Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Space-Age Fashion, 40 Years Later

I have a particular fondness for space-age fashion after having written a paper on the Jetsons and space-age Fashion (which, incidentally, I'm presenting at the Mid-Atlantic Popular/American Culture Association in November). Appropriately enough, the Daily Beast's Fashion Beast site features a short article and a slideshow of space-age fashion around the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing.

So what, exactly, is space-age fashion, and when did it come about? Suzanne Baldaia gives an excellent definition in her essay "Space Age Fashion" in the book Twentieth-Century American Fashion, ed. Linda Welters and Patricia A. Cunningham (Oxford: Berg, 2005). Her list of “primary visual signifiers” of space-age fashion includes rockets, spaceships, spacesuits, space helmets, spaceboots, astronauts, planets, the moon, and black space with stars. Additional signifiers include the color white and shiny, metallic textures and details, especially in silver, aluminum and steel. These signifiers do not have to be present in order for a garment or accessory to be space-age, but they must be manifest in certain elements of the object, such as a streamlined silhouette, metallic elements, or oversized hardware.

The writer at the Fashion Beast, Renata Espinoza, points out these signifiers and mentions the most seminal designers of space-age fashion: André Courrèges, Pierre Cardin, and Paco Rabanne (who I think is less important than the previous two, although he did design costumes for Barbarella in 1968). Courrèges was known especially for his white "moon boots" and miniskirts, which he introduced in 1965. I think Cardin is the most revolutionary of the three, especially for his 1967 Cosmocorps collection (of which there are some images in the daily beast slideshow- see the children's versions in the picture). Rabanne designed mostly in a chain-mail style with linked pieces of metal, plastic, or other materials.

The current examples in the slideshow are interesting. There's an image of a Louis Vuitton ad, which, rather than being futuristic, evokes a time when we were only dreaming of space travel (although it seems rather backward to be retro when we're considering such a massive accomplishment). The later images in the slideshow show more neutral, minimalistic designs, which the author suggests might be more appropriate for our newest space ambition, Martian travel (she's assuming Mars is a bit like Tatooine, I think). I was skeptical at first, thinking that these outfits (save the YSL dress at the end) had none of Baldaia's signifiers, and were therefore not "space-age" at all. But perhaps "space-age" has a new meaning forty years later, and just as our space destinations evolve, so do our space signifiers. I'm just not a big fan of the schlumpiness of some of the outfits- perhaps a combination of minimalist, technological, and adventure-ready will become our new space-age (inspired by the author's Star Wars idea, I'm thinking something like this- indulge me).

What do you think? What are our new "space-age" signifiers? Will we return to the original styles as a retro kickback? Are we too focused on earthly issues right now to be space-age, or will we look to space as an escape? How do you feel about these fashions?

First image, Pierre Cardin "Cosmocorps" collection for children, photo by Pierre Boulat, Life, 1967.
Second image, André Courreges fashions, photo by Bill Ray, Life, 1968.


  1. I always enjoy a walk around the museum, all the historical value makes me feed my knowledge and i feel that i grow up like a person. I like to try what i want to prove. this is when i buy viagra for my husband. whenever i have a doubt, i mus to satisfy my curiosity.

  2. They are all fashionable thanks for posting.



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