Haut Couture 2080 in Space

I haven’t gone off the deep end, really. And yes, that’s a date in the headline, but I pulled it out of thin air. Reality is that what I’m speculating about in this post could be possible in, say 2080. If not sooner. Cutting-edge science and the garment industry aren’t exactly strangers, and the idea of being able to… I’m getting ahead of myself.

With conventional spacesuits, you’re essentially in a balloon of gas that’s providing you with the necessary one-third of an atmosphere [of pressure,] to keep you alive in the vacuum of space,” says Newman, who has worked for the past decade to design a form-fitting, flexible spacesuit of the future. “We want to achieve that same pressurization, but through mechanical counterpressure — applying the pressure directly to the skin, thus avoiding the gas pressure altogether. We combine passive elastics with active materials. … Ultimately, the big advantage is mobility, and a very lightweight suit for planetary exploration.”

we can literally embroider a charge-storing pattern onto any garment using the vapor-coated threads that our lab makes. This opens the door for simply sewing circuits on self-powered smart garments.”

Wearable Energy Sources

What I find interesting, and amusing, about all of this? It’s not just that the new technology is going to make space travel and exploration much more comfortable and dexterous. It’s that, well, the collision of science fiction and haut couture is going to be very interesting indeed. I think we have all seen the dresses with embedded LEDs or fiber-optic strands that sparkle, glow, and shimmer. Now, the batteries necessary for that are bulky and you won’t see them as the photographers carefully maneuver around showing them. But with this technology, well, a nice swishy skirt has a fair amount of energy that could be harvested and stored to light up with twinkles. Battery-powered glitter, anyone?

But best of all. The old-school science fiction covers are finally going to be a real possibility. Ok, maybe not this one.

Honestly, the first thing I thought of when Dorothy Grant described it, and then when I saw it, was a milking machine. Peter Grant’s comment was “The Lactation Evacuation” should be the English translation for that cover. This one, on the other hand, could very well be a result of the peculiar collision between haut couture and space travel. Maybe.

Ah, well, even if I don’t get my space suit that gives me a vavavoom figure through the miracles of modern technology, the possibilities of wearable batteries, energy collection and storage on our person, and a space suit that allows full range of motion is still pretty amazing.


  1. The page is really tiny on my tablet, and the lines extend out to 300 characters or so.

    Also, we were selling LED coated suits for Christmas with joke patterns of Christmas lights or kittens, etc.

  2. I hope this isn’t the new editor the site’s been pushing!

    On the other hand, nice wearable spacesuits would have me complaining (again) about being born fifty years too early. I’m seeing the next steps into space, but I’ll never get there myself.

      1. People in Oklahoma aren’t allowed to edit. State law requires that Oklahomans write in a white heat off the top of their head without any revision or outlining.

        Either that, or their highways have bad wifi, because of redneck tyranny that objects to participating in a LAN party behind the wheel.

        1. *Holds up dog eared copies of Stanley Vestal’s histories* If this is what writing like an Okie does for a person. I’m moving as soon as the academic year ends.

  3. Okay, post is edited for Cedar. If there are broken links, bad images, or funky formatting now, it’s my fault!

  4. Hmm…

    Smart materials have come a little way even since 2014.

    I think I remember reading that article, and thinking of some of the suits in Gundam.

    Barotrauma has some fun dramatic possibilities with a mechanical counterpressure suit. As would wound care in a WWI scale combined arms battle on the moon’s surface. And with low gravity, the (probable) lower weight capacity of the female human pelvis might not be as much of an issue.

  5. Ummh,. how do you propose to handle heat transfer? Also, the bubble space suits have complicated arrangements to maintain constant enclosed volume, without which the wearer cannot move? The answer, of course, is that it is a magic smart fabric that uses your body heat for power.

    1. Jerry Pournelle worked with skintight spacesuits in the Fifties or Sixties. Said they wore like too-tight Spandex, but moving in them wasn’t a big problem. And heat wasn’t much of one either–space is a vacuum, so your problem is mostly *dumping* heat; and sweat evaporates real well in a vacuum.

