Fashion Backward

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The infamous Space Race of the 1960s was not only raging through the political sphere, it influence fashion heavily as well. SPACE AGEISM brought on a movement toward modern, futuristic looks and simple, bold styles.

It is the Parisian designer Andre Courrèges who is seen as the first to really combine the contemporary interests of space travel and science fiction with fashion. His 1964 collection aptly entitled “Space Age” that stole the attention of the fashion crowd and changed women’s clothing forever. The styles shown were minimal — lots of white and silver — and experimented with the new fad of shiny, modern synthetics. The wardrobe suggested itself to be appropriate for “moon girls” everywhere, living in the newfound space age. Hats were shaped like helmets, sunnies were more like goggles and came in opaque white with slit lenses. The slim pants sat right on the hip and were worn with short tunic dresses. The suits were predominantly silver and white, and to keep with the futuristic trend, Courrèges updated the traditional suit/shirt/tie look to woollen jersey tunics. But it was the skirts that really turned heads, as they sat much farther above the knee than had previously ever been seen. And the shoes! Square toed knee high white shiny boots? Hello gogo!

Courrèges’ hyper-modern, innovative collection caused quite the ruckus and resulted in the popular glossy magazine Queen calling the other couturiers clothing “dreary.” This was also just around the time that Brigitte Bardot, a highly influential lady at the time, proclaimed that “couture is for grannies.” Harsh. In a 1965 Vogue article, Violette Leduc examined the Courrèges phenomenon, commenting, “In 1964 Courreges hit the headlines with his SPACE AGE collection. His clothes at this time, were functional, uncluttered, futuristic designs. He was fascinated by metal and put his models into metal brassieres and bustiers. Andy Warhol said “Courreges clothes are so beautiful, everyone should look the same, dressed in silver. Silver merges into everything, costumes should be worn during the day with lots of make-up.” Courreges’ clothes were sharp, angular and subject to a highly disciplined design. Simple, stark, trapeze-shape dresses and coats were boldly piped in contrasting colours.”
The public was excited — the world was accelerating toward modernity as we know it, technology was starting to really kick off and, of course, everyone was on a race to the moon. Clearly, it was time to embrace the new age.

Andre Courrèges Space Age

Andres Courrèges Space Age

Andre Courrèges Space Age

And can we just recognize that the wacky colored hair trend of today was actually represented in these images from the ’60s? I bet Courrèges would be so stoked that he was entirely on trend for the year 2012. ANYWAY…

Other designers also took notice and made the move toward futuristic garb. The use of synthetics and shiny materials boomed — bright vinyl piping, shiny patent leather accessories, heavy metallic zippers and boldly colored PVC all made the runway rounds. The future looking optimism that came with the thought of space travel was flooding world culture, and with it came a really fun and novel time in fashion history. The possibility of a moon landing caused the people to edge on hysteria, and designers of the time had to prepare for the possibility of a true space age. A girl needs her space helmet! Pierre Cardin a noted fashion rule breaker threw in his two cents early on by creating a collection featuring round collars, jersey polos, mini skirts, skin tight leather pants, jumpsuits and a variation of the helmet trend that used plastic visors. Emanuel Ungaro, who worked under Courrèges until 1965, felt the influence too and released a line of brightly colored coats and suits, shorts, A-line dresses, thigh high boots, over the knee socks and other metallic garments. These designers were looking to break all the old rules of fashion by combining an innovative and modern use of color, texture and material with the old standard of tailoring and cut. Each one was a couture designer — they had mastered the skills and techniques of the old world but saw it was time to move beyond the constraints of the prim and proper past.

Pierre Cardin, 1966

Pierre Cardin, 1968

Pierre Cardin went all out Star Trek on this one!

The look that came from Space Ageism is essentially what everyone thinks of when considering the 1960s — white gogo boots, super short skirts and bright colors. The wearable elements shown on the runways all trickled down to high street with the transparent vinyl being used for rainwear and the metallic finishes translating into evening. It is no surprise that this era of fashion came right before Postmodernism took over the scene in the 1970s — designers and subsequently their customers were realizing that fashion didn’t have to be strict, it could be fun. This is not your grandmother’s couture.

Source: …isms Understanding Fashion by Mairi Mackenzie

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  1. […] began to develop his own ideas and designs and his breakthrough was in 1964 when he showcased his “Space Age” collection – then becoming one of the most popular designers of the […]

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