Technology in Fashion

 “Science & Art were never meant to be separated, they must intermingle.” – Monica & Elaine, Groovy Lab in a Box co-founders 

Technology in Fashion

Better Fabrics for Better Living

STEMists have done some amazing things with textiles (fabric) and clothing.  Today we have clothing that changes color in sunlight, socks with aloe to soothe the feet, and fleece fabric made from recycled plastic bottles–just for starters!  There are fabrics to protect people from water, germs, acid, bullets, and ultraviolet light.   Textile engineers often work with artists and designers to make sure their discoveries can be turned into clothing that looks nice enough for people to wear.

Technology, Science, Art, and Music Together

Fergie of The Black-Eyed Peas

Fergie: Kevin Mazur/WireImag

When STEMists team up with fashion designers and musical performers, some really amazing things can be created.  At the Billboard Music Awards in 2011, singer Fergie of The Black-Eyed Peas wore what looked like a little black dress–until the music began!  Philips Lighting designers had worked with fashion stylist and designer B. Akerlund to make a dress with lighting built into the fabric.  The lights on the dress even changed to the rhythm of the music.  Art and engineering worked together.

Faraday Cage Dress

Faraday cage dress

Cage dress: Kyle Cothern/Anouk Wipprecht

More recently, Anouk Wipprecht, a Dutch fashion designer, worked with the music group Arcattack to build a Faraday cage dress.  A Faraday cage, named for nineteenth-century British physicist Michael Faraday, is a mesh made of material that conducts electricity. People or things inside the cage are protected from static electrical charges because the cage safely channels the electricity.

Faraday cages are used to protect sensitive equipment from lightning strikes and other static electrical discharges.  The Faraday dress was made of metal plates and chain mail, with a helmet that had a mesh face guard.  Anouk Wipprecht demonstrated the dress by wearing it herself as it protected her from a million volts of electricity at a demonstration in 2014 at Maker Faire Bay Area.  This same science is used in the Faraday suits worn by some electrical linemen to protect them from accidental electrocution while they work on high-voltage power lines.

A Special Suit for Movie Production

Another sort of high-tech suit is the motion-capture suit used in movie productions that mix real actors with computer-generated ones.  For example, Gollum in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit is a computer-generated character.  His movements are made to look realistic because a live actor, Andy Serkis, performed the part during the filming of the moving.

Gollum in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit is a computer-generated character

Gollum photo credit: Illustration by Heather Jones for Time; Everett (3); Gollum: Warner Bros.

Serkis was wearing a suit with sensors all over it that created a computer record of his movements.  CGI (computer-generated imagery) specialists then took the computer record of Andy’s movements and added Gollum, making Gollum’s movements look lifelike.

 You Can Use Technology in Fashion

STEMists can see that art and science work well together.  Why not create your own technology and fashion mix?  Using LEDs and thread that conducts electricity is one way to make fashion items that light up safely and beautifully.  Maybe you will have a career in the textile industry.  There are still discoveries to made and amazing works of art to be created.