Director Guillermo del Toro’s alien-versus-humans action flick took visual cues from old Godzilla films and artist Francisco Goya’s ”Colossus” painting, but the look of the characters’ cyber suits came from the imagination of one man: special effects artist Shane Mahan, best known for creating Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man suit. Though the movie takes place within the Earth’s atmosphere, Mahan — along with Pacific Rim costume designer Kate Hawley — incorporated elements of the classic movie spacesuit into the Jaegar driving suit worn by Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi, and the rest of the cast. One thing Mahan forgot to include? ”They didn’t give us a pee flap for the first two weeks, and it takes 40 minutes to put on and off. So I couldn’t pee for the first two weeks,” Hunnam told USA Today. ”I would take my suit off at lunchtime and you’re sweating a lot and really hot, so I’d take a drink of water. And if you drink a lot of water, you need to pee, and if there’s no pee flap, you can’t pee. So I said ‘Enough’s enough!’ You gotta get me a pee flap.”
Though it’s not technically spacewear, drone technician Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) wears a decidedly retro silver radiation suit as he roams the Earth in this post-apolcalyptic movie, set in the year 2077. “[Director Joseph Kosinski] wanted streamlined, simplistic, and to have a manufactured, technologically oriented feeling,” costume designer Marlene Stewart (Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Ali) told cinemareview.com of creating Cruise’s uniform. ”One of the big challenges was to have such a controlled color palette, and it was shades of gray. We learned that there are an infinite number of shades of gray and created a gray chart, with everything from green grays, brown grays, yellow grays, but it was still tricky because you only had two or three colors to work with.” Stewart used several kinds of fabric and various printing techniques, and sculpted molds and a chest plate to create the futuristic motocross suit.
For the 2012 prequel to Alien, director Ridley Scott wanted spacesuits with a decidedly more modern look than those in his 1979 sci-fi classic. In an interview with Clothesonfilm.com, costume designer Janty Yates said she her first priority was “to avoid the…Michelin Man look of the NASA suit.” Helmets carried by Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green), were created by FB-FX, an industry prop specialist. “Ridley wanted the globe to be like an egg. So we went through like 100,000 different globes, trying to get the correct shape,” Yates said. “It was the number one major challenge.”
Has there ever been a sexier (or less practical) spacesuit than the one worn by Jane Fonda in the 1968 cult classic Barbarella? To play a 41st century astronaut in the sexy space film, directed her then-husband, Roger Vadim, Fonda donned a silver lame top, fishnet body stocking, and silver boots, created by designers Paco Rabbane and Jacques Fonteray.
Eddie Murphy attempted to take his comedic sensibilities to new heights in this 2002 sci-fi adventure, set on the moon. While the film wasn’t well received, costume designer Ha Nguyen gets credit for her use of bright colors on Murphy’s red-and-yellow suit, a bold departure from the typical monochromatic palette used for movie spacesuits.
2001: A Space Odyssey
Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 space epic has long been hailed by critics as one of cinema’s most influential films — and its costumes were no exception. British fashion designer Hardy Amies was commissioned to create Dave Bowman’s (Keir Dullea) futuristic suit, which included details like accordion pleating and fully operational buttons. At Kubrick’s request, most of the film’s costumes, props, and sets were destroyed to prevent their re-use, but movie buffs have petitioned for the restoration of surviving pieces like Bowman’s helmet.
In this 2007 sci-fi thriller from director Danny Boyle, Robert Capa (Cillian Murphy) leads a group of astronauts on a voyage into the future to save the fading sun. The teams’s bizarre golden suits were inspired by “medieval armor, diving helmets, the properties of Mylar, and South Park‘s Kenny,” and were factory-made, “so they wouldn’t feel like they fit each person perfectly in that annoying Hollywood way,” costume designer Suttirat Anne Larlarb told Stanford magazine.
The Day the Earth Stood Still
The 1951 anti-war flick was one of the earliest films to feature spacesuit costumes. Klaatu’s (Michael Rennie) sleek silver uniform — and the matching look sported by his robot companion Gort — was the brainchild of costumers William Travilla and Clinton Sandeen, and gave many moviegoers their first glimpse at outer-space style.
