Space Age Style

Fashion landed on the moon long before man did. In the early 1960s, in the throes of the Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union, French couture designers like Pierre Cardin, Andre Courrèges, and Paco Rabanne sent so-called “Space Age” fashions down the Paris runways. These sleek, minimalist, and, often, unisex garments in high-tech synthetic fabrics turned women into chic astronauts and groovy aliens.

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Boots
André Courrèges
c. 1966
Museum Purchase, Funds provided by Tonian Hohberg
2008.5.47AB

Science fiction films like 2001 and Barbarella (costumed by Rabanne) and TV shows like Space: 1999 (costumed by Rudi Gernreich) imagined a utopian future of tunics, trousers, flat booties, helmets, and mini-dresses in lunar white or bold geometric patterns. As Cardin explained: “The clothes I prefer are those I invent for a life that doesn’t exist yet—the world of tomorrow.”

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Sunglasses
André Courrèges
1965
Museum Purchase, Funds provided by Robert Nelson
2008.528.1A/B

These white plastic sunglasses with narrow horizontal slits suggest protective goggles–or the bulging eyes of an otherworldly being. According to the New York Times, Courrèges’ “direct, unencumbered clothes” were intended to be worn by “young, fast-moving beauties”; his clients included French pop star Françoise Hardy, socialite Lee Radziwill, and model Marisa Berenson. Rabanne dressed Hardy, as well, plus Audrey Hepburn, Brigitte Bardot, and Elizabeth Taylor.

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Mini-dress
André Courrèges
c. 1965
Gift of Mrs. Richard Gold
81.1965.008.1

With a Space X rocket launch scheduled for today, a new Space Age is taking off, bringing its attendant fashion inspiration: Gucci’s Fall 2014 ready-to-wear show paired mod shifts with patent-leather boots, while Rodarte presented a Star Wars-themed collection. Christian Dior’s Spring 2015 couture show included retro astronaut jumpsuits. But these nostalgic trips back to the future may prove to be less influential than fashions created with the same new technologies used by the current generation of space scientists. Take Slow Factory boutique founder Celine Semaan Vernon, who transforms high-resolution NASA images of Earth into printed silk scarves, or Nervous System, the design studio behind the 3-D printed dress. The results are truly out of this world.

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