Space Age Fashion

When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon 40 years ago, they set off a style revolution—one small step for man, one giant leap for fashionkind.

On July 20, 1969, NASA astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, and Michael Collins successfully completed the Apollo 11 mission: They landed on the moon. Post-Sputnik, this was viewed as the ultimate triumph in the space race.

During those years leading up to the first moon walk, space fever swept through fashion—futuristic dress involved a minimalist uniform with an androgynous, geometric silhouette that might include a plastic bubble space helmet, a pair of black tights, and a few circular accessories. Taking inspiration from space suits, the designers creating the most iconic Space Age looks were masters of mod Paco Rabanne, Pierre Cardin, and André Courrèges. A-line miniskirts exposed stick-thin legs ready to plant themselves like flagpoles into the lunar landscape, while dresses eliminated unnecessary decoration to become space-cadet uniforms. Perspex helmets in varying shades mimicked real astronaut helmets, and together with stark all-white get-ups, the look embodied the moon itself, the silvery white orb in the sky that humans on earth were on a quest to land on.


But space uniforms for the masses might have been a little premature. As we approach 2010, we’re not exactly flying around in hovercraft and seeking out R&R on the moon, though Sir Richard Branson just invested $300 million in Spaceport America—it began construction in New Mexico last month—where he hopes to launch Virgin Galactic, which will send tourists on a flight orbiting the earth.

So space travel, initially a science mission, will soon become a status vacation. Case in point, Louis Vuitton’s summer ad campaign commemorates the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11’s moon landing, perhaps hinting that no interplanetary jaunt is complete without an LV trunk in tow. Shot by Annie Leibovitz, the image features Buzz Aldrin as well as astronauts Sally Ride (the first American woman in space) and Jim Lovell (Apollo 13 pilot) looking like rugged campers gazing up at the clear night sky from the back of a pickup truck at an intensely bright full moon, alongside Louis Vuitton luggage, of course.

NASA has plans to return to the moon by 2020, but the mission that space nerds are really holding their breaths for is the first human flight to Mars. Though fashion designers still have more earthly concerns when it comes to resort wear, how different is Mars from Morocco, really? For more, view our above gallery of Space Age icons of the past and what chic nomads might wear in the future.

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Renata Espinosa is the New York editor of Fashion Wire Daily. She is also the co-founder of impressionistic fashion and art blog TheNuNu and a sometimes backup dancer for "The Anna Copa Cabanna Show."