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BOOK GIVEAWAY: Spacesuit–Fashioning Apollo

The fascinating book Spacesuit--Fashioning Apollo could be yours!

I remember the day (July 20, 1969) that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took their first steps on the moon, and the world watched on TV amazed at the magnitude of what we were seeing. We had seen it many times before, but that had always been TV fiction, not real life! It became the hot topic in media, in offices, and in schools for a long time.

In all of the dialogue, media coverage as well as casual conversations, never once do I recall a discussion about how the Apollo spacesuits were constructed. The book “Spacesuit—Fashioning Apollo” (2011 Massachusetts Institute of Technology) by Nicolas de Monchaux answers every question you might have about exactly that.

Nicolas de Monchaux goes into great detail about the suits used in the Apollo missions including the design failures and wonderful successes along the way, and it is fascinating to read about their evolution. The complexity of the project will boggle your mind, and the precision used to make the suits will make all of your sewing challenges seem minor in comparison.

Most women today equate the name Playtex with bras, but in 1969 the company was equally well known for their girdles. For those of you too young to have experienced a girdle first hand, they were made from latex covered with fabricon (a form of cotton flock). They came in briefs or with short or long legs. They were designed to slim and contour your figure much like today’s Spanx products. The Apollo spacesuit was a 21-layered composite that was actually hand-sewn by the Platex Bra and Girdle company!

The book is an incredibly well-researched chronicle about the Apollo spacesuits and the history surrounding them. Not only does it explore the intricacies that linked the bra company to the Apollo mission, but it delves into the politics, media, and fashion design that all contributed in some way to the launching of the Apollo flights. It explains the design history of the suits, their complexity and their adaptation. It’s like reading the detailed history of the Apollo spacesuits through the eyes of the tailor! It’s not light reading; but it certainly is intriguing.

You could win a copy of this book by leaving a comment on this post. Please tell us if you remember where you were when you learned that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had walked on the moon! If you are too young to remember the actual occasion, what did you think when you first learned about the Apollo mission in school? Comment before 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, July 5, 2011, for your chance to win. One winner will be chosen at random and announced on July 6.

Good luck!


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  1. User avater
    WillaMcNeill | | #1

    My daughter was 10 months old. We were visiting my grandmother who was born in the last century--that is the 19th century! I marveled and wondered at the changes the world had seen in my grandmother's lifetime and at what my daughter would see and take for granted.

    We came home from grandmother's and slept on the floor in front of the only television in the house so as not to miss one step or word!

  2. CanoePam | | #2

    It was the summer before high school, and I was a science/math geek before the word geek was coined. I tried so hard to stay up to watch the moon walk which was scheduled for well after midnight in my local time. However, I fell asleep only a short time before it happened! I woke up a few hours after the moon walk and saw the news reports. It wasn't the same as watching it live, but it was thrilling none the less.

  3. nursenjk | | #3

    I was 13 and spending a couple of weeks on a dairy farm belonging to my mom's cousin, Norman,in New Jersey. I remember being allowed to try on a flight suit (not sure who it belonged to) and we all sat around the television watching the landing. The most interesting thing was that Cousin Norman went to high school with Buzz Aldrin and painted Buzz's football helmet for him. (Back in those days, the helmets needed extra help between games to look good!) It was a amazing to think that we were able to land men on the moon AND bring them back safely.

  4. Lulumama | | #4

    Although I watched the moon walk on TV, what sticks in my mind more than anything else after all these years was what happened the next day at the town swimming pool.
    I was having a swimming lesson with other 11-year-olds. I brought up the amazing events of the day before, and one of my classmates said, sneeringly, "I couldn't care less about walking on the moon!" I was really irked--not only at her lack of curiosity about the world and beyond, but also--and maybe even more so--at that phrase, by which she clearly meant the very opposite.

  5. quiltedstar | | #5

    I was at a family reunion in Ventura, CA at the family dairy. We were getting acquainted with some relatives from Italy. We all watched, but I remember best that while we were excited, the Italian members all cried.

  6. quiltedstar | | #6

    I was at a family reunion in Ventura, CA at the family dairy. We were getting acquainted with some relatives from Italy. We all watched, but I remember best that while we were excited, the Italian members all cried.

  7. User avater
    jbabbage | | #7

    I was watching on the TV that had been set up in my grandparents' back yard. Three generations sat there enthralled! It was just a few days before my 17th birthday.