      As I understand it, the problem with skintight spacesuits was putting them on and taking them off. Doubleplus tight Spandex, and *every* part had to be stretchable, so no laces, zippers, buttons, snaps, whatever. Dressing somebody was an all-hands evolution, involving lots of brute force and lots of baby powder.

      The latest development I’ve been hearing about involves kinesic studies that show there are parts of the body that never stretch or contract no matter how you move. This makes something analogous to a zipper doable along those “meridians.” Dressing would still be a pain, but it might be doable.

      The thing I’ve been wondering about is all the FutureCloth(tm) and SmartFabric(tm) they keep talking about needing. As I said, Mr. Pournelle’s essay said they’d pulled it off with run-of-the-mill Spandex fifty-plus years ago. What’s changed?

  6. I’ve been writing smart-suits into my stories. When you have carbon nanotubes available by the yard, and you have nanotech to manage the seams etc. you can do some really thin armor. If you add room-temperature superconductors, you can have some serious battery storage and heat dissipation.

    So, you can have Valkyries in skin-tight battle armor with strategically placed hard-plates. Knees, elbows, hips and other places.

    The skin-tight part comes in handy when facing government troops in western countries. Because who is the last person the average soldier is going to shoot? The knockout blonde in the spray-on tights.

    You can also add a personality to the suit, so it can make snide comments at awkward moments, and maybe protect the wearer a bit when Bad Things happen.

  7. Wouldn’t there need to be some sort of seal between the helmet and the rest of it? If there’s no seal, then the body part would need to apply more than the helmet air pressure against the body, to keep from ballooning out. If there is a seal, it would be around the wearer’s neck, which would be uncomfortable to say the least. I like the look, though!

    1. Probably close to the collar bone, if one is necessary. There’s still flexibility needed, but less full-flex to worry about. Or you could potentially do it around the face itself and have the seal next to the skull.

      1. How about a glue-on shoulder harness with a thick neoprene layer to accommodate some shoulder movement and muscle flexing? Air system and batteries in a backpack.

    2. Hmm. I dunno how well a gas mask style seal over the mouth and nose would work.

      There’s some neat simulation tools for looking at skeletal structural properties. That varied soft tissue in the face might be pretty tricky. If you are pressuring the respiratory tract, differential pressure across the eyes and ears might be really fun.

      If you have four layers of seal, you don’t have to have as much pressure across each, and can tolerate more leaks. So, nose and mouth. Something that covers the nose/mouth mask, plus eyes and ears to prevent barotrauma, and probably leaks with movement of jaw. A semi rigid inflatable collar around the neck. A sort of dickie strapped tight around the torso. (Like Pam’s shoulder harness.)

  8. While the suit looks really nice, I suspect an operational version will have something like the laces on the MC-3 suit.
    Aside from the cost of individually fitting each person, think about weight gain and loss over time. Also, I suspect in reality skin tight suits will not be as flattering for either gender as depicted on the pulp covers. The vision I have of an orbital Walmart rivals the bar scene in Star Wars…

    1. I had the fighter pilots in one of my screenplays wearing something that looked like a cross between that and a flight suit. the front glass on the helmet was actually designed to be a little wider than that one, even… (so as to keep the actor’s face visible)

    2. Clothes could be worn /over/ the pressure suit.

      Too hot? Specially designed radiator cloaks. Too cold? Pull on the insulated outerwear. The book need fanservice to sell? Break out the JK uniforms.

  9. I have to admit, thinking about skin-tight suits, my first thought was spray-on clothing. Forget trying to stretch into it, have the clothing self-organize and pull tight, but use a spray applicator. Wow! Talk about form fitting! And given some of the work that’s been done on nano-scale machines and such, not completely unlikely. Or perhaps there would be a “bath” that you dive into and emerge… fully covered? And of course, no capes… https://youtu.be/E6SymBZL_vg if you have forgotten. But, yeah, given new materials and places to wear them, the fashion folks will get into the play soon enough.

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