If there’s one lesson all this purse-string tightening has taught us, it’s that unitasking one-hit wonders are a waste of time, space, and moola. So thanks but no thanks, electrical gravy-boat warmer, specialty cycling shoes, and your one-track ilk, here are 14 multifunctional garments that can do it all—and then some. Above, a black-and-silver sheath dress, made entirely from upcycled zippers, that allows you to bare as much flesh as you dare on a moment’s whim.
This convertible carryall by Urban Junket is really three bags in one. It starts off as a structured, fuss-free tote but shape-shifts seamlessly into a trapezoidal boat tote or a boxy doctor’s bag. The trick to its fickle nature lies in strategically positioned snaps, which allow you to assemble the bag into a trifecta of silhouettes whenever fancy strikes.
Meet JakPak, a lightweight, weatherproof jacket that moonlights as a one-person tent, complete with mosquito netting and a sleeping bag. With less gear to schlep around, it’s happy trails indeed for camping, hiking, and outdoors enthusiasts.
TEMPEST IN A C CUP
The Emergency Bra is a stealth operator, biding its time as a regular support garment until disaster strikes. Pulled apart, the multitasking brassiere separates into two masks, each capable of filtering out harmful airborne pollutants from fires, biological or chemical attacks, explosions, and natural disasters.
PUT A RING ON IT
Channel your best undercover agent with CuteCircuit’s little black M-Dress (that’s Mobile Phone Dress), a slinky silk-jersey number that doubles as a soft-circuitry cellphone. The dress, which accepts a standard SIM card, is even equipped with motion sensors and gesture-recognition software, so you can pick up a call or hang up with a wave of your hand.
GIVE ME SHELTER
Designed by three students from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, where they were asked to fabricate solutions for a hypothetical post-disaster scenario, “Wearable Shelter” offers the perfect apparel for uncertain times, including waterproof coats that transform into sleeping bags or two-person tents.
Zegna Sports’ Solar Jacket doesn’t just keep