  8. ipodgrannie | | #8

    I was up at the lake, hotter than you know what and it was humid and I was pregnant with my second son and bigger than a house and just miserable. My son was born September 4th and he was 9Lb 10oz and he was 24 inches long, so you can believe me when I say I was big. The landing was still exciting though and I am glad it went okay.

  9. User avater
    tazmotor | | #9

    I was 11 years old when Buzz Aldrin and Neal Armstrong landed on the moon. My extended family was camping at our favorite local spot and my uncle brought along a small television set (maybe 12 inch) that was powered by a car battery. They arrived with the TV rabbit ears sticking out the car window, announcing that Aldrin and
    Armstrong had landed safely. My dad set up the TV under the awning of our umbrella tent, out of the sun, and we watched everything that happened the rest of the day. I remember that the moon was huge and shining bright over the lake that night. It was amazing to look up at the moon, then back at the TV in our tent, and think about the fact that 2 men were walking around up on that moon shining overhead.

  10. seemless | | #10

    I was watching it on TV, at home. I was a kid. So long ago....

  11. Cherryrob | | #11

    I was working in a London bank for a few months before college. Someone came in with a check for £10000, a huge amount of money in those days. They had placed a bet almost 10 years before that there would be a man on the moon within 10 years. The amount of the bet was £1, and the odds were 10000 to 1!

  12. User avater
    Tiffinjames | | #12

    We were at the house of a family friend, who was going to go on vacation (car trip) with our family (from Memphis to Springfield, Illinois). We were supposed to leave late night/early morning, but waited until the capsule landed, hovering around our friend's little black and white TV watching those fuzzy pictures. We just couldn't leave while the world was holding its collective breath! While we were on the trip, Dad would include in his home movies newspaper headlines of the NASA mission. We were all so excited! My husband told me his grandmother reminisced later: "When I was growing up, we had coal-oil burning lamps and not even iceboxes, and now there is a man on the moon!" It makes you realize the sweeping changes that had taken place in society within a few generations - it was amazing for us - just imagine how incredible it was to the older people! PS - I later requested and received an autographed picture of Neil Armstrong in his spacesuit!

  13. HokieDawg | | #13

    I learned about it in school, and I vaguely remember thinking it was no big deal. Of course men had been on the moon! I thought we could do just about anything we set our minds to!

  14. mamakate60 | | #14

    It was Sunday night and at our church we had a evening service. My dad was the minister, so I did not get excused for ANYTHING! However, the landing happened enough before church started that everyone was outside in their cars with radios turned on to hear the news. Somehow it all seemed so impossible and very hard to believe.

    I don't remember for sure, but I suspect there was little interest in the sermon that evening :-)

    The first US manned space shot was on my 12th birthday, May 5, 1961 - I thought it was a fitting celebration and it probably connected with me even more than the moon walk. It was enough to make me think I wanted to be an astronaut, which was unheard of for a girl. I remember collaborating with a junior high school female classmate on a letter to the president, telling him that we wanted to be shot in a space ship. We showed it to our history teacher who wryly commented, "I think there would be cheaper ways to shoot you." Obviously, we were women befoe our time!

  15. DianeHilton | | #15

    I remember !!!!! I was rocking my newborn first son..He was born in April...I watched the story on the news..I still have the 45rpm [record] in the trunk.. It is a recording of the famous quote as it took place...I have saved it all this time for my son...Wow....how things have changed...
    And , yes I too remember the girdles.....In my area , women were encouraged to wear a girdle after childbirth to help support the muscles...I think it was stated in the movie of STEEL MAGNOLIAS that women didn't leave the house without lycra...and if she did, she was "brought up right"...
    I also remember that my grandfather thought it was fake..He always believed that it was filmed in the dessert of Arizona..But he also thought soap opera's were real...

  16. Javelin | | #16

    The actual first steps on the moon were televised at a very, very late time at night. I was VERY pregnant with my first child, and I was afraid that a HorribleMonster would appear over the moon horizon and eat Neil Armstrong, and I didn't want the baby to be traumatized, and I was so sleepy I couldn't stay awake to see the monster -- so I didn't see him step off the ladder. I went to bed instead.

  17. LucyJane | | #17

    I was pregnant with my third child. My two older children were four and five years old. I was trying to keep them awake
    in a recliner so they could see the "event." Well I looked over when it happened and they were sound asleep!

