We Need to Talk About Netflix's 'Lost in Space' Costumes...
How the Streaming Services Family Sci-fi Series' Costumes Reflect a Millennial, Political Outlook
Despite expecting Netflix's remake of Lost in Space to be cheesy and potentially like an "after-school-special," I jumped at the chance to fill the black hole-sized void in my space-based, science fiction media with something new.
Now I don't really care about robots or aliens, so the premise alone should have been an immediate turn-off:
Set 30 years in the future, the Robinson family is selected for an interstellar mission to settle in a new galaxy. However, on lift-off, an attack causes the Robinson's spacecraft to crash on another habitable planet, trillions of miles from Earth, and off course.
There, the Robinsons and other colonists must find their way back on track, without fighting amongst themselves along the way. Things are further complicated when youngest Robinson, Will, befriends an alien-robot that may prove more enemy than friend...
Robots? Check. Aliens? Check. Moving on? Not quite.
While those two sci-fi elements are usually detractors for me, ultimately, when it comes to storytelling, what I care more about is: people. Relationships. How do characters relate to one another while facing a challenge? That's what truly draws me to the genre.
So whether or not the show is "the best science fiction show of all time" (it's not - by a long shot), I found myself enjoying it for what it was: a family sci-fi show. Nothing more, nothing less.
Others didn't share my "it is what it is, let's enjoy it" attitude - and many with solid reasons - reasons I even agreed with. But one aspect of Lost in Space I was solidly surprised to hear backlash was on the fashion.
I'm a Pinterest fashion junkie. I pretty much just wear what Pinterest tells me to wear and fashion is a big part of my life. It's a form of self-expression I enjoy devoting time to. However, my love of television and fashion often intertwine, and I am guilty of trying to emulate fashion I watch. From watch to wear.
So when I found that some viewers found the fashion of Lost in Space to be a drawback, I was stunned. Tom + Lorenzo even went so far as to say,
"[I]s a costume design rethink completely out of the question going forward? The blandly futuristic outfits were instantly forgettable. Let’s get them in some purple and green velour loungewear for season two."
I was gobsmacked. Here I was, watching the series thinking, "damn, I want that outfit. And that outfit. I need to find that shirt. Could I pull off those pants?" To hear that people, like Vogue.com's Alice Bell, were nostalgic for the faux-modern, microwave-film, tin sheen on the original 1960s Lost in Space had me seriously unnerved by what some people thought "fashion" even was.
Now, I have to take my own criticism with a grain of salt. Some nostalgia is nostalgic because of nostalgia. (Poetic, right?) Maybe that wish to return to the Twiggy-esque Robinson look is a by-product of remembering the original show. A longing to return to the simplicity of the ridiculous.
(Hey, I remember proudly wearing gauchos and cropped cardigans in the early 2000s. I'm not saying I was always the pinnacle of fashion - I just haven't been separated by time long enough to miss those wardrobe staples.)
Nevertheless, the Millennial fashion admirer in me saw the costumes instead through a modern lens; a minimalist lens. Because the 2018 Lost in Space fashion is just that: minimalist.
When exploring a new Goldilocks planet for the sake of humanity's survival, trendy fashion is not a top priority. Rather, priority lies within a wardrobe's practicality, function, and utility.
Is this the Millennial nihilistic mentality permeating my sense of what fashion should be?
Post-apocolyptia has dominated much of the Millennial/Generation Z zeitgeist for at least the past decade: The Hunger Games, Divergent, The 100, The Walking Dead, etc. Ergo, it makes complete sense that our political world-view of the time not only makes it into the media we consume, but the way we express ourselves through fashion.
Therefore, I need to formally rebut Tom & Lorenzo and say the "blandly futuristic outfits" are not only fashionable - they are political and deserve a defender.
They are a reflection of how our media creators and influencers perceive the direction our global society is headed: not towards lavish patterns, techni-color platform shoes, or the return to the beehive hairdo (now with Bluetooth), but rather to a future where practicality and utility dominate— what's more fashionable than being ready at a moment's notice to repel down a crater. (Is this what normal people think about?).
Perhaps I'm thinking too hard about it. It's a television show, right? It's not Citizen Kane. You're hunting for symbolism, Rae. Or am I? You could argue that all art tells a story, and that includes the art of costume design. The outfits we see our characters in reflect the worlds around them; helping to add time, place, and circumstance to a story. And nowhere is that more evident than in visual science-fiction and fantasy mediums.
In fact, Space's season 1 Costume Designer Angus Strathie is no stranger to other science-fiction projects. Strathie worked on two SYFY miniseries, Tin Man and Alice, as well as films like Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem and Deadpool. I'm not sure the outfits of Tin Man would work in Deadpool or that the neo-medieval garb of AVP:R would feel at home in Alice's Red Queen Castle (or, depending on the series' theme - maybe it would be a perfect fit!) Costumes help represent the narrative. The symbolism is built in.
Love or hate the design, you have to admit that Lost in Space's costumes are helping to tell a story within its story. Perhaps you have a better way the apparel could work within the narrative - that's fair. Labeling the outfits as merely "bland" and "forgettable" is not.
Rant over...for now.
Written by Rae Lindenberg