Spacewear: Weightlessness and the Final Frontier of Fashion

We are entering a new, commercial space age, in which it is possible to purchase a journey into orbit or beyond, but designers are only just beginning to imagine the clothing needs of this new industry and its customers. Space presents new challenges to engineers and designers, which will need to be addressed in preparation for mass space tourism. The new space race sees small and large commercial organizations competing to provide designed objects for use by future space travelers. While private spaceflight providers such as SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic develop plans to enable mass space tourism, smaller and more specialist firms, such as Final Frontier Designs, have emerged with the aim of developing individual objects that may one day be used on board those commercial spacecraft. Products ranging from cocktail glasses to sports equipment to gloves and shoes have been redesigned in anticipation of the needs of future space tourists. In this new market, there is scope for the emergence of a field of specialist practice dedicated to the design of fashion for space. While clothes of many kinds are already in use in government-funded space travel, there is currently limited activity that anticipates the fashion needs of space tourists.

In open space, the way that we clothe our bodies is essential to our survival. Space cannot be accessed “with our naked body but only through our technology: the exoskeleton or cocoon of a spacecraft, [or] a space suit” (Bureaud, 2006). Engineers have dedicated decades to developing the space suit, but far less time has been devoted to considering the features of dresses to be worn in the interiors of space vessels, where there is no need to protect the body from the dangers of open space. In the protective environment of the interior of a spacecraft, passengers are safe from the vacuum of space but are weightless. The weightless environment poses challenges to methods and processes that have long been taken for granted in fashion design and dressmaking on Earth. These methods need to be reconsidered in light of the emergence of a commercial space travel industry, which will in turn lead to the requirement to clothe future space tourists for the weightless environment.

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