Star Wars: Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back
After collaborating with writer-director George Lucas, Academy Award-winning costume designer John Mollo returned for the second installment of the Star Wars franchise to create looks like this demure flight suit for Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher). With its cream quilted jacket and insulated off-white jumpsuit, the ensemble’s Aspen-inspired design was perfect for the damsel in distress turned Rebellion commander.
How does one both pay homage to a successful franchise and reinvent it? When director J.J. Abrams began pre-production on the 2009 reboot of Star Trek, he called upon costume designer Michael Kaplan to create a fresh look for the infamous Starfleet suits. “He wanted new eyes,” Kaplan told SciFi Now. “I wanted to do something more sophisticated than they had done on the TV series, so I created a new fabric where a pattern of the boomerang logo was utilized.” Chris Pine’s James T. Kirk and John Cho’s Hikaru Sulu wore the new designs well.
James Bond has gone everywhere else, why not send him into space? In 1979’s Moonraker, Bond (Roger Moore) took international espionage intergalactic in a futuristic silver suit — complete with white accents, a British flag patch, and, naturally, a 007 nametag — by costume designer Jacques Fonteray.
Lost in Space
For the 1998 adaptation of the 1965 CBS television series — which chronicles the Robinson family’s trip to outer space — costume designer Vin Burnham created sleek silver latex looks called Cryosuits. “[Director] Stephen Hopkins wanted the space costumes to look very functional and not be just decorative; they had to have a purpose,” Burnham — the genius behind everything from Tim Burton’s Batman and Catwoman costumes to Lady Gaga’s Living Dress — has said. “Unfortunately, actors don’t like wearing my designs. They are usually hot or heavy and take ages to get in or out of!”
In some cases, it’s not the suit, it’s the man wearing it. In director Steven Soderbergh’s 2002 remake of Solaris, space psychologist Chris Kelvin (George Clooney) wears a minimalist pressure suit designed by Academy Award winning costumer Milena Canonero. “Because this is set in the future, I made the suits out of materials that were not as uncomfortable as the real thing. I took some liberties,” Canonero has said. “Kelvin’s space suit gives him almost a mythical look, like a warrior.”
Star Trek: First Contact
While many incarnations of the Star Trek franchise have appeared on both the big and small screen, we have to give credit to costume designer Deborah Everton for elaborating on Robert Fletcher’s original patented suit design in the 1996 film Star Trek: First Contact.
Although 2000 film — starring Val Kilmer as a systems engineer who journeys to Mars to save planet Earth — was both a critical and commercial failure, the costumes weren’t half bad, thanks to wardrober Kym Barrett. “We had to make spacesuits that really worked, that had air, that had air conditioning, that had lights, that had fan-cooling systems,” Barrett, known for her work on the The Matrix films — has said. “I got to talk to people at NASA…about technology that could allow the actors to do what I wanted them to be able to do, in the sense of freedom of movement, and to have it technically believable.”
Planet of the Vampires
The 1965 sci-fi thriller — known as Terrore Nello Spazio in Italian — is an industry favorite. Director Mario Bava’s work has influenced filmmakers from Martin Scorsese to Tim Burton, so it’s no surprise that his visionary thinking is reflected in the film’s costumes. Wardrober Gabriele Mayer outfitted the cast in tight black suits with orange piping to create a look that’s equal parts race car driver and leather bar patron.
The Right Stuff
The 1983 film follows the “Mercury Seven” test pilots, the first US astronauts to attempt to go into space, so the stars’ suits had to be authentic. While the drama received eight Academy Award nominations — including Best Picture and Best Art Direction — it was shut out of the costume category.
Leading lady Angela Lindvall took a break from modeling to play Valentine/Dragonfly in this 2001 homage to Barbarella. With its white fur collar, the actress’ sleek pearlescent pink spacesuit doesn’t show as much skin as the costumes worn by Jane Fonda, but it’s equally sexy.
The Last Starfighter
In the 1984 action-adventure, Alex Rogan (Lance Guest) lives out his wildest videogame dreams in quintessentially 80s tan jumpsuit. The costume, by legendary designer Robert Fletcher — the man behind the spacesuits in the first four Star Trek films — included a fiberglass flight helmet with retractable face shield. “I scribble a lot, and out of the scribbles comes the idea,” Fletcher said in a 1980 interview. “Then I link that visual I’ve found for myself with other things intellectually and produce a scheme.”