Imagine this, you’re a start-up attending your first business card exchange. You’re in your zone, with speaking points ready to go and pockets stuffed with original laser cut business cards, but then the reality sets in. Everyone is already clustered in little groups conversing among themselves, and there you are left alone. It’s an awkward moment and suddenly you realize you aren’t as well prepared as you thought. Well, just deploy your mega cap sleeves to show them you’re boss, or activate your funnel neck collar to escape the embarrassment. It’s your clothing and you can command it. That’s the idea behind the Clothing for Moderns by Lea Albaugh. In fact, the clothing gets its title from a vintage dressmaking book with the same name.
It was written for the emerging young woman of the late 1940s, and she’s going off to college and she needs practical advice on how to win her way in the world. You know, via her clothing. A lot of the specific advice is just as classist and body-negative as you get in today’s magazines, but the goal is empowerment.
Lea discusses how clothing is used to alter silhouette, and gives the example of Katherine Hepburn’s shoulder pads in the ’40’s. You can see how she gave that a lift with the help of compressed CO2 cartridges.
Lea is interested in actuators in couture because she’s tired of the normal trends in wearables, most especially LEDs. She’s really looking to hack another aspect of clothing design, so she’s looking at the shape and purpose of textiles.
I wanted to see how much I could mix some of the oldest technologies — woven fabric out of natural fibers, wool in this case, hand embroidery and vintage manipulation techniques — into these space-age fictions.
I like the reference to space-age fiction because clothing is personal and everything has a story. Whether we are talking about a rain-coat that allows us to walk outside in the spirit of Midnight in Paris or a sweater from a boyfriend that keeps us warm on drafty days, it has meaning. However, it is more like preventative medicine, and it can’t change in real time. What if our wardrobe could be designed for us and react in the way we would like, allowing us to set levels of change for our own expectations?
Lea found by making herself a model that the clothing had more meaning. She could choose what type of situation she wanted the clothing to react to, and she also found herself experimenting with the very techniques she valued most. Just look at the beautiful honeycomb pleats which are part of the mechanism of expansion for the funnel neck dress she designed. It reminds me of some of the beautiful origami pleats found today on Max Studio’s work, only with the aid of a servo, it also performs a function.
The point is, people are getting tired of smartwatches and gadgets. It’s time to move onto clothing that transforms to be as practical as it is beautiful. We do love LEDs–they are tried and true and plenty of research has moved them into a palette of choices, from stitchable to surface mount, and from RGB to OLED. However, where are the stitchable components that allow for inflation or motors quiet enough to move clothing during a business meeting? Like all tech things, designers will create better clothing when the industry makes appropriate parts available (and preferably with samples to give out). Likewise, people like Lea and the rest of the wearable tech heroes are showing potential uses to instigate the development. You can join in on the action with our Getting Started with Adafruit FLORA book. Written by our own Becky Stern and Tyler Cooper, you’ll find great projects to disrupt the fashion industry using our stitchable microcontroller. It’s up to you to hack them and make them your own. Be the change and then shoot a cool video in action. We’d love to make you famous.
Every Wednesday is Wearable Wednesday here at Adafruit! We’re bringing you the blinkiest, most fashionable, innovative, and useful wearables from around the web and in our own original projects featuring our wearable Arduino-compatible platform, FLORA. Be sure to post up your wearables projects in the forums or send us a link and you might be featured here on Wearable Wednesday!