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A Fashion Guide to For All Mankind

From aviator glasses to less traditional garb, these alt-history astronauts have style.
  • Photos: Apple Tv+
    Photos: Apple Tv+

    Space Age attire has gone through quite a few on-screen incarnations, from Jane Fonda's runway-ready but impractical Paco Rabanne designs in Barbarella to the color-coded suits in Stanley Kubrick’s iconic 2001: A Space Odyssey. Despite its alternate history setting, Apple TV+’s For All Mankind sticks pretty close to reality when it comes to its NASA-approved garments. The same goes for mission control and off-duty threads.

    Costume designer Jill M. Ohanneson is no stranger to stories stretching over large swaths of time, having created the looks on the first two Bill & Ted adventures. For All Mankind deviates from the real-world timeline in its first episode when the Soviets beat the US to plant their flag on the moon in 1969, which leads to an expanded space program. Over the first two seasons, advances are made across three decades, with the ‘90s shifting into focus when For All Mankind Season 3 lands on June 10. Before finding out if grunge has a sartorial impact on this narrative, here's a survey of looks from the show's first two season that are fit for the moon and back.

    Aviator Classic

    “Just find a nice-enough looking lady pilot, put her in a spacesuit, teach her to walk down the goodman ladder, and take her picture,” is the instruction that's immediately ignored by Deke Slayton (Chris Bauer). The Chief of the Astronaut Office and Director of Flight Crew Operations isn’t going to treat the mandate to train a woman to go into space as a glossy PR opportunity. The third episode is where For All Mankind finds its feet thanks to the introduction of this new program, and this image alone sells the concept of the series. You can’t beat a pair of aviators or aviator-adjacent frames (with either gold or silver frames). The cool emanates from Ellen (Jodi Balfour), Molly (Sonya Walger), Tracy (Sarah Jones), Dani (Krys Marshall), and Patty (Cass Buggé) in their regulation attire. It is no wonder Apple TV+ plastered this image everywhere.

    The Astronauts Wife

    No, we're not referring to the short-lived 2015 ABC series The Astronaut’s Wives Club. Of course, there are shared attributes because these astronauts have wives, and the first season begins with Karen Baldwin (Shantel VanSanten) as the picture-perfect image of a NASA spouse. This is no more apparent than in “Into the Abyss,” when she plays host while her husband leads a new mission alongside the first American woman who will land on the moon. Molly’s stoner husband Wayne (Lenny Jacobson) doesn’t match the manicured image of Karen in her idyllic pink shift dress, statement earrings, and matching lip color. Nothing says Life Magazine-ready more than this, but appearances don’t always tell the whole story.

    Moon Casual

    With only one episode of The Bob Newhart Show to keep them entertained, Dani, Ed (Joel Kinnaman), and Gordo (Michael Dorman) are doing their best while stuck on the moon in the small Jamestown base. Clothing-wise, the NASA-provided patch-cover jumpsuits and vests are branding done best, while everything else is a neutral gray to match the decor. No wonder this trio starts to spiral. Repetition will do that. Considering they aren’t meant to be on this base for months, there are also questions about how foisty these garments have become — especially after Gordo mentions that the shower only works half the time.

    Sunshine Stars

    Gold helmet visors are not because spacesuit designers love a bit of bling, although there is something very flash about this detail. The scientific reason is this metal’s “excellent ability to reflect infrared light while letting in visible light” and offers eye protection from unfiltered sunlight. The second season's first episode opens with a montage depicting the cultural events across the nine years since the first season. It's now 1983, and the Jamestown base has grown. A lunar sunrise offers an opportunity to show the size of the operation on the moon while also delivering this fantastic visual. This being For All Mankind, a lovely shared singing moment between astronauts is interrupted by a significant solar storm that will have long-lasting consequences.

    All American Superstar

    Tracy Stephens was part of the team that defied an order to save Molly at the end of Season 1. Now she's a NASA superstar doing the late-night talk show circuit, appearing on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson gushing over the rock on her wedding finger to announce her second marriage. She has switched out a NASA uniform for a strapless black dress and a shaggy ‘80s haircut before donning a spacesuit, all in the name of a watch brand. “Your pretty face will be all over Times Square,” the photographer tells her. It is no wonder that Tracy quickly tires of showbiz appearances and a fake approximation of her old workwear and opts in for another mission.

    Off-Duty Hole in One

    Nothing says recreation quite like golfing threads. Karen Baldwin is leaning into this activity’s aesthetic in a graphic print pink trim polo shirt and matching pink skirt — not everything in Karen’s closet is this shade, we promise. The clashing orange visor highlights Karen’s newfound freedom within her image, and she no longer strives to be the housewife ideal after the death of her young son. She smokes weed with Wayne (sadly, you can’t see his gingham flat cap in this shot) while their spouses talk shop. Molly and Ed’s matching khakis reflect their bond, and somehow Molly makes a bucket hat look way cooler than any musician in the ‘90s ever did. Maybe some trends are hitting earlier in this timeline.

    Back in the Saddle

    Gordo’s collection of beige polo shirts could be said to reflect his “I don’t even exist anymore” mood after leaving the exhilarating world of the space program. Even after announcing that he'll be stepping back into his old moon shoes, the astronaut star still clings to his favorite civilian look, but this is due to his post-Jamestown lifestyle. “Had a little malfunction” is his code to Dani that the zipper on his uniform broke, and it isn’t only his fitness that needs some work. Gordo doesn’t know how to use the laptop (technology is a few leaps ahead of our timeline), and he has a lot to do — physically and mentally — to get back up to the same level as Dani in her traditional NASA blues.

    Avoiding ‘80s fads

    After a trial separation, one significant development between the first two seasons was Baldwin’s adopted daughter Kelly (Cynthy Wu). Kelly was part of “Operation Babylift,” which saw the US airlift women and children out of Vietnam, with Houston being one of the adoption centers. Kelly’s in the middle of applying for colleges, and the essay portion taps into her desire to find out where she came from and who her family is. Kelly’s relationship with her adopted parents is good, but there's still a gaping hole as she searches for her racial and cultural identity. Clothing-wise, Kelly eschews fads and favors stripe tanks and high-rise jeans that wouldn’t look out of place several decades later.

    Mission Command Chic

    Ellen has swapped NASA regulation garb for blazers and blouses. No more trips into outer space now that bureaucracy has come calling. Ellen has the ear of President Reagan (some things are only a few years different), and a political career is calling, so she better dress the part. Meanwhile, Margo’s (Wrenn Schmidt) spectacles have become a tad smaller in size — but tick those ‘80s boxes — and you would never know from her pressed blouse that she sleeps at the office. Both ambitious women dress for the job they want and deserve.

    A Duct Tape Emergency

    A For All Mankind costume post wouldn’t be complete without one of 2021's most memorable (and heartbreaking) TV moments. Ohanneson’s impeccable NASA uniforms look good enough to wear in outer space, but the defining look comes courtesy of a pair of gas masks and several rolls of duct tape. Gordo and Tracy make the ultimate sacrifice to save the Jamestown colony from a nuclear meltdown, and they do so dressed in DIY space suits. Tracy makes anything look good, including this impromptu practical materials challenge (“Are you kidding? I make this sing,” she quips). Some heroes wear a suit made out of duct tape.

    For All Mankind Season 3 premieres Friday June 10th on Apple TV+.

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    Emma Fraser has wanted to write about TV since she first watched My So-Called Life in the mid-90s, finally getting her wish over a decade later. Follow her on Twitter at @frazbelina

    TOPICS: For All Mankind, Apple TV+