Wednesday, 28 August 2013

The peculiar "Space Fashion" of the 60's ... From Couture to "Camp" ... From Courrèges to BARBARELLA ... and the "Space/Sport pyjamas" of STAR TREK ...

André Courrèges

'Where do his tennis dresses, his sailor dresses come from? Where did he find them? On the steps of Delphi. In the wardrobe of Electra. They are modern and they are antique.'
Violette Leduc 'Is Courrèges Wearable?' Vogue, 1965.

André Courrèges (born 1923) graduated in engineering before studying fashion and textile design. He worked for Balenciaga for ten years, which allowed him to develop great skill in cutting garments. In 1961 he established his own fashion house and began to develop a different look.

His Spring collection of 1964 showed radically different clothes. These designs included angular mini dresses and trouser suits. The look was created by using heavyweight fabrics like gabardine. Many of the outfits had cut-out midriffs and backs and were worn without a bra. These were matched with flat boots, goggles and helmets taken from the equipment worn by astronauts. The stark shapes and white and silver colour scheme immediately earned the name Space Age.

Courrèges' fashion shows were organised by his wife. These were lively presentations featuring athletic, partially nude models. Courrèges became interested in shorter skirts at the same time as Mary Quant was designing them and there has been some controversy over who 'invented' the miniskirt. He also promoted trousers for women. At the time, these were worn only on
informal occasions, but Courrèges introduced slim, tapering trousers for everyday and smart wear.

Courrèges wanted to produce affordable clothes. From 1965 he spent two years raising funds to make his clothing more accessible. However, his next collection was criticised for reproducing the same styles. Like the majority of big name couturiers, Courrèges now sells accessories, luggage and perfume in addition to his clothing ranges.

Andre Courreges
André Courrèges, the designer that created an ultra-modern style, forerunner of the space-age image of the Sixties

Besides him, Pierre Cardin, Paco Rabanne, Emanuel Ungaro and Emilio Pucci were the great designers of the '60s, a decade crossed by lunar influences, a fascination with aliens and geometric revolutions. Some have defined Courrèges' creations "car-like", given  the idea of momentum and sprint that they knew how to exude, and it is no coincidence, then, that his collections were particularly loved by Gianni Agnelli and his wife, the proud and elegant Marella . A pupil of Cristobal Balenciaga, he was able to outline his own style, leading women's fashion until the '70s. He is considered, in fact, the probable inventor of the miniskirt as a cult, whose paternity, to date, is still debated between Mary Quant and Courrèges himself.
The cuts of the French designer, basic and clean, aroused criticism from those who saw in this ultra-modern design a debasement of the female figure: the lines did not adapt to the sinuous shapes of the body, nor did they exalt its grace. Yet his designs had the ability to rejuvenate the shape of the woman, freeing her from overly structured bras and clothing. His style was openly inspired by the "Bright Side of the Moon", enhanced by innovations such as the go-go boots: boots with low heels, versatile, comfortable and able to slim legs. 1964 is the year of the "Moon Girl Collection" followed, in the following years, "Future Couture", "Hyperbole" and "Prototype". From that moment on, the Andre Courrèges items embody the myth of the future and the conquest of space: stylized stars and moons appear wherever. The use of the materials soon became refined and avant-garde, the crochet is inserted on delicate transparencies, the ethereal is contaminated by modernity, portholes appear on the little dresses. Even fashion shows bring a burst of innovation: no longer the usual catwalk set up in the studio for a selected, elite audience, but modern movies shot in the symbolic places of Paris, or innovative scenarios, stolen from films such as 2001: A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick. All characterized by essential colors, bright nuances and lively new hues that leave all breathless. Courrèges' mannequins came out of the closet and assume plastics positions, putting a cat-like walks and provokative moves aside.

A special mention is also due to his "Lunettes Eskimo", launched in 1965: sunglasses with huge lenses that had a crack, almost like a slightly open lid. In the same year another event marked the career of Courrèges, adding another success to the ones collected by the designer and confirming, simultaneously, his reputation as a rising star, like Françoise Hardy. The singer, in fact, was in charge of co-hosting the program "Dim Dam Dom" - an acronym for des Dim(anches), de Dam(es), et D(h)om(mes) - and the couturier designs for her a simple yet innovative outfit in two colors: black and white. It is 1967 when, along with numerous designers of the time, Courrèges designed the versatile wardrobe for Audrey Hepburn in "Two for the Road", in which outfits in PVC, rugby-inspired dresses, accessories inspired by sport and important metal inlays reveal unpublished images of the queen of bon-ton. In 1972, for the Olympic Games in Monaco, the designer creates the 15,000 uniforms for a sports competition destined to be remembered for great victories and sanguinary chronicles. The Andre Courrèges woman is a charming creature with an iridescent appearance: austere as a crusader, graceful rider of the future, or provocative in skimpy metallic gladiator outfits, and even after forty years this woman remains very current, and always fascinating.

