Fashion: The Art of Science & Engineering

By: Brian Dyak

Picture This: You as Iron Man’s Tony Stark – complete with Arc Reactor glowing as you walk down the street with your best buddy sporting an interactive t-shirt that locates a WiFi signal for you. It’s not science fiction anymore.

Although we do not normally associate fashion with science, engineering, and technology (SET), the two seemingly separate entities have always been linked. From the basic development of garments to the creative, often high-tech finesse designers add to clothing and accessories, science, engineering and technology contribute heavily to the clothes we wear. For example, scientific research forced fiber-forming materials into synthetic threads, creating many new options for designers and manufacturers: SpandexTM, nylon, polyester, Gore-Tex ®. Technology can also be credited with streamlining mass production of the collectible fan merchandise that drives viewers to sites dedicated to their favorite productions and characters.

We now live in a world where we can decide if garments properly fit using computer modeling and virtual dressing rooms. Designers strive to produce aesthetically pleasing and original garments “engineering” their visions. As an extreme example, European fashion designer Hussein Chalayan merges fashion and technology using materials most of us would not consider “wearable”. He has designed apparel that also functions as furniture, a series of laser LED dresses, and a dress made from aircraft construction materials capable of changing shape via remote control. Not surprisingly, Chalayan has worked with Lady Gaga, notably her egg costume for the 2011 Grammy Awards and famed bubble dress. Extensive technological and engineering skills proved essential in successfully “launching” such extreme fashion.

Other designers are using “green science.” “Green” clothing includes fabric that’s biodegradable, organic, sustainable (cotton, hemp, Tencel®), or recycled into new apparel or jewelry. Stella McCartney, for example, uses vegan-friendly materials. Patagonia recycles plastic bottles into its polar fleece jackets and pullovers.

Credit: AP

As the line between fashion and science, engineering and technology begins to blur, we can transform stereotypes of scientists as prime fodder for the fashion police to collaborators in expanding the scope and originality of haute couture on and off the preverbal set to encourage more students to learn about SET careers. More importantly, as “extreme” entertainers such as Lady Gaga push the limits of what constitutes clothing (and, arguably, artistic expression), the entertainment industry can highlight and explain to audiences the how and why behind these bold endeavors. After all, wouldn’t we all love to learn how Lady Gaga’s infamous meat dress was designed and, well, “preserved”, so as not to –literally- create a stink? Let your imagination and fashion desires be your guide!

Log on for more information on the Ready on the S.E.T. and…Action! Initiative surrounding Science, Engineering and Technology!

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