Melissa Coleman’s Wearables for Creators #WearableWednesday


In my first workshop with Leah Buechley, inventor of the Lilypad Arduino, I learned the phrase “crafting electricity”. It still holds it’s relevance as I look at Melissa Coleman’s work that was recently featured in The Guardian. Her classic Political Lace choker resembles a ruff worn in Elizabethan periods, but the LED adds a modern flair. Not just for glamour, the light flashes every 7.5 minutes, representing the frequency in which women die at childbirth. It’s a great way to bring attention to an issue faced by many women around the world, and a reminder of the consequences of hunger, disease and war.


The Holy Dress is a bit darker, but still speaks to conscience. It’s a wearable polygraph test, with speech recognition analyzing responses and even illuminating LEDs to certain levels based on the likelihood of a lie. Yes, it even jolts you when you fib, however, Melissa insists that it is not meant as a punishment.

The dress is a speculative design imagining what it would be like to wear electronically enhanced clothing to help you stick to your morals. Because it is too easy to lie to yourself, the dress will check on your lies for you. Although the dress punishes, wearing it is not a punishment, but rather a radical new way to train yourself to become a better person. In the Holy Dress technology takes over the function that religion used to have of helping us to live the right way.

The crafting here includes some fancy metal work, and I’m imagining it was tricky keeping the metal from shorting at the various intersections where the LEDs are situated. I’m also curious whether the piece is based on sacred geometry, since math is a nice connector for people in the coding and art worlds. Melissa wants people to be inspired by her work and says, “I like the idea of people not just being consumers of technology but creators. I hope that by making these conceptual pieces it helps people think about what the future could be.” Personally, I’m liking the classic materials, and I hope makers are encouraged to combine their own unlikely combinations of tech, politics and justice. One easy way to start is with our GEMMA Sequin Starter Kit. It has everything you need to create a blinking wearable, and all you have to do is decide on a cause and find a way to make it meaningful through light. Make sure you share your work with us on social media so we can spread the word, too.


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