What we will wear in space: A (very unscientific) vision of intergalactic fashion

What we will wear in space: A (very unscientific) vision of intergalactic fashion

Spaced out

Text: Ryan Sng

Image: Instagram

Since the dawn of civilisation (whenever that was) man has dreamt of reaching the stars. We attained that goal in 1961 — or maybe not, since technically, humans have yet to visit other solar systems, but we digress — when Yuri Gagarin became the first human to enter space. Our appetite for interstellar adventure has only grown since then. In 2019, the race to commercialise space travel has reached fever pitch, and mainstream interest in the mechanics of living long-term beyond Earth, as engineers aboard the International Space Station do, is more intense than ever. These days, the scientific credibility of films like Gravity, Interstellar and The Martian are analysed in greater detail than the pronouncements of politicians regulating research and industry (sad but true), underscoring the scale of public curiosity now that outer-space life seems plausibly within our grasp.

Fashion, like fiction, has long toyed with the idea of outer space, if terribly unscientifically. With contemporary audiences demanding a little more academic rigour before suspending their disbelief, however, brands have devised some clever ways of appealing to our starbound aspirations.

In the latest men's collections, familiar futuristic flourishes like pockets, velcro straps and utility harnesses abound — for in space, tools and objects float away and get drawn to air vents — as do silver and white surfaces designed to reflect potentially harmful radiation. On the cutting-edge end of things, there's no shortage of thick, spongy textures (thin, lightweight materials are ill-suited to withstand space dust that's full of sharp particles), which may sometimes be quilted bellows-style to provide articulation; in early spacesuit tests, unjointed sleeves ballooned in all-over fashion, making arm movement close to impossible for astronauts-in-training.

To the probable discomfort of most men, figure-hugging bodysuits have also come into vogue. With astronauts spending ever-longer stretches in orbit, lots of dough is being poured into developing compression garments that targetedly mimic gravity's effect on body parts like the spine, which can weaken or even atrophy in a zero-gravity environment. Traditionally worn under pressure and temperature-regulating spacesuits, these bodysuits can also temporarily mitigate the effects of sudden, unexpected depressurisation.

Fun fact: exposed to the vacuum of space, the average human can survive for around fifteen seconds, although one's skin will balloon like Violet Beauregarde from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Hence, if depressurisation doesn't hit you completely by surprise, ignore your instinct to breathe in beforehand, else your poor lungs explode. Just sayin'. 

It's unlikely that we'll actually be wearing any of these threads on our outer-space travels, however, which is just as well; to economise weight and space, there are no laundry facilities on most spacecraft, even aboard the ISS. Astronauts off-duty, by consequence, dress terribly given how infrequently clothes get changed — around every 3 days for workout gear and bottoms, and around every 10 days for other items. *shudders* Compounding our horror, once their missions are completed, dirty laundry tends to be left on resupply vehicles, which detach from the main craft to burn up on re-entry. And hell would have to reach the temperatures of Mars's surface before we did that to our designer togs... Even if our bank balances were on par with Elon Musk's.