One of my favorite pastimes in life is getting lost in a good book. As a child, my favorite books entailed everything from The Babysitters Club to R.L. Stine’s Fear Street horror novels. Now, even though my tastes in literature have evolved to biographies, I still love sitting down with a great science fiction read and instantly becoming one of the characters in my book, forgetting that the rest of the world exists.
Currently, and for the second time, I am reading Suzanne Collins’s, The Hunger Games trilogy. If you have not read them, I highly suggest picking it up. Set in the future, when the United States no longer remains and instead of states there are 12 poor and starving districts, the protagonist is a teenage girl, Katniss, who winds up in a battle provoked by the capitol as one of 24 tributes fighting in an arena for her life and to literally remain the last tribute standing, having killed the others.
After reading these books the first time, I couldn’t help but make the connection between ancient Rome and the battles that used to be held in the coliseum. These battles could have been between 2 gladiators or more and on some occasions, wild beasts could be thrown into the mix as well. Fights were often used as a form of entertainment, with the wealthy placing bets on which would be the victor. So what might give one gladiator an edge over another? The answer – presentation and intimidation. These two things are often conquered by a gladiator’s choice of dress. Dress is such a strong form of communication as it has the power to suggest to the world who you are, want you want, and how strong you are to get it.
In The Hunger Games, Katniss is given a stylist to dress her for her public appearances before the battle begins and for her outfit while in the deathly arena. At one point, her stylist dresses her in a body suit that develops into a raging fire. The fire, of course, is not real, but the technology within the clothing and fabric allows it to appear so. At another point in the book, Katniss is styled in a gown, that when she twirls, the gown ignites in flames, and what remains is a stunning feathered dress, to communicate and symbolize a bird. Everything from her body suits to sleeping bags is equipped with things like radiating her own body heat back to herself to help her survive.
Many who read these books might brush off the thought of Katniss’s gown igniting into flames as simply the made up creations of fiction novels; however, all of these little details and excitement in this imaginary futuristic world got me to thinking about how the integration of technology in fashion is not so fictional at all, but very realistic. Fashion has come quite a long way since the days of gladiators in Rome. Romans made their impressions with their clothing from how much armor they wore to the design of their helmet. Today, we live in a world that actually has invented incorporating important and protective SPF into our clothing, shampoos, and conditioners! No need to think twice about slathering on a layer of lotion before going for that run outside, because you can now buy a shirt, pair of pants, and hair products that are already equipped to protect us, all because of the technology invented. Not only is technology advancing how we wear our clothing but how it is displayed as well. For instance, Alexander McQueen, who was often referred to as a master of bringing technology and fashion together, once displayed a hologram of Kate Moss in what is now, one of his most iconic dresses ever, as the finale at his autumn/winter 2006 runway show. Never before had technology been integrated with fashion like that on the runway…
So, if we can aspire from 104 BC roman armor to the millennium where the fibers in our clothing can be built in with ultra-violet ray defense mechanisms, then why is it so unreal to imagine that in the (possibly near) future, fashion can take a dress and make it appear on fire without any actual, harmful flames? As some might think technology is harming the fashion industry, I say we can only embrace it and see where designers, such as the late McQueen, and other brilliant minds lead us.