands”, less “going to a fancy dress ball”.
I don’t have a lot of velvet/jacquard/silk/embroidery/metallics in my wardrobe, so that made it pretty easy to decide that I wanted to center the outfit around my only velvet top. It’s a pretty muted dark green which I find easy to pair with most of my wardrobe’s color palette, which is mostly dark gray/black and fall earth tones.
After that, I figured the next step to bring it closer to a high fantasy look would be to include a longline cardigan or coat in imitation of robes or a cape. It was too warm for a coat, so I tried both a taupe balloon sleeve cardigan and this dark gray one. I liked the dramatic sleeves on the taupe one, but the slightly shorter length, neat hemline, and light earth tone didn’t really hit the drama I was looking for.
Here’s a photo of said cardigan in a similar outfit (same top, slightly different black jeans) I wore a while back. It’s a great cardigan, but I think despite the sleeves and length the color and robe-like cut make it lean more cozy-casual than dramatic.
I’d previously tried long cardigan + voluminous pants combinations, but it always felt like I was drowning in a pile of fabric. Loose-loose can look really cool and even sharp when executed well, but my wide-leg pants that I’d pair with this top are soft fabrics without any interesting shape or structured feel to them, and feel too much like pajamas for my taste when paired this way. Additionally, the full volume always made me feel like my arms were disproportionately small in the final look. I decided to go with jeggings and just stick with the old “one fitted one loose” outfit-building rule of thumb.
Here’s an old example where I’d tried this cardigan with wide-legged pants and pointed toe shoes. With silhouettes like this I usually prefer to stick to a fitted boot to add some definition to the leg line, or possibly go for a heeled and/or pointed toe sandal which also add definition and elongate your leg line (anecdotally, this seems to be the most popular option for pairing with formal wide-legged jumpsuits). I think having the v-neck top would have made the final look feel less stuffy, but not enough to mitigate the overall effect of the cardigan.
For shoes, I wanted something with a sharper toe to balance out all the softness. Sometimes I’m cool with just becoming a big old ball of plush coziness, but for a wizard inspired look, I wanted to add a piece with a bit more edge.
I briefly considered using one of my black pointed toe boots. While I think the boot options would all make cool outfits, it didn’t feel as distinctively wizardly as the metallic shoes. I think part of it is that I have such a strong association with black pointed toe boots as a witchy item or generic modern staple. The metallic ribbon-lace oxfords are a more unusual item without a direct association and the shine added more visual interest.
Detail pic of the same accessories in a different outfit:
It isn’t something I use as a literal checklist every time I get dressed, but I do like to occasionally revisit this list of design elements that will create a more magical feel in any visual art. It is by artist James Talbot, originally referring to designing spaces, and was shared by u/weph on reddit.
More reading and inspiration
- LA Times interview with Doctor Strange costume designer Alexandra Byrne
- Wizard Inspiration Album on reddit/imgur (direct link to pinterest board) by u/TheBeastOfYuccaFlats
- Dragons and Knights Inspiration album on reddit/imgur by me (direct link to the pinterest board)
- (my previous post) Guide to Creating Wearable Witchy Outfits
Sci-fi Inspired Outfit
The other theme option for the week I did this was “denim”, which I don’t have very much of in my closet to do something fun. with. My wardrobe isn’t very suited to make sci-fi outfits either, because I’ve spent the last two years or so actively purging anything that wasn’t earthy/romantic/vintage-inspired from my closet. I wouldn’t argue if someone said that it didn’t read as even light sci-fi to them, but for me, this is far enough from my usual style’s center of gravity that I’m pretty happy with it.
Coat // Forever 21 (sleeves are hemmed + this is very similar to the All Saints “Monument” coat)
Top // Banana Republic (consignment)
Leggings // Athleta
Boots // Steve Madden
Earrings // Forever 21
Hat // ebay
When figuring out what to wear, I first clarified what the essence of (non post-apocalyptic) sci-fi fashion is for me. There are a bunch of ways to implement it (cyberpunk, vaporwave, retrofuturistic with 50s/60s/70s/80s bents, gothninja/sith, star trek, jedi, etc), but at least for me, the overarching concepts are 1) otherness, 2) a lack of earthiness (there are lots of exceptions to this e.g. costumes from a desert environment, post-apocalyptic, or solarpunk, but they require going harder on the other elements so that wasn’t happening that day) E.g. sleek and shiny fabrics that require more advanced manufacturing like laser cutouts, holographic effects, clear fabrics, and 3) practical/futuristic details e.g. zippers and not buttons, techwear fabrics.
On “Otherness”: It shouldn’t be too familiar. So if you do a pedestrian palette like all black or gray, balance it with a weird silhouette and/or more strongly sci-fi accessories. If you wear more normal clothes, it will feel more sci-fi with an uncommon palette like pastels or neons.
Weird details like asymmetry or something being slightly “off” like a collar that’s larger or smaller than the current style, or even something subtle like a funnel neck instead of a turtle neck will emphasize this. Though I think the subtle-things-being-off approach is most effective when either there are a lot of details in one outfit or you’re dealing with it on a crowd scale e.g. in the world-building of the movie Her.
Anyway, given my closet constraints, I went with my one textured top that had crisp regular rather than organic or drapey texture (a ridge stitch knit), leggings, and my only pair of sleek non-lace-up boots for the base, and my asymmetric drapey coat to add something a bit unusual and dramatic. I liked that these leggings were more of a space-dye gray rather than solid to add a little more texture.
I think this would have been a lot stronger if the boots were white and/or there was at least one item with a sci-fi texture (e.g. clear vinyl, holograph, metallic)
I tried docs first but I feel that especially with the socks + leggings, it read like a more common outfit formula, especially without the outerwear. I also preferred the more similar formality level and pointed toe of the boot boot with the pointed hem shape of the coat.
I didn’t wear my glasses because I felt that they made the look more clearly 2019 and the simple metal frames didn’t mesh with the sci fi vibe like clear plastic ones might. I actually have something like +1.5 -0.5 so overall my vision isn’t actually that bad (I can go a day without glasses if I need to), just weird because it’s nearsighted in one eye and farsighted in the other. I used to be more farsighted and over time have become more nearsighted 🧐
Accessories: The hat has the San Fransokyo Ninjas logo from the Big Hero 6 movie, and under the headphones I had these hexagon earrings.
I tried a photo where I posed holding my phone (using my partner’s phone to take the picture), because more tech more sci-fi, right? It actually made it look less sci-fi because the phone case wasn’t decked out to be over the top sci-fi.
More reading and inspiration
- Kit-bashed phones for Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge theme park outfts (twitter link)
- Tyranny of Style Interview with Casey Storm, the costume designer for Her
- UFO Corporate (like “spaceship corporate” but with more odd organic forms to bring in some alien vibes) inspiration board and part of an imaginary wardrobe I made (from items that at least at the time were actually purchasable) inspired by it, which I’m not sure I’ll ever get around to finishing because the translating styleboards posts take ages to do.
Are you more of a sci-fi or fantasy person (if either)? Do you ever like to add a little fictional flair to your everyday outfits?