  18. User avater
    wicked_stitcher | | #18

    I had begun my first semester in college, having crossed from the midwest to the northwest on the first commercial flight I'd ever taken. Because I was on a full scholarship and had broken some ground to reconcile racial hostilities in my HS, our city's newspaper paid for my maiden voyage. I arrived in the west with $2 in my pocket, not enough to find my way to the campus. Some fellow students whose flight away had been significantly delayed took pity on me and drove me back to campus. My belongings all fit in a footlocker, and their canned food from a summer of smoke jumping in Alaska kept me fed until the dorms and cafeteria formally opened. For two days I warmed those cans up with my iron! Watching those astronauts land made me realize that all leaps are staggering and while not all of them merit TV coverage and a nation's exultation, each of us contributes to the wealth of the world.

  19. mkparis | | #19

    I was a college student studying in France and I had just hitch hiked to Aix-en-Provence. The gentleman who picked my friend and I up had just seen all the TV coverage and was delighted to have an American in his car...he drove us 30 miles out of his way just to show how delighted he was. That evening we walked through a festive Aix-en-Provence where large TV screens were set up and we could hear and see the famous words...it was great to feel like a special person in a foreogn country.

  20. Donaldeen | | #20

    Our family was at home, in the house we still live in (my husband and I) and I was all prepared to record the event because it was of historical significance.
    Interestingly, my mother used to wear Playtex girdles all the time and when I was in my last years of high school, I did, too. Lost some baby fat after that, and was able to go without the hot, hot and restrictive girdle, finally!

  21. Mariesainte | | #21

    I turned 21 years old on July 20, 1961, in Bangkok, Thailand. I was visiting my parents and family home before my senior year in college, and the house was full of Thai students planning to study in the U.S. It was in the afternoon local time, and we watched our little black and white TV and shared a little of the thrill the astronauts must have felt. The sound reception was poor but we repeated what was said a little slower, so the students who were still working on their English conversation could understand. It felt like the moon that had always been so far away from all of us was a little closer, whether we were at home in Thailand or in college in California. My husband is an enthusiastic student of the space program, and this landing is the way he remembers my birthday. It was such a bright moment so many years ago!

  22. MsTeddo | | #22

    Our summer theatrical troupe (Shakespeare In The Streets) was setting up in one of the Minneapolis parks for a production of Hamlet. Someone had brought a small portable TV and set it up behind the stage on a tray on the grass as far as a cord would reach from our lighting equipment. We all wanted to watch it, but the play had to go on as well. We had a sizeable crowd and the play went forward, but the actors were running back whenever they were not onstage: "Has it happened yet?" The night sky was several shades of dark blue, the slight wind rustled the grass and leaves, and birds and squirrels did not understand why we were there. And then the men were walking on the moon. It was amazing, every book, movie, TV show coming to life, but better and more beautiful. The white/silver fuzziness of their suits made it seem magical. After the play, it was announced to the audience who cheered and applauded.
    I have seen many of the old movies made before the actual event. The space suits are always interesting, but none of them have that essential element: velcro

  23. ddavisgray | | #23

    July 20, 1969, one of my favorite memories. I was just a couple weeks from my thirteenth birthday. In 1969, not everyone had a television in their living rooms as is so common now. Back in those days, when there was a big event, we would gather at my Grandfather Curley's house to watch TV. My Grandfather closed down his Gas-N-Grocery and treated everyone to hot dogs,hamburgers, ice cream, and of course Kool-aid and Iced tea. Gathered in his huge Texas living room was my Great Grandmother, my Grandparents, my Patents, brothers and sister and a enough cousins to make up a couple baseball teams. I will never forget how quite everyone was as we watched our "heroes" as they landed on the moon. That was a day when all of America was so proud. That day my Grandfather flew the American Flag and left it flying until after July fourth. Thanks for prompting the memory. It's a good one.

    A Proud American,
    Doris Gray

  24. Gigi_Louis | | #24

    I remember it like it was yesterday! I was 7 years old at the time and was laying on my stomach on my Oma's couch in Cologne, West Germany (before reunification) watching it on the only television in the house.

  25. orchidsinmay | | #25

    The book sounds amazing! I was born well after the Apollo missions & to be honest I can't remember learning about them. They just always interested me. I've since gone on to become an engineer & I always find it inspiring to hear stories of the engineers & scientists that worked on these programs.

  26. TeriMelisa | | #26

    Well I was nowhere. I wasn't born until 1975. But my Mama has always told me about watching it with her mom and dad.We are from Huntsville,Alabama so of course it was a huge deal around here. Still is. The space industry is the main thing in this town.

  27. ElaineElise | | #27

    I remember learning about it in school!

