Earlier this fall, Alfonso Cuaron’s space epic Gravity landed on movie screens worldwide, propelling the audience into the final frontier with one of the most renowned cinematic experiences of the past decade. While Gravity, in my opinion, lives up to the hype and then some, it is impossible to watch any sort of intergalactic movie and not think of Stanley Kubrick’s 1967 film 2001: A Space Odyssey. While Gravity from frame one is about the unending solitude of space, 2001 is more concerned with the complexities of space exploration, making it as visually stunning as Gravity, but for different reasons. Gravity’s strength lies in its 3-D shots and extended sequences capturing the incomparable vastness of outer space, while 2001 presents space as more of a futuristic playground, complete with these immense colorful sets and modernist costumes designed by none other than Hardy Amies.
In the late sixties Amies was at the top of his game, guiding his unique eponymous label to become both a traditional Savile Row powerhouse, and a forward thinking fashion brand. It was these two minds that made Amies perfect for the role of costume designer on Kubrick’s film, as 2001 presented both the refined corporate side of space exploration, as well as the more visionary angle of astronauts floating in unchartered territory. Amies essentially developed two separate collections for this film – one of Anglo-fied office ready outfits, and one of avant-garde cosmic costumes.
The executives early in the film all wear suits that represent Aimes’ style from this era with high button stances, break-less trousers, open quarters, and trim lapels (ties of course were out of the question in zero gravity.) And then as the film progresses, we are introduced to the characters on the space stations themselves, dressed in these bright metallic yellow, blue, and red spacesuits and tailored grey coveralls. In comparison to the beginning of the film, the space station scenes feel entirely separate from the swinging sixties, as if simply by journeying into space, time itself has become irrelevant. It is certainly a stylized vision of outer space, but it is the way in which these two collections – the more conservative, mid-century tailoring, and the untethered, vibrant space suits, reflect the progression of the film from reality to pure fantasy that makes Aimes’ work so memorable, nearly half a century later. —JG