Weird Sci Fi Fashion & Glamour
When Taste Goes Out The Window
I'm fascinated by bad fashion and one of the the best places to find weird fashion and glamour is Science Fiction on TV and in the movies.
Give a movie set designer an alien world to create then throw in some frustrated costume designers, hair stylists and makeup artists and ask them to open their creative minds to the possibilities of other worldly Sci Fi fashion. What you end up with is often strange and sometimes just plain weird.
Lets begin in 1936 with the movie Flash Gordon. The costumes were a wonderful mix of the then pre-war fashion, Startrek and traditional Chinese national dress (before the days of the Cultural Revolution). The movie has a marvelous phony melodramatic quality which reminds me of British pantomine.
The 1980 Flash Gordon remake was really cool. It captured much that was weird in the 1930s original but in Glorious Technicolor. The costumes were totally over the top and the whole outrageous, camp enterprise was topped up with a generous dash of cream (sorry that should be Queen!) so the soundtrack really rocked!
However, you can detect a subtle 1980s influence. If you look at the picture of Melody Anderson, the shoulder pads are reminiscent of Dallas and Dynasty and the 1980s power dressing thing.
Finally, lets not forget the great British actor Brian Blessed hamming it up for all he was worth as the winged warrior, Vultan. Great stuff. Weird Sci Fi Glamour at its best!
The Movie Forbidden Planet, made in the 1950s, is a parody on William Shakespeare's play The Tempest.
In other words the beauty and the beast theme. In this case Miranda, the beauty is Anne Francis and Caliban, the beast is a robot called Robbie.
The costume designers went for the miniskirt long before it was invented in the 1960s.
This could be because the 1950s were pretty drab and Sci Fi is always a good excuse to reveal more flesh than current fashion allows.
I guess that the tiny skirt did no harm at the Box Office hence 'Forbidden Planet' equals 'Weird Sci Fi Glamour.'
The Fifth Element - More Weird Sci-Fi Glamour
Now The Fifth Element was really weird. But then anything designed by Jean Paul Gaultier was bound to be pretty strange.
Bruce Willis was deliberately out of place in this movie with his scruffy orange tee-shirt and his testosterone action-hero personae. A great contrast to all the weirdly dressed, androgynous co-stars.
Quote from Bruce, a future New York flying taxi driver, "Whoa, lady, I only speak two languages, English and bad English."
The excuse for Leeloo's infamous costume? (see below). Not futuristic fashion but what she happened to be wearing when woken from suspended animation.
The Fifth Element (1997)
Doctor Who is a long running BBC TV science fiction series originally aimed squarely at children. In the early days it was full of bad costumes, dodgy sets (typically located in the basement of the BBC) and poor acting.
The premise of the show is that the Doctor is a Time Lord who travels through time and space in a ship known as the Tardis which looks like an old fashioned British police phone box. This made a tiny bit of sense in 1970 when a few such boxes still existed on the streets of London.
Why the Doc has never upgraded his ship to look like a hot dog stand or mail box we'll never know. The actor of the Doctor frequently changes as the years roll by (excuse: regeneration in a new body).
Doctor, Companion and Metal Pooch
Companions - A Dodgy Relationship?
The really disturbing thing about the Doctor was his adoption of young 'companions'. They were usually of school age and invariably female. Each companion would travel with the doctor for a whole series.
This worried me greatly. Was there a shower and a toilet in that tiny ship? Did she have her own room with Barbie wallpaper and most important, what did her parents make of her strange relationship with a man old enough to be her Grandfather?
What about the weird Sci Fi glamour? As the years rolled by and the show got a little more grown up, the Doctor abandoned schoolgirls and took on a more raunchy companion called Leela.
She was a warrior of some kind he had picked up on a primitive planet and the costume designers dressed her in animal skins and strapped a big knife to her thigh. Unfortunately it appears animal skins were in short supply at the time (BBC cutbacks?).
I can't imagine Leela having Barbie wallpaper in her bedroom. The metal dog? He had the totally original name of K9 and trundled along unconvincingly powered by a small electric motor.
In contrast, the new Doctor Who series in really swish. Lots of CGI and a smartly dressed cast. So no dodgy costumes and no more weird glamour.
Next we come to the classic US sci fi TV series Star Trek. Forgive me,but this is the ultimate example of Bad Fashion. Those dreadful long-sleeved tee-shirts in primary colors. The crew boldly went across the Universe in cheap clothes fit only for kids.
I feel particularly sorry for Lt Uhura, played by Nichelle Nichols, who spent most of her middle age in a bright red mini-dress. I'm surprised she didn't change departments just to try another color.
So what did the crew wear when they were off duty?
Councillor Deanna Troi - Feeling Blue?
In the Next Generation they tried to improve things. The crew had more recreational moments and counseling was encouraged (Deep Space can be stressful).
Unfortunately the uniforms, including the underwear, didn't improve with time. Come to think of it, nor did the hairstyles.
No wonder the councillor looks a little blue. How would you feel if you were stuck on a Star-ship with an uneven bra, wearing a top like that and with no hairdresser on board?
And resigning your commission isn't really an option when you're several light years from home.
Barbarella (1968) - Seriously Weird!
Barbarella makes Star Trek and all the other Movie and TV Sci Fi look regular and tame. Barbarella was really weird. It was kitsch. It was kinky. It was strange. Come to think of it so was 1968. weird Sci Fi glamour at its best!
It also had an unlikely star in the lovely Jane Fonda. A woman of considerable intellect and a highly developed political savvy. Jane was a controversial figure in terms of the anti-war movement in the US and was nicknamed Hannoy Jane on account of her visits to the enemy capital. Jane was also a champion of women's rights and women's liberation.
Why then did she agree to make a science fiction movie in which she performed a slow, weightless striptease during the opening credits? A movie in which the set designers went nuts and made everything green, furry or feathery including the lead characters and their costumes.
Barbarella with Feathered Friend
Barbarella has all kinds of bizarre adventures and ends up in the orgasmatron, an organ-like seduction machine designed to kill with an overload of sexual pleasure.
Fortunately Barbarella is made of sterner stuff and it is the machine not Barbarella that blows it's top.
By the way, there is a remake on the way in 2009 but it won't be the same. The original was so bad it was brilliant. Take away Jane Fonda, the hideous design and bizarre scipt and what have you got? Another dull copy that misses the original.
There are plenty of examples to prove my point. Who remembers the last Avengers movie or who rates the Sci Fi Channel's version of Flash Gordon?
So lets ditch bland. We need a revival. Bring back weird Sci Fi glamour to our screens right now!
If you've enjoyed this dose of off-key weird Sci Fi glamour then check out my Hub: Weird Glamour - When Taste Goes out the Window.
1980 Flash Gordon Trailer
Doctor Who and Leela
1968 Barbarella Trailer
Princess Leia - Ultimate Weird SciFi Glamour
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