The men's uniforms in Star Trek Into Darkness' are reminiscent of moisture-wicking sportswear.
How sci-fi fashion has changed
Costume designers can only speculate on what coming intergalactic fashions will look like, but as Star Trek and After Earth demonstrate, the future is nearly always skintight

Posted by
Barbara Brownie

Recent sci-fi, such as JJ Abrams' Star Trek Into Darkness and After Earth (Shyamalan, 2013), are reminders of how film and TV so often depict future fashion as skimpy or skintight. The uniforms in Abrams' Star Trek revival have progressed from previous versions, but retain the hallmarks of the originals. The men's uniforms have a mesh outer layer, reminiscent of moisture-wicking sportswear. The female uniforms are more precise replicas of the originals, with miniskirts and knee-high boots. In After Earth, the stranded father and son are costumed in something reminiscent of an armoured wetsuit. These films are following a tradition established by films such as Logan's Run (1976), Buck Rogers (1979-1981) and Tron (1982), in which costume left little to the imagination.
Historically, fashion has tended towards being increasingly revealing. It has become progressively more acceptable to wear ever more form-fitting garments and to expose the skin. It therefore seems likely that sci-fi costumes such as these reflect the logical progression of fashion.

In science fiction, the costume designers can only speculate as to what the fashions of the future may be. In hindsight, many of these prove inaccurate. The "futuristic" visions of some 60s and 70s sci-fi now have a retro feel. The minidresses that have survived Star Trek reboots are a homage to the 60s – the decade of the original series. Costumes such as those worn by Jane Fonda in Barbarella (1969) featured fabrics that were perceived as futuristic at the time, including metallic fibres and plastics. When these materials were incorporated into fashion by designers including Mary Quant and Paco Rabanne, they represented the height of fabric technology. Perhaps as a result of this enthusiastic adoption by the fashion world, they have become more closely associated with the 60s and the space-race aesthetic than with the future.

Science-fiction films tend to fall into two categories. First, there are those that imagine the progression of society towards a brighter, technologically enabled future. Second, there are dystopian societies that have regressed to resemble a historical era. Sci-fi costume can be divided into the same two categories. It imagines a possible future that has progressed forward, following established rules of fashion evolution (as in Star Trek), or a vision that resembles a western or Victorian period drama (as in Joss Whedon's Serenity, 2005).

Both of these approaches are fair. Fashion is cyclical. It relies on revival and bricolage. It is therefore likely that, regardless of how technologically advanced we become, our clothes will directly appropriate from what has come before. In order to move forward, fashion reframes the past. Historical references are also useful in connoting social, political and cultural aspects of these imagined futures. The Nazi-like uniforms of Starship Troopers (1997), for example, help to establish the sense of a military dictatorship.

Though fashion tends to be cyclical, new technology creates exceptions. It allows clothes that have never existed before. Some of the most influential trends of the last 100 years of fashion have been inspired by new science. Access to new fabrics, such as PVC, allowed Quant to rebel against tradition. Arguably, it was social change (sexual liberation) that led to the adoption of skintight jeans and leggings, but this could never have happened without the introduction of lycra [1]. Similarly, no pre-existing moments in the fashion cycle would have enabled us to predict CuteCircuit's Twitter dress.

Science is also transforming the way we create clothes. Clothes have historically been produced by sewing flat shapes of fabric together, thereby transforming multiple flat shapes into a three-dimensional shape. New technologies are beginning to make sewing obsolete. Issey Miyake has established a research institute in Toyko with the aim of exploring new possibilities in fabric and garment creation. This research has yielded new bonding methods that may change our approach to garment manufacture. As in A-POC (a complete outfit that is manufactured at once, from a tube of fabric), the acts of weaving fabric and sewing pieces together are no longer separate processes. The weaving of the fabric and the bonding of the layers can be a single automatic process. There is no sewing, and therefore no seams.

A collaboration between Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art resulted in the invention of Fabrican, a spray-on fabric. Fabrican canisters contain wet fibres that may be sprayed directly on to the surface of the body. As the fibres dry, they bond, forming a single piece of flexible, shaped fabric [2]. Spray-on fabric has the potential to revolutionise the fashion industry. As it is sprayed directly on to the body, it removes the issue of sizing from the dressmaking process. It also changes the way that garments may be repaired. In order to fix a rip or tear, more fabric may be sprayed to invisibly seal the hole.
Fabrican is like a second skin: tight-fitting and seam-free [3]. This gives credence to the theory that skintight garments may become more common, and provides further evidence that future fashion is likely to be seam-free. As in the reinvented Man of Steel (2013) costume, and wetsuits in Star Trek Into Darkness, clothes may be moulded to fit our bodies perfectly.

Another factor to consider is that many of these costumes are uniforms. Uniform tends to fall outside of the usual fashion cycle. It is fixed, rather than modal. Uniforms tend to remain largely unchanged for many decades, and are therefore likely to be at least partly historical in design [4]. It is possible that the uniforms of the future would be very similar to those worn today, and would follow the same signifying systems for rank and situation.

If we want predictions of fashion's future, we should ignore the Starfleet uniforms and explore the clothes worn by the extras in the background. In the bar scenes and on the streets of future London, we see signs of otherness that truly sets the Star Trek world apart from our own. Here, we see the exoticism of alien influence, and the hybrid styles that arise within the fashion cycle.

 BARBARELLA Costume designs are credited to Paco Rabane, though most were created by Jacques Fonteray, all influenced by Jean Claude Forest.

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