Playtex – From Bras to Space Suits on Apollo 11

Apollo 11 space suits designed by bra and girdle manufacturer Playtex and the future of fashion depicted in 2001: A Space Odyssey


Future Fashion – Apollo 11 Astronaut Buzz Aldrin


This iconic photograph, taken on the moon by Neil Armstrong of his lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin has style written all over it. Of course in reality, this space suit for EVA ( extra vehicular activity) on the lunar surface, was a life preserver. It protected the astronauts from deathly solar radiation as well as searing heat. But they also happened to look unbelievably chic and they were designed by Playtex !

Playtex – From Cross Your Heart Bras to Spacesuits

When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped out on to the lunar surface, in July of 1969, they were wearing spacesuits created by seamstresses from the International Latex Corporation, otherwise known as Playtex.

Left: Playtex girdles in 1966. Right: Neil Armstrong’s space suit, designed by Playtex

In Nicholas de Monchaux’s book Spacesuit: Fashioning Apollo, he reveals that Playtex, sensing a new market in the space race, began adapting its expertise with latex girdles and brassieres to research in pressurized space suits. Their research gained Playtex center stage at NASA in Apollo suit manufacture with their innovative advances in comfort and mobility. Subsequently, each space suit was hand-sewn and custom fitted to the bodies of each astronaut.

Playtex seamstress working on space suits for Nasa
Playtex seamstress working on space suits for Nasa. Photo : Ralph-Morse-The-LIFE-Picture-Collection-Getty-Images

The importance of the work of the Playtex seamstresses who helped put men on the moon, can not be under estimated. The NASA standards for safety had to be adhered to with unmatched precision. As Neil Armstrong said ‘The space suits were like mini spacecraft. If those suits failed, that was it. You were done.”
One of the Playtex seamstresses who worked on the suits Anna Lee Minner, in an interview with CBS said “I went home on many a night and cried because I knew I couldn’t do it. I was scared. this was a person’s life this depended on.”

Two seamstresses from Playtex preparing the work on a new space suit 1968

Future Fashion – Jean Shrimpton in a Spacesuit

Jean-Shrimpton---Space suit-1965- - Richard Avedon
Jean Shrimpton Space Suit Chic – Harpers Bazaar 1956. Photo by Richard Avedon

In 1965, Jean Shrimpton helped cement Astronaut chic in a series of photographs by Richard Avedon for a Harpers Bazaar issue on youth culture. In 2005 the image made the American Society of Magazine Editor’s list of Top 40 Magazine Covers.

Gigi Hadid Space Age Fashion

Gigi Hadid - NASA space suit

When a photograph of American model Gigi Hadid, sporting a NASA jumpsuit went viral in 2017, it was clear that the allure of NASA chic is still with us.

Future Fashion – 2001: A Space Odyssey

Future Fashion - 2001: A Space Odyssey

The style defining movie of the 1960’s was Stanley Kubrick’s epic 2001: A Space Odyssey. Who can forget those Pan Am flight attendants uniforms? Designed by British Hardy Amies, the look now has a distinctive 1960’s vibe to it all.
A quintessential tailor at heart, Amies created clean pure lines to all his designs, including the vividly colored space suits worn by Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood.

Pan Am stewardesses in 2001 - A Space Odyssey

The helmet-like headdresses worn by the stewardesses came from Royal milliner Freddie Fox. The assumption being that all women’s hair would be long in the future

Oddly enough, where so many sci-fi films fall down in predicting future fashion is in the hairstyles. It seems hair design can never escape from Einstein’s universe.


Several airlines thought it clever to mimic these looks in their stewardess uniforms, such as Air Canada.

That’s all !

Further Reading: Fashioning Apollo
Harpers Bazaar Photos © Richard Avedon Foundation

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