Make Fashion recently held its annual gala in Alberta, Canada with a plethora of wonderful projects. Who wouldn’t want the laser cut skirt or the glowing prom dress? Let’s face it, we aren’t all dress designers or engineers, but we are highly resourceful DIYers with a love of getting the look for less. With that in mind, I decided to recommend how you might go about creating your own fashion tech with similar techniques. Let’s get hacking! Starting with the beautiful dress Flower Queen, create individual tulle/chiffon blossoms using LED sequins or individual NeoPixels with a Gemma or FLORA microcontroller. The trick for long gowns is to use silicone wire or conductive ribbon to connect all those LEDs, as conductive thread will lose power over long distance.
This beautiful Japanese Doll gown is complicated with its under layer of lasercut fabric. You can get this look with “burnout” style fabric or create your own borrowing a makerspace’s lasercutter. You can also experiment with cutting iron-on fabric interfacing with folds, like making snowflakes. What makes this design flourish is the illumination under the framework of the skirt. This can be accomplished using NeoPixel strips in tiers facing inward. The tiered strips can be linked with silicone wire leading to a Gemma or FLORA microcontroller.
This Cosmic Carbon light corset is just remarkable with its carbon fiber base and wired LEDs. While you can find some Instructables that can walk you though crafting carbon fiber, it may be better to just work with something a bit easier. Try looking for a stiffer vinyl and layer with different textured fabric that will allow light from the LEDs to peek through. The designer uses traditional through-mount LEDs (type with wire legs) for this look, but you can also work with LED sequins or NeoPixels. The through-mount style has a more organic feel and creates beautiful vine-like shapes here once soldered. It’s important to notice the LEDs that spill towards the face in this piece. Remember that LEDs can look as remarkable on skin as they do fabric. Such a beautiful touch!
This illuminated dress was created for Absolut Vodka and takes advantage of its tucks with hidden NeoPixel strips. The LED strips are strategically placed to appear as stripes and peek behind the fabric so they are diffused. I believe this is one of the best uses of strips I’ve seen in fashion, where they truly accent the piece without overpowering it, as only two colors are programmed to run at any one time. Again, a Gemma or FLORA microcontroller can be used for the main device.
You probably noticed the LED sequins in the top part of this sweet dress, but what really gets the attention is the EL wire looped like embroidery on the angled hemline. In fact, I would have loved to have seen this effect used on the top edge of the dress as well. To get this look you’ll need to be patient with clear thread to stitch the EL wire in place along the hemline, but the look will be well worth it.
This is another cute prom look, and I’m drawing attention to the looped flower designs that appear on the bodice. Usually in fashion tech we hide the wires, but in this case the wires mimic stitched flowers. Simple pre-wired LED strands can work perfectly for this use and just need to be stitched in place carefully. The battery pack can be concealed in the back of the waist or somewhere along an inside side seam out of sight. This is a great way to get illumination in a hurry.
Probably my favorite piece in this year’s show, this Lumen Couture outfit relies on a tiny projector built into the hat to illuminate the top of the dress. Projection is never an easy task because it relies on a specific throw distance, as well as uninterrupted light. Apparently this outfit is a few years in the making as a few prototypes were developed, including a projection inside a skirt. In the end the hat was the best option, allowing the model to move while keeping the light steady. The most difficult part was dealing with the weight of the battery pack, which is in the back of the hat as a counterweight. I’ll leave this fashion as a great maker challenge. What would you use? I’ve definitely seen some outfits made with rotating lasers, but this is quite classy. Just remember that the idea is not to copy, but to make it your own. Make Fashion continues to be one of the best inspirations out there for the fashion tech world and I’m sending a big thank-you to Ernesto Augustus for his wonderful photographs that allow us to feel like we were there. For those of you who are just getting started with textiles and electronics, you should definitely check out our book Getting Started with Adafruit FLORA. You’ll learn how a FLORA microcontroller can be programmed to handle lights, sounds and sensors in your wearables. Set your imagination free into the world of 3D!
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!