  28. ElaineElise | | #28

    I remember learning about it in school!

  29. ElaineElise | | #29

    I remember learning about it in school!

  30. ElaineElise | | #30

    I remember learning about it in school!

  31. mickiesue | | #31

    My son was born on July 20,1969. I saw the lead up to the walk on the moon, but was busy having a baby when Neil Armstrong made his "giant leap for mankind." Almost everyone expected us to name him Neil, but we stuck with our original choice...and I had to be satisfied with the tv replay of the event.

  32. VictoriaR | | #32

    I was at home in Richland, Washington. It was the summer between my Freshman and Sophomore year in high school. I remember it was a balmy evening and we had out-of-town company visiting. We made ice cream and were eating it on the porch while waiting. It seems we had to wait quite a while so we went back and forth from the front porch to the TV in the living room. It was all so exciting when they finally walked on the moon. The book sounds really interesting.

  33. User avater
    copperwoman | | #33

    Last year, my husband and I traveled to Florida from Oregon in an attempt to see the Discovery launch, but of course it did not happen then - Safety First! We visited the Astronauts' Hall of Fame and everything else available at the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral, though. You can be sure I took many, many photos of space suits, and all "accessories" from every angle I could. One display I particularly liked was casts of astronauts' hands, used for making their gloves. Yes, I remember where I was for the moon walk - in my livingroom, waiting eagerly to see it on TV. When Alan Shepherd flew, I heard the broadcast over the public address system in the library of my Junior High School.

  34. User avater
    gandmfausel | | #34

    I was watching with my family all gathered around to see. I was 13.

  35. yuut | | #35

    Houston, the Eagle has landed! I couldn't have been more excited. I talked my parents into renting a TV from the "Seven Eleven" so I could watch it. I sat glued to the set here in Houston and knitted my first project a Maxi dress.
    I also thought about my Grandmother born in the 19th century. Can you imagine, they had thought if you went faster than 30 miles an hour you would explode!

  36. Nat1964 | | #36

    I remember crowding around a small black & white television in our small school room watching history being made

  37. Julia_Set | | #37

    I was born after the momentous occasion (1975). I grew up watching space shuttle launches in school in the 'town' (a 'burb of Los Angeles) where the shuttle's main engines were designed, tested, and manufactured. We took the moon landing for granted. I don't specifically remember learning about the moon landing event in school although I'm sure a science class covered it. However, I recently read an article that said the Apollo Guidance Computer, which helped put men on the moon, used 36kb of memory. And now to read about the suits! To think about it now in an age where everything seems to be mass manufactured - the computers, the capsule and landing module, those suits... were CRAFTED. What do I think about the moon landing now that I am well into adulthood? Simply amazing; an absolutely astonishing example of many people working towards one goal (a pretty darn difficult one at that!)

  38. SewistStLouis | | #38

    What a wonderful topic. Not many realize how important the sewing of the suits was to the entire mission. Thanks for the inspiration.

  39. Tootsiebelle | | #39

    What was this then thirteen year old from Upstate New York doing when Neil and Buzz landed on the Moon? Why, of course I was sitting on the floor in front of our Zenith black and white television with eyes glued to the screen! It was like that with all of the moon missions. It didn't matter that there were times when the scenery didn't change much or often; the possibility of something exciting happening at any moment was what made me keep vigil.
    The whole idea of space travel created a sense of awe and wonder, and landing on another world was even more inspiring. That a self-contained environment in the form of a space suit was needed to survive was in itself completely amazing. Oh, how very risky; these men knew that their lives as they knew them could change in an instant, for better or for worse, yet these astronauts pursued every opportunity! What heroes! The possibilities! What might be encounter in this new world? Would there be other life? Who knew?! Their first steps onto the Moon; what Neil and Buzz must have felt! How can words explain? Watching as the pole holding the United States flag was planted into the surface of the moon, I teared up because I was proud; it was all so overwhelming.
    Then the astronauts returned to Mother Earth, after which these brave men were quarantined for a period of time, to be sure they didn't bring back some awful disease or otherwise detrimental organism! It was all part of the fascination that left me with wonderful memories. I shall never forget.

  40. VickiKate | | #40

    I'm too young so wasn't around for this amazing event, but have been hypnotised by the idea and images since I was small! I have a rather geeky DVD collection about space travel and the moon landings. This would feed that geeky space kid side whilst also feeding my sewing passion! It looks like a fabulous book and it's been wonderful reading the comments of those who were able to watch the pictures live.

