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I am trying to hint at in a story I write that the story takes place in a dystopian society. To be more specific I am talking about a technological kind of dystopian society that would be subtly totalitarian.

I would like to only hint at the fact via the clothing people are wearing. Is there any subtle way how clothing in a dystopian futuristic society would differ from clothing in other societies?

My original idea was to say that everyone dresses in uniform fashion. This what we can see in dystopian societies such as the one shown in Equilibrium movie for example. However, in many sci-fi worlds such as Star Trek people dress all the same even though the society is portrayed as utopia. Is there any way how choice of attire would develop differently in dystopian society?

My criteria for the best answer is that the visual clue should be inconspicuous, more the better, but there should be some logic behind it. An example of suggestion that I am looking for is the excellent suggestion in one of the answers that "Everybody except for the uppermost classes carries a shopping bag whenever they leave the home, in case scarce goods are available for once. " A shopping bag is inconspicuous. Its an ordinary day to day item. Yet if its an ubiquitous item and everyone is worried about always having their shopping bag with them it is a visual clue even if the limited availability of the items is not explicitly mentioned or protagonist of the story might not experience it (at least not at the start).

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  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to worldbuilding. As stated in our help center, we want questions asked here to be answerable with facts, not opinion. Frankly I don't see a way to answer this question with anything else than opinions. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Sep 22 '20 at 10:08
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    $\begingroup$ Are you sure Star Trek is a utopia? Starfleet seems to be the most prestigious to be in, which is clearly a military stule organisation with ranks and such. Any information device seen is from starfleet, from the computers to the handheld scanning things. They seem to be allowed little differentiation if you look at the cabins and as you say they wear practically the same. We only see abundance following the crew. Most other humans we see aren't so lucky. $\endgroup$ – Trioxidane Sep 22 '20 at 10:42
  • $\begingroup$ @Trioxidane that is actually a good point $\endgroup$ – Lorenzo Pozzi Sep 22 '20 at 11:18
  • $\begingroup$ @L.Dutch-ReinstateMonica but I think this could be answered with facts. I am sorry if I asked my question in a wrong manner I will have a look at the help center and try to do better in future $\endgroup$ – Lorenzo Pozzi Sep 22 '20 at 11:19
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    $\begingroup$ @Trioxidane, Next Generation was certainly intended to be a utopia; this is reiterated many, many times in 'behind the scenes' content. That said, I must point out that people did not all dress alike in Trek. Yes, Federation officers did, but those are professional uniforms (compare e.g. modern militaries, medicine, hospitality...). Off-duty and civilian clothing was plenty varied. $\endgroup$ – Matthew Sep 22 '20 at 13:16
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  • Make a decision, are your dystopian clothes drab and long-lasting, or flashy and disposable? Consider a world where the only clothing most people can get is low-quality fast fashion. Yes, everybody gets half a dozen new t-shirts a year. But those shirts look work after half a dozen washings, so people look ragged anyway.
  • It could be subtly unified -- you can get clothing in countless flashy colors, but always the same cut and materials. And non-flashy colors are hard to find.
  • Are you working in visual media or in writing? There could be fashions or trends which simply are there, and which make your setting distinctive. A style of hat or cap, something like that.
  • Then there are practical adjustments due to the dystopian setting.
    • Hats and long sleeves to protect against UV rays if it is an environmental disaster.
    • Special raincoats against acid rain.
    • Everybody except for the uppermost classes carries a shopping bag whenever they leave the home, in case scarce goods are available for once. "Sorry I'm two hours late, but look what I have. Five oranges and five bananas."
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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for suggestion I wish I had enough rep to upvote it. I really like this idea: "Everybody except for the uppermost classes carries a shopping bag whenever they leave the home, in case scarce goods are available for once. "Sorry I'm two hours late, but look what I have. Five oranges and five bananas."" $\endgroup$ – Lorenzo Pozzi Sep 22 '20 at 11:20
  • $\begingroup$ @lpozzi, if they see a waiting line through a shop window, they ask what's available. If they see a waiting line all the way to the sidewalk, they get into line and then ask for what they're waiting. $\endgroup$ – o.m. Sep 22 '20 at 12:46
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Dystopian society dictates everybody how he/she should look. And members of this society are shamed to look in a way, not approved by rules. If you dare to dress in unusual way, firstly you are shamed by people around you, than either your trigger surveillance system or somebody calls Ministry of Happiness.

Clothes don't have to be uncomfortable, because Ministry of Abundance don't like people having attritions, flu and runny noses (they work badly in this conditions). Clothes don't have to be sexually provocative, because Ministry of Righteousness don't like when people are distracted from their duties.

Every age and occupation has different looking, but mandatory uniform. Even if its not 100% suitable for environment, as people from less dystopian societies think.

Furthermore, color differentiation is still in place. For example, skilled worker can wear orange jumpsuit, novice - green one, and so on.

Schoolgirls wears something like Japanese ones do. Salespersons all wear tuxedos, workers wear jumpsuits with tool belts. Programmers wear hoodies. Police officers wear bulletproof vests and balaclavas. Hipsters wear lumberjack shirts and vapes. Unemployed wears wierd colored clothes with print "Looking for work", to press peer pressure on them. Rich people wear yellow pants. Very rich people wear pink pants. It worked perfectly on Pluk planet from Kin-dza-dza movie.

And even if its your spare time, you are still obliged to wear your uniform. Also everybody has ID badge attached.

Clothes/uniform should make persons wearing it proud. First, they are workers, policemans, students, repairmens.Second - they are citezens. And third - they are persons. If you talk to one of guys in orange jumpsuits fixing surveillance system, he would say:

  • Yes, i'm infrastructure repairman from 451 district, i have 19 years of service with only 9 minor penalties, my Success Score is 87%, i have 29 achievements and 211 friends in social network, and i'm happy! Oh, i forgot, my name is Jullian 451-22397230.

Scene, that can emphasize this, is, for example, concert of classic music. Spectators all dressed in new and clean clothes, showing their occupation. Only musicians are in tail-coats and evening dresses, and only Lead Manager of City 17 is dressed in bright cashmere suit.

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    $\begingroup$ This is amazing idea: "Unemployed wears wierd colored clothers with print "Looking for work", to press peer pressure on them." Thanks for your answer $\endgroup$ – Lorenzo Pozzi Sep 22 '20 at 11:21
  • $\begingroup$ "Schoolgirls wears something like Japanese ones do." Of course they would. $\endgroup$ – DKNguyen Sep 22 '20 at 13:45

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