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How to dress up as an astronaut for Halloween

In 10 steps:

  1. Casually Google astronaut costume, intending to buy one of those cheap flight suits you saw in the gift shop of the Air & Space Museum as a kid (or um, more recently). Nothing seems to come in women’s sizes.

  2. Change your search to female astronaut costume. Become very sad.

  3. Spend hours searching. Flight suits do of course come in women’s sizes, but only the real kind (which cost over $200). Delude yourself into thinking a men’s small might fit you. Triumphantly discover an XS on eBay; it turns out to be a typo.

  4. Start to get really picky the longer this goes on. It can’t have a space camp patch on it. In fact, a blue flight suit is not acceptable at all. You definitely need the orange kind. Bright orange.

  5. Finally, come across something that might work: They’re calling it an Orange is the New Black costume (also a pretty great idea, but you can’t get distracted now). However, it’s obviously a flight suit, not a prison uniform. And there’s a picture of a woman wearing it! She’s a model, so she’s probably way taller than you are, but it seems to fit her okay. Order it. Success!

  6. In the meantime, order some patches, which turn out to be much easier to find. Get a NASA vector patch and an Ares program patch from AB Space Patches, plus an American flag. The Space Camp Store will send you a custom leather name badge for only $5.

  7. When the flight suit arrives, try it on! …only to find that even a size small is too big. Way too big. You’re pretty sure this is still a men’s size, despite that cute lady in the picture. It’s October 27th.

  8. Don’t give up now! Take the too-large suit to your local alterations shop, where a very kind but confused woman will measure, pin, and make it fit perfectly in time for the party on Saturday.

  9. Wear with pride. This is most of my research group, showing off our costumes.

  10. After all that trouble, vow that you’ll wear this costume every year, until you become a real astronaut or it fits your future children (who are going to have to wear it every year, too).

Good luck!

I didn’t become obsessed with making an astronaut costume just to look cool at a Halloween party—I did it because I really wanted this costume to exist. If you want to dress up as a sexy astronaut, that’s fine. I know commercial costumes exist because people buy them, and maybe there isn’t much demand for women’s sizes. But it made me sad to think of a teenage girl doing a similar search and finding that a NASA minidress is the only option in her size. I hope she at least also knows that half of NASA’s 2013 astronaut candidates are women.

Notes on authenticity

Throughout this process, but especially when I was looking for patches, I relied on the research of awesome folks who care a lot about authentic costumes (they would probably call them replicas). These hobbyists are a great resource for information about stuff like what color the border on your US flag patch should be.

My time and money were limited, so my costume isn’t totally authentic.

My US flag patch is smaller (2” x 3”) than what’s actually on most modern astronauts’ flight suits (3” x 5”). The placement of the NASA vector logo seems to vary, so I think where I put it is okay. The Ares program patch on the right shoulder is probably okay, too. I chose the Ares patch because I wanted this costume to be a Mars astronaut, and Ares was the giant crew launch vehicle for the Constellation program (which has been cancelled, but, confusingly, is still sort of happening). A real flight suit would also have a mission patch, probably with the names of the crew.

And then there’s the color. The later Space Shuttle astronauts wore orange pressure suits for launch and re-entry—the bright color is for search and rescue purposes. I’m not sure if they ever wore orange flight suits. Astronauts wear a variety of clothing in space, but mostly t-shirts and shorts. The current NASA astronauts wear royal blue flight suits in training. The orange sure looks cool, though.


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