  41. jlant33 | | #41

    I was nowhere close to being born that day, but it was such a great achievement that I became interested in it at such a young age. I am now 22 and going back to school for astronautics. With all amazing vehicles and systems that allow us to break free from the bounds of earth's atmosphere and inhabit space, the most overlooked of them (at least it was to me) is the spacesuit, which without a functional and reliable one, none of this would be possible. A friends told me about this book last night and im really interested in learning more about this well designed piece of technology. Thanks!

  42. Carolu51 | | #42

    We watched the moon landing on our neighbors' color TV, as ours at home was black & white and the picture was getting a bit fuzzy. I had recently graduated from high school, and started college during the summer session. Yes, I was already sewing, having made my own school clothes since a gingham shift in fifth grade. Now I'm sewing for grandchildren, reusing patterns I bought for my own children. One romper had a little "astronaut" applique - guess I should make that for my little guy this week!

  43. User avater
    2tango | | #43

    I remember watching the grainy footage of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walking on the moon on our huge console black and white tv on a hot summer day. How facinating the costruction on those space suits must be!

  44. Llynn23 | | #44

    I am too young to remember the first lunar landing. However, I have been nuts over astronomy, NASA, the Apollo missions, and the design of the space suit FOREVER! I had a life size poster of the space suit for the shuttle missions on my wall as a kid. Now I would love to look at the construction of the suit from the perspective of the construction lens of fabric and sewing. Plus the space suit was even featured as a key prop on the season premiere of my favorite show - Doctor Who. It is great when important pieces of human history can be brought alive through popular venues to encourage learning and understanding.

  45. Bother | | #45

    In 1969, I would have been 12. Daddy made us all stay up late, late, late so that we would see men walk on the moon when it happened. My little sister, 7 or 8 at the time, was very crabby and didn't get the significance, and I can't swear that I did, but I do remember Neil Armstrong setting foot on the moon for the first time. Eventually I did read quite a lot of science fiction and dreamed of exploring other planets, but I don't have enough math or natural talent to be a physicist or astronomer. Maybe I could ship out as a cabin steward.

  46. meorens | | #46

    I remember watching every moment with goosebumps in my parents family room. I was 10 and already sewing. I have always wanted to see the process of how these suits were fabricated. My Dad, who was Head of Design at Phila. Naval Shipyard, and I had many discussions over the years on the designs and requirements of those suits. We also had a good discussion one day on the internal structure and engineering required to hold up a strapless dress; he was impressed. I would love to acquire this volume for my library of sewing and design books!

  47. User avater
    harikleia | | #47

    What a great book! Sewing went to the moon! Fascinating subject. I recommented the book to my library. I wasn't born at that time.

  48. Arafel | | #48

    I was very much into everything space related at the time. I watched Star Trek faithfully and longed to be a crew member on a starship! I had taken a couple of Astronomy courses so that I would know all about the stars and galaxies if I ever got a chance to go into space. For me the fact that men were about to land on the moon meant that space travel for everyone couldn't be that far off into the future!

    My family watched the moon walk on tv. Later that night I dragged a kitchen chair out into the front yard and gazed up at the night sky and the moon and marvelled that men from our own planet had actually been walking on it's surface only a couple of hours before!

  49. treadlepedal | | #49

    Our little family watched the event from beginning to safe landing while soothing a fussy baby, and thinking the entire time what impact this had on our world. That thought has been repeated many times since, although I did not equate the fashion perspective into the picture!!

  50. roowbatry | | #50

    we bring theseat never before discounts

  51. Numerate | | #51

    I can't believe how timely this contest is! I was at the Newport (RI) folk festival with my boyfriend, and as we left the concert there were televisions set up all around. We stood and watched the coverage, and marveled. I had been reading science fiction since I was 10, so I had eagerly awaited the first moon landing.

    A few weeks ago I found the program from the festival, and my ticket. On Monday, my grandson is going to be Neil Armstrong in his third grade wax museum, and I am making his costume - I just took a break. We found a lot of pictures on the web with great detail - I printed out copies of the patches, and will either try to print them on fabric or embroider them - but you can see all the hand work - this book must be fascinating!

  52. diamondgirlz | | #52

    I had just finished eighth grade and was enjoying my summer vacation at the beach. I couldn't believe it was actually happening. Now my adult son is obsessed with that era of space history.

  53. User avater
    jamaco | | #53

    Watched it on TV and talked about it for days after.

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