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How The Cosmos Has Influenced Fashion

astrology fashion
Astrology In FashionGetty Images

For legendary designer Elsa Schiaparelli, a fascination with astrology was not just written in the stars, it was drawn on her face.

When Schiaparelli was young, her uncle (influential 19th century astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli) pointed out that the beauty marks on her cheek could be connected to form a constellation. This constellation was Ursa Major, also known as the Big Dipper. Schiaparelli would go on to use Ursa Major as a personal emblem throughout her life.

Astrology was also, quite literally, written in the papers during Schiaparelli’s lifetime. The practice of studying the stars and making predictions based upon their positioning dates back to some of the earliest civilisations–the first recorded appearance of astrology is found in the 3rd century BCE in Mesopotamia. However, the first newspaper horoscope did not appear until 1930. Astrologer R.H. Naylor simplified horoscopes to short, quippy predictions based upon readers’ birthdates in an issue of the Sunday Express. The feature was so popular that newspapers and magazines across Europe and America began to run monthly horoscope columns, and a fad for all things astrological quickly spread amongst fashionable society.

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astrology in fashion
Daniel Roseberry paid homage to house founder Elsa Schiaparelli with nods to astrology for the Schiaparelli 2022 Couture collection.Peter White - Getty Images

It's therefore unsurprising that stars often worked their way into Schiaparelli’s designs. Perhaps most memorable is her 1937 evening jacket, cut in deep blue velvet and embroidered by the House of Lesage with a dazzling array of stars and planets. The centre of the jacket is emblazoned with all twelve signs of the zodiac, creating a wearable cosmological calendar. (Embroidered just next to Schiaparelli’s own sign of Virgo? The Big Dipper, of course).

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Schiaparelli is far from the only designer to make use of astrology in her work. Maria Grazia Chiuri uses only constellations, but the entirety of the cosmos as both her signature and an homage to Christian Dior himself, who reportedly never made a decision without first consulting a clairvoyant. In Grazia Chiuri’s first collection for Dior, gowns glistened with jewelled constellations, swirled with watercolours of zodiac symbols, and were lit aflame with the tails of embroidered meteors. In the years since, she has produced a vast array of astrological-themed pieces for Dior, ranging from cardigans with intarsia-knit Scorpios to basketball shorts printed with 19th century maps of the stars–proof that these ancient sciences are far from outmoded.

astrology in fashion
Christian Dior SS17 CoutureFRANCOIS GUILLOT - Getty Images

Alexander McQueen’s AW07 collection blended the designer’s studies of both Ancient Egypt, one of the earliest societies to record their use of astrology, and 17th century occult witchcraft, which often held ties to astrology. The finished result: a smattering of star-shaped headpieces and dresses made from large leather circles cut to look like zodiac charts. These looks speak not to glossy-magazine version horoscopes but rather to a cryptic and ageless wisdom to be garnered through astrology. The same might be said of McQueen himself, who often eschewed commercial viability for the sake of making clothes that were layered with complex social, political, and historical significance (his prophetic final collection, the futuristic-aquatic Plato’s Atlantis, becomes even more poignant with the knowledge that McQueen’s zodiac sign was Pisces–the fish).

astrology fashion
Alexander McQueen AW16Victor Virgile - Getty Images

Even in the absence of Alexander McQueen himself, astrology remains an integral part of the McQueen label. For AW16 collection, designer Sarah Burton created a sweeping sheer tulle cape intricately embroidered with sequinned moons and stars. It reads as a decidedly contemporary interpretation of Schiaparelli’s jacket from nearly 80 years prior, a night sky to drape around one’s shoulders, only this time with a bit more sex appeal.

John Galliano’s infamous SS97 Circus collection also reached for the stars, though perhaps with slightly less lofty ambitions. Leotards spangled with glittering diamanté constellations and zodiac-printed bias-cut gowns made reference to the glamour of Old Hollywood costumes. Another unexpectedly glitzy take on astrology: Alessandro Michele’s 2023 Cruise collection for Gucci. The show’s title–Cosmogonie–and its dramatic coats, hoodies, and gowns dusted with sparkling constellations could easily be read as an ode to the cosmos. Michele’s real inspiration, however, was a star of a very different nature: Marilyn Monroe in her Swarovski-studded gown, a glistening comet of glamour, passing briefly through our stratosphere.

astrology in fashion
Gucci Cruise 2023IMAXTREE.COM - LAUNCHMETRICS SPOTLIGHT

Despite their wide-ranging beliefs and tastes, it is no coincidence that Schiaparelli, Grazia Chiuri, McQueen, Galliano, and Michele have all felt the irresistible gravitational pull of astrology. In fact, it seems that the planets don’t just align to write horoscopes. When everything is positioned just right, a garment and a hint of celestial magic come together to make a designer into something much larger than life: a star.


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