Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Spacesuit: Fashioning Apollo

Spacesuit: Fashioning Apollo by Nicholas de Monchaux

What does fashion and NASA have in common? More than you know.

NASA originally wanted a hard suit for their space missions but the suits proved to be unwieldy. So a "soft suit" was designed by the International Latex Corporation (more widely known under its consumer brand-name, Playtex).  In fact, by the time of the Apollo missions, Playtex already had decades of experience designing close-fitting synthetic garments. The firm had made a fortune selling the girdles and other "foundation garments" women needed to wear the trim, "architectural" clothes popularized by Christian Dior's "New Look" at the end of the 1940s. The manufacturer of the Apollo spacesuit in 1969, Nicholas de Monchaux writes in his new book Spacesuit: Fashioning Apollo, also manufactured "the most popular girdle of 1949."

Spacesuit tells the story of the twenty-one-layer spacesuit in twenty-one chapters addressing twenty-one topics relevant to the suit, the body, and the technology of the twentieth century. The book touches, among other things, on eighteenth-century androids, Christian Dior’s New Look, Atlas missiles, cybernetics and cyborgs, latex, JFK’s carefully cultivated image, the CBS lunar broadcast soundstage, NASA’s Mission Control, and the applications of Apollo-style engineering to city planning. Through it all, the twenty-one-layer spacesuit offers an object lesson. It tells us about redundancy and interdependence and about the distinctions between natural and man-made complexity; it teaches us to know the virtues of adaptation and to see the future as a set of possibilities rather than a scripted scenario.

Editor's Note: Head on over to BLDGBLOG for a great interview with the author.
Thanks to Je suis perdu for pointing this out.

1 comment:

  1. This is such an original idea - love it. Would love to see more posts like this here and elsewhere. Fashion is in very unlikely places!