In the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s, a unique and futuristic fashion trend emerged, known as Space Age fashion. Influenced by the Space Race of the Cold War and iconic science fiction works like Star Trek and Lost In Space, this style made a bold statement with its boxy shapes, thigh-length hemlines, and avant-garde accessories.

The Cold War’s Influence on Space Age Fashion

Space Age fashion was a product of its time, deeply rooted in the technological advancements and energy of the Cold War era. Designers like Pierre Cardin and Paco Rabanne drew inspiration from the era’s spirit, creating garments that reflected the era’s dynamism and progress.

The Rise of Synthetic Materials

Post-World War II, a surge in the popularity of synthetic materials reshaped the fashion landscape. Fabrics like nylon, corfam, orlon, terylene, lurex, and spandex became the go-to choices for designers. These materials, known for their affordability, quick drying, and wrinkle-resistant properties, allowed designers to experiment with bold shapes and plastic textures.

André Courrèges, Ensemble, photographed by Peter Knapp, 1965
André Courrèges, Ensemble, photographed by Peter Knapp, 1965

Beyond Cloth: The Advent of Non-Cloth Materials

The 1960s witnessed a shift towards non-cloth materials, including polyester, lucite, and PVC. Designers embraced these unconventional materials in clothing and accessories. Plastic raincoats, colourful swing coats, bubble dresses, helmet-like hats, and dyed fake furs became staples for young women, showcasing the era’s spirit of innovation and experimentation.

Colours and Prints: A Kaleidoscope of Futurism

Space Age fashion was characterised by distinctive colours, with metallic silver and stark whites dominating the scene. The Op Art movement, influenced by artists like Bridget Riley and Victor Vasarely, inspired geometric prints. Yves Saint Laurent’s Mondrian shift dresses of 1965 drew inspiration from earlier geometric art. Fluorescent colours, reminiscent of day-glo or neon, and light-up dresses made a splash, pushing the boundaries of conventional fashion.

The Evolution of Footwear

Footwear played a crucial role in defining the Space Age look. Women adorned low-heeled sandals, kitten-heeled pumps, trendy white go-go boots, and transparent plastic shoes. Patent leather and vinyl were popular materials for shoes, boots, and handbags. The Beatles’ “Beatle boots” with pointed toes and Cuban heels became a widespread trend among young men in Britain.

Influential Designers: Shaping the Space Age Aesthetic

Several designers left an indelible mark on Space Age fashion. André Courrèges, with his “space look” introduced in 1964, popularised trouser suits, box-shaped dresses, and go-go boots. Pierre Cardin, known for his bold designs, helmets, and goggles; Paco Rabanne, the revolutionary force behind chain mail and aluminium dresses; and others like Rudi Gernreich and Emanuel Ungaro played pivotal roles in shaping this futuristic trend.

The Cultural Impact of Space Age Fashion

Space Age fashion wasn’t just a trend; it was a cultural phenomenon. From the iconic green dress designed by Paco Rabanne for Jane Fonda in the 1968 film Barbarella to the Nehru jacket’s introduction in 1966, this fashion movement turned heads and challenged conventional norms. Even renowned designers like Yves Saint Laurent embraced the Space Age look during its peak from 1963 to 1967.

Conclusion: A Timeless Legacy

The Space Age fashion of the 1960s was more than just a trend; it was a reflection of an era defined by progress, innovation, and a desire to push boundaries. From the use of synthetic materials to the exploration of unconventional designs, this period in fashion history remains a testament to the bold and revolutionary spirit of the time. As we look back, the Space Age fashion legacy continues to inspire and captivate, proving that true innovation is timeless.