The countdown to a whole new set of real housewives has begun—and this time we’re blasting off into space! ABC’s newest drama series, The Astronaut Wives Club, takes off tonight at 8 p.m. ET and tells the true story of the space race that was fought in high heels by the wives of America’s first men to go to space. While their husbands were being strapped into rockets and launched on death-defying missions, the wives—played by Yvonne Strahovski, Odette Annable, JoAnna Garcia Swisher, Erin Cummings, Azure Parsons, Dominique McElligott, and Zoe Boyle—were catapulted into the social stratosphere and landed on the cover of Life magazine.
Although you’ll tune in for the scintillating drama, you’ll stay for the incredible retro fashion journey the show’s costume designer extraordinaire, Eric Daman (below), takes us on as these women are transformed from military wives to American royalty.
“These women start out with modest lives as army wives but quickly realize that with each of their husbands' launches comes a newfound, instant fame,” Daman explained to InStyle. “Life magazine made a deal with NASA to follow these women around for a cover story and the paparazzi started following them around, so they had to evolve their fashion and elevate their taste and style.”
We caught up with the costumer and sartorial master, who honed his styling skills assisting Patricia Field on Sex in the City and is responsible for the covetable wardrobe on Gossip Girl, to dish about each of the wives’ featured style, where he looked for inspiration, and the surprising place he shopped for vintage! Here’s what Daman had to say:
Where did you look to for reference and inspiration when designing for each of the astronaut wives?
For inspiration, I just tried to consume everything I could about the culture of that era. I watched this show called Peyton Place, which was actually one of my mom’s favorite shows, to see what these wives were watching and to see what the aspirational thing was on television. I also looked at a lot of magazines … It was really important for me to understand where these women were coming from what their fashion understanding was and what would speak to them. It helped me to see what the inspiration was in ads at the time, what these women were reading about … even what recipes were making!
Another important part of my research was looking into patterns from the period to see what shapes and styles and fabrics were available at the time—just to get a bit of reality check and then go from there to embellish and tszuj it up because while me and Stephanie [Savage] wanted to have fun with [the fashion] and make it as juicy and delicious as possible, we also wanted to keep things authentic and historical.
What was the most important step in the costume design strategy and process for The Astronaut Wives Club?
Something that I learned from my time at Gossip Girl and from Sarah Jessica [Parker] and Patricia Field at Sex in the City is that to make things look amazing on TV, you really have to spend the time and alter each piece and make everything custom fit for each body shape. This is especially true for the looks on Astronaut Wives Club because 90 percent of [the clothing] is vintage and a lot of vintage silhouettes are not made for contemporary bodies. So, I had a team of three to four rebuild every single piece of clothing, which modernized the styles but kept the historical realness of the vintage.
Where did you shop for the vintage pieces?
I actually did a lot of shopping on Etsy! I was really, really surprised and delighted to find that it is like a real marketplace, with full-on amazing vintage boutiques, where you can actually reach out to the vendors and contact them directly and create a really great dialogue. Their search engine is amazing and the prices are really great … it really did surprise me and saved me because I thought since we were shooting in New Orleans that I would find some amazing vintage in the south, but if you’re not from New Orleans you don’t realize the massive impact that Katrina really had at every level … everything has just been wiped and there were not a lot of resources there for us. It was really sad to see how much it is still impacting the industry and the people there today.
Do the actresses have any input for their wardrobe?
Dialogue is key and it’s a great give-and-take collaboration that takes place in the fitting room. I’m really there to give [the actors] the tools they need to create these characters and hopefully feel and be beautiful and amazing while doing it. Talking through scenes with them is always beneficial because my initial vision may not work with the scene—the skirt I envisioned may not work end up working for the scene if they want sit down or what have you—it’s a collaborative process.
What is your favorite look from the pilot?
When we re-created the Life magazine cover photo with the astronaut wives (above), which is also the photo on cover of the book the series is based on. They are all wearing shirt-dresses around the space capsule, except for Rene who is in a floral dress. I loved these looks and this moment because this photo is so iconic … and while we were trying to re-create the original photo, we also wanted to make it our own and stay true to the characters' style and color palettes we have created for the show.
What should we be most excited to see in the pilot?
Get excited to be introduced to these seven, incredible women and the journey that they are going on—and that includes a fashion journey! If you are a fashionista at all, to see where they start and where they are going to end in ten episodes is really amazing.
Click through the gallery to get the inside style scoop for each of the wives straight from Eric Daman, and be sure to tune for the premiere of The Astronaut Wives Club tonight at 8 p.m. ET on ABC!