Projection Chic: Jane Jetson Tries on Clothes in the Future | History | Smithsonian
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Projection Chic: Jane Jetson Tries on Clothes in the Future

As we move closer to the Jetsonian vision of choosing outfits, privacy has gone out of fashion

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This is the 22nd in a 24-part series looking at every episode of “The Jetsons” TV show from the original 1962-63 season.

The 22nd episode of “The Jetsons” originally aired on February 24, 1963, and was titled “Private Property.”

Like many that would come before it, this episode of “The Jetsons” centers around the business rivalry between Mr. Spacely and Mr. Cogswell. However, a short scene from the episode featuring Judy and Jane is far more interesting for our purposes than two middle-aged cartoon men yelling at each other about where their property lines begin and end.

Jane “tries on” a green “early galaxy” dress in the 22nd episode of The Jetsons (1963)

Jane and George have tickets to go to a play titled My Space Lady, a reference to the 1950s Broadway musical hit My Fair Lady. In order to determine what to wear to the play, Judy employs a rather Jetsonian method of trying on clothes.

“What are you wearing to the show tonight, Mother?” Judy asks.

“Well, Judy I can’t make up my mind,” Jane replies.

Judy suggests turning on the “dress selector” in order to find an appropriate outfit for the show.

Judy turns on the “dress selector” for her mother (1963)

“Oh we need the facsimile image! It’s the second button from the top, Judy.”

A screen descends from the ceiling in front of Jane and Judy pushes a button to turn on the dress selector projection machine. But when it comes to dresses Jane has is very discerning. “No, not this one, early Galaxy simply isn’t in vogue this season,” she says.

Another dress is projected onto her body. “Ooh, isn’t that a Christian Di-Orbit, mother?” Judy asks in a 21st century nod to mid-20th century French fashion designer Christian Dior.

“Yes, but I wore it at the ballet last month,” Jane replies.

With yet another switch, Jane decides on a dress with the projected image moving along with her arms in perfect synchronization.

Screenshot from the 1993 AT&T concept video “Connections” showing the electronic mannequin of tomorrow

In the 1993 AT&T concept video “Connections” we see a similar scenario play out as the one that would precede it by 30 years on “The Jetsons.” In this case, a woman and her daughter are shopping for a wedding dress. The daughter visits her mom at work and they proceed to “go shopping” by dialing in to Colton’s National Bridal Service.

The service asks the daughter to authorize her electronic mannequin, which brings up an animated avatar of her in a simple white tunic and heels. They can then flip through the different possibilities in wedding dresses, customizing features as they see fit while being able to see what it looks like on her body.

Me-ality machine at the Culver City Westfield mall (Photo: Matt Novak, 2013)

Here in the year 2013, we seem ever closer to that Jetsonian vision of choosing outfits. A number of clothing websites now let you “try on” clothes in a virtual fitting room, while shopping malls are also installing machines that allow you to find your size by way of sizing kiosks. Yesterday I walked down to Culver City’s Westfield mall and tried out their Me-Ality sizing machine.

I began by giving the attendant working the booth my name, birthdate, zip code, and email. Stepping into the booth feels a bit like the TSA’s backscatter “naked” x-ray machines, though the young woman working there assured me theirs is different (read: less cancer-causing?) technology. After a 10-second scan (again, which feels exactly like an airport backscatter scan with its swoopy arm buzzing in front of me) I exit the booth and am shown a computer screen which lists various types of clothing. Touching each button category (jeans, sweaters, etc) brings up stores that may have clothes in my size.

As the Huffington Post notes, the free clothes sizing scan from Me-Ality comes at a cost. Not only is your information shared with retailers, Me-Ality also sells all of the data to researchers and marketers, since it “collects information about the precise heights, weights and body mass indexes of the shoppers who use it, from which it can also determine health risk factors.”

As far as we can tell, Jane Jetson never had her body mass index, email and zip code sold to market research folk. But welcome to the retail future.

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