Via Smithsonian.com – the astronaut’s lunar outfit was designed by the women’s bra manufacturer and inspired a series of space age fashions.
Pressure suit, A7-L worn by Armstrong (above and below). Materials for the overalls include beta cloth, rubber, nylon, plastic connectors, aluminum neck ring, aluminum wrist locking rings, aluminum zipper and brass with neoprene gasket.
“A spacesuit is made out of a flight suit, a Goodrich tire, a bra, a girdle, a raincoat, a tomato worm.”
From the book Spacesuit: Fashioning Apollo, by Nicholas de Monchaux
Or, that’s what a spacesuit was made from in 1969 when astronaut Neil Armstrong donned the bulky, Pillsbury-Doughboy-looking suit of great engineering and design ingenuity to take humankind’s first steps on the moon.
A spacesuit is “the world’s smallest spacecraft,” explained MIT professor, engineer and spacesuit designer Dava Newman at the PopTech conference in 2011. This pressurized outerwear, designed for human survival in space, has to provide an astronaut with protection against the extreme environment, deliver oxygen, modulate temperature and equally important, allow mobility for the wearer to work.
The evolution of the spacesuit has been one of trial and error, nixing skin-tight, multilayered garments that took a team to get on and off, as well as individualized, pressurized rolling balloon structures. But Armstrong’s handmade, completely customized suit (complete with an American flag stitched on the shoulder), the first garment to touch the surface the moon, was a product of the industrial division of the women’s bra manufacturer Playtex. The L.A. Review of Books, in reviewing Spacesuit: Fashioning Apollo, described how, as underdogs, the Playtex team secured the contract with their innovative-thinking, couture-level sewing skills and sheer determination:
ILC’s team , a motley group of seamstresses and engineers, led by a car mechanic and a former television repairman, manages to convince NASA to let them enter their “test suit” in a closed, invitation-only competitive bid at their own expense. They spend six weeks working around the clock—at times breaking into their own offices to work 24-hour shifts—to arrive at a suit solution that starkly outperforms the two invited competitors. In open, direct competition with larger, more moneyed companies, ILC manages to produce a superior space suit by drawing on the craft-culture handiwork and expertise of seamstresses, rather than on the hard-line culture of engineering.
Playtex’s design and construction, seen by millions after Armstrong made his lunar landing, brought space age fashion collections to a frenzied pitch in the late 1960s.
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