A visual history of space age fashion
The space race of the 1960s was more than a measure of scientific progress. The anticipation of this next step for humanity has also left an indelible impression on the culture.
President John F. Kennedy’s vision of the man reaching the moon quickly spawned a host of TV shows and movies – including the comic book sitcom “The Jetsons” and the “Star Trek” franchise – all of which were aimed at responding to America’s newfound interest in space travel. .
The success of the Apollo 11 mission in 1969 only whetted appetites. For fashion designers Paco Rabanne, Pierre Cardin and Thierry Mugler, it became the rocket that launched a thousand looks, because they centered entire collections around an intergalactic vision of the future.
Whether it’s a straight dress in chainmail, a bulbous helmet, or a pair of crisp white boots, the sartorial heritage of the 60s and 70s was defined by an exuberance of space race. But even decades after we set foot on the moon, the cosmos has remained a mainstay of inspiration for a variety of fashion houses.
Now that a new space race is unfolding, this time with a human mission to Mars on the horizon, we take a look back at fashion’s enduring love affair with space, in which art mimics life forms – whether aliens or astronauts – and celestial bodies. .
Italian designer Pierre Cardin’s first work, pictured here at Paris Fashion Week in 1968, was a silver vinyl stunt. Cardin, who died in December 2020, was a space age fashion pioneer, creating pointed, modernist silhouettes from shimmering lamé fabric. Her futuristic designs were worn by style icons of the 60s, Mia Farrow and the Beatles.
André Courrèges released his Moon Girl collection, comprising white boots and tall, spherical hats, in the spring of 1964. The late designer used high-shine PVC to make rigid trapezoidal skirts that held up well when twisted and deformed. fashion photos. His interest in intergalactic glamor only grew from there. Three decades later, Courrèges was still sending space-inspired looks at the runway, as pictured here during a show in April 1993 in Kyoto, Japan.
For many designers, the space race was synonymous with experimentation. Spanish designer Paco Rabanne was no different, creating straight mini dresses and matching headwear from unusual materials like chain mail. Rabanne’s now notorious chainmail designs made his models look like alien warriors – clad in body armor that was equal parts 16th-century knight and futuristic dancer.
Helmet-hat hybrids were the hallmark of the space age style of the 1960s. At a hat show in London in 1966, the late British designer Reed Crawford launched the “Dollar Princess” hat, a demi -visor and half-helmet that looked decidedly futuristic – although it was made from silver milk bottle caps.
During Paris Fashion Week 1986, French label Thierry Mugler’s fall-winter collection was full of ornate star patterns and decorative ear cuffs that stood up like antennae. Much of Mugler’s collections during the 1980s involved space-age foxes wearing large, square epaulettes wrapped in gold or silver lamé.
But not everyone felt optimistic about our impending future. Alexander McQueen’s Fall / Winter 1999-2000 collection for Givenchy was filled with “curiosity and fear of the future,” as one review of the 1999 Vogue show put it. White PVC as their entire body became circuit boards.
After Dior’s Fall / Winter 2006-2007 Haute Couture show at Paris Fashion Week, the brand’s artistic director at the time, British designer John Galliano, wore an astronaut costume as he made a usual tour around from the podium.
During Milan Fashion Week 2018, Moschino’s Fall / Winter collection took us back to the 60s of the space age in a different way. The models wore candy-colored mod dresses with high necklines and Jackie Kennedy Onassis-style pillbox hats, while sporting supernatural-looking green, blue or yellow skin – a nod to circulating conspiracy theories that the late first lady had been an alien undercover.
For the Chanel Fall-Winter 2017-2018 ready-to-wear collection, the Grand Palais in Paris housed a huge monogrammed rocket that even suffered a false launch, embellished with swirling smoke. Models stood in front of the spaceship dressed in ‘Jetsons’ inspired sets with glitter knee-high boots and looped double-breasted skirts.
The same year, Rei Kawakubo’s collection for Commes des Garçons was sculpturally in the space age. More abstract than the A-line, the puffy garments worn by Kawakubo models were made from a silvery insulating material and looked like floating pieces of space debris.
Iris van Herpen
No designer working today seems more systematically influenced by otherworldly forms and ideas than Iris van Herpen. The set design for his 2019 Hypnosis collection featured a spherical sculpture by American artist Anthony Howe that strikingly resembled the phases of the moon. According to the show’s notes, the Dutch designer took inspiration from the cosmic themes of “infinite expansion” and “a universal life cycle”.
Today, outer space still captures the imagination of fashion. For the Balmain Fall-Winter 2021-2022 collection presented at Paris Fashion Week this year, the catwalk has become a story of escape. A rocket hangar, an airplane, and even the moon hovered suggestively behind strutting models as viewers in unison fantasized about the journey during a pandemic. No destination was out of the question, even out of the world.