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The Astronaut Wives Club

Posted by in Topical Features on Jun 15, 2015 . 0 Comments.

Regular readers will know there's nothing we like more than a good tv series to get stuck into. And if that series happens to be set in the '60's, is based around a true story and features fabulous fashion..? We're hooked before it's even aired!

So, this week sees the launch of a new ABC television drama in the States based on the book by Lily Koppel - The Astronaut Wives Club : A True Story.  It tells the story of the women behind the first men in space.  See? We're sucked in already!  In 1959 508 test pilots in the US army (there were no women test pilots at that time) were chosen to go forward to be tested for the first manned space flight. Those 508 had to be aged between 25-40 and no taller than 5'11" with a degree in either science or engineering.  They were then whittled down to 110 for interviews from which 32 were chosen for further mental and physical testing.  It was intended that 6 would make the grade by the end,but in 1961, 7 were chosen. 

They were:

Malcolm (Scott) Carpenter

Leroy (Gordo) Cooper

John Glenn

Virgil (Gus) Grissom

Walter (Wally) Schirra

Alan Shepherd

Donald (Deke) Slayton

Although the space race story itself is likely to be fascinating, we're just as excited about the lives of the wives and their families, as literally overnight they were made celebrities when the World's cameras followed their every move as they had tea with Jackie Kennedy, appeared on the covers of magazines and became style icons.

To ensure these style icons are portrayed accurately on the screen, ABC hired Emmy award winning costume designer, Eric Daman to be in charge of wardrobe. You may recognise the name, as he worked on both Sex And The City and Gossip Girl and early shots of the wives don't look to disappoint with him pouring over photos of the original ladies to emulate their style accurately whilst throwing in a touch of 'Real Housewives' for added glamour.

So, who to keep an eye on?

First up, Louise Shepherd, wife of Alan, the first to go up in space. She was a little more high end than some of the other wives and loved to wear cream and light colours. Many stores copied the suit she wore to the White House.

Marge Slayton was already a divorcee and older than most of the other women. She hit her style peak in the '40's and continued to dress in that vein. 

Jo Schirra was the oldest of the group and was thought of as the perfect navy wife, who wore twinsets, pearls and headbands. Think Charlotte York from SATC.

Rene Carpenter was the head-turner who favoured bright prints and peroxide hair and had her own sense of style. She is the only one in the official photoshoot to wear a bright, printed dress rather than pastels and pearls.

Annie Glenn was the shy one but who inspired envy amongst the others with her solid marriage. She was very quiet and suffered from a stutter.

Trudy Cooper arrives with a secret - that she has, in fact, already left her husband due to his affair but returned for the sake of his career at NASA.  She was forward thinking, was a pilot herself, drove a sports car and wore new fashion for the time including pedal-pushers and jeans (and is the only wife seen on screen wearing trousers for quite a time). 

And finally, Betty Grissom, a lady who worked nights to pay for her husband to study engineering. Betty's style, as a Midwesterner, was more provincial than the others and she favours large plaid prints and over-sized accessories.

As the series airs we're all bound to have our favourite characters so check back for any plot - and wardrobe - developments! We can't wait!

 

Last update: Jun 23, 2015

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