Here are some nice time-lapse sequences from the deployment test of the Gaia Deployable Sunshield Assembly (DSA) on 10 October 2013, in the cleanroom at Europe's spaceport in Kourou.
Since the DSA will operate in microgravity, it is not designed to support its own weight in the one-g environment at Earth's surface. Therefore, during deployment testing on the ground, the DSA panels are attached to a system of support cables and counterweights that bears their weight, preventing damage and providing a realistic test environment.
Once in space, the sunshield has two purposes: to shade Gaia's sensitive telescopes and cameras, and to provide power to operate the spacecraft. Gaia will always point away from the Sun, so the underside of the skirt is partially covered with solar panels to generate electricity.