Professor Amanda Hallay Explores the Space Revival
The last time it happened was in the 1950s and early 1960s; space, our "Final Frontier", became a cultural phenomenon, splashing down on everything from toys to movies, textile design to greeting cards. Every little boy wanted to be an astronaut, his nose pressed to the TV watching The Jetsons, his head hot and sweaty beneath his fake NASA helmet as his mother cleaned the carpet with her ”Constellation” vacuum.
Of course, it all made sense back then. The Space Race was on, and words like "satellite", "Sputnik" and "Telstar" spoke directly to an era obsessed with "The Future" – a future where every home would come complete with its own, friendly robot, and where it was no doubt imagined that (by 2015), some of us would live on Mars.
The optimism of the Space Program fizzled with time, and apart from a sudden burst of space obsession in the late 1970s and early ‘80s (Star Wars, Battleship Galactica, and ET), we were so focused on the micro- technology that changed our daily lives that we seemed to forget that there’s a universe out there that is infinitely more interesting than a celebrity tweet or an Instagrammed photo.
There is, however, strong evidence to suggest that Earthlings are again ready to venture out of orbit with what I am dubbing "The Space Revival". Movies like the Oscar-winning Gravity and the recent Interstellar have beautifully depicted the wonder of the universe, while TV shows like Extant (starring Halle Berry as an intergalactic voyager) and Ascension use space as the setting for standard, sci-fi thrills.
For the slightly more cerebral, last year’s revamped Cosmos scored a cosmic coup, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson taking viewers on a journey through time and space, and (through the artful use of CGI) the planets had never looked better.
I don’t know if life is imitating art or the other way around, but these cultural blast offs have coincided with some real-life space news. In December, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic test shuttle crashed, and although this was a terrible occurrence, it reminded us that "off Earth" travel is back in the news. Happier was the successful launch of Orion, NASA’S first genuine attempt to test the viability of putting a man on Mars.
One need not have the brains of Stephen Hawking to see that space is back, but the interesting question is "why"? Could it be that after gazing inwardly at micro-technology for so long, we are bored with techno gadgets, with even the latest iPhone failing to excite in the way it once did? Or perhaps it is a fear for the future of our own little planet that is subconsciously sparking an interest in "other options". More probably, it is just another, passing fad (and Earthlings do love fads) that will soon get swallowed up in the black hole of contemporary culture, to be replaced (and then forgotten) until the next time space is "hot".
Still, as long as it lasts, this interest in space will be sure to impact fashion, and the silvery frocks at the recent Golden Globes are a hint of what’s to come.
Amanda Hallay is a full-time faculty member at LIM College and formerly the International Fashion Editor for Couture and Men Mode magazines, and the European Trend Analyst for The Doneger Group. She hopes to never travel to Outer Space.