University of Minnesota
Technology expands what clothing can do
Lucy Dunne believes that before long we will see normal clothing that responds to our moods and needs.
Clothing that solves problems
Dunne, assistant professor of apparel design in the U of M's College of Design, says that technology is a way to better solve problems we deal with in regular clothing design.
Today's winter coat, for instance, is designed to simply trap body heat. "By using technology," she says, "you can actually be generating heat … maybe only when the person is actually cold. So then we’d have a garment that’s a little more dynamic or responsive."
Dunne is focusing on embedding sensors to get information about movement or position or physiological states. "You can imagine embedding [a sensor] into a knee brace that might be able to tell you: 'This is too far.' Or it could just detect what’s going on with your knee all day long and then feed that information back to your doctor."
Clothing that expresses moods
Smart clothing has a fun side. "If fashion is a spectacle," Dunne says, "then we want to use technology to get attention or to make a statement. … Your outfit could change in some way to reflect your mood."
A skirt she designed had fiber optics that twinkled when the wearer laughed.
"We are only in the exploration stages of the expression realm," she says. "The potential for the future is great."