Make Pauline Van Dongen’s Flip Dot Dress #WearableWednesday


If you want a wearable tech challenge, this Instructable by Pauline Van Dongen is going to blow you away. First, because it is by Pauline, and second, it is a dress using similar technology as buses. What? It’s flip dots, also known as flip discs, which are popular for signage. The dots form a kinetic garment which may remind you of patterns in nature, according to Pauline.

The movement of these dots is reminiscent of waterfalls, bird flocks or fish schools, swirling strata and lines of the earth’s surface. They have a physical presence and tactility, emphasized by their flickering sound, that nowadays digital technology often lacks.

This dress was an insanely quick project of one month, produced for the Museums Quartier (MQ), Vienna. She collaborated with Daniel Schatzmayr, an engineer, as well as fashion and engineering students.


The dress has a foundation of lasercut foam with square shapes which helps to embed the electronics, since the flip dots are actually a bit thick. There is also a neoprene outer layer, with circular holes for the heads of the dots. So, this piece definitely has some bulk. Apparently one of the challenges was working with a larger pattern than the surface area of the lasercutter. So, the fabric would have to be re-inserted to finish the job. Pauline figured out a good workaround for aligning the fabric by letting the machine engrave a cross the first time, and then after inserting the fabric, opening the machine to let the laser just overlay the cross without cutting, to be sure it would match. Definitely take a look at her Instructable to be sure this is an option for your machine.


Pauline decided to keep her flip dots dense with a total of 600, so it makes sense that the wiring would be intense, especially once you consider the addition of diodes. With the help of Daniel, a custom designed PCB with Xbee communication hidden in the back shoulder area of the dress, allows the dots to respond to audio. Check out the finished piece with the glowing red circles and notice how they spin.

Although this piece may not be the most comfortable, it is a great exploration into visual communication using the body. I really like the challenge of using the bulky dots and was even thinking a purse with just a few dots would look classy. Interestingly, you could use our Flat Digital RGB LEDs with an Arduino programmed to be red or off to mimic the look with less bulk and fuss, but you would certainly miss the trippy old school sound of the electromagnetic shift. Whether it be dots or LEDs, you can definitely come up with clothing that screams Sigourney Weaver, and what’s not to love about an edgy look?


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1 Comment

  1. Wow, what a great piece. Very impressed by the project (and that all within one month o_0)
    Thank you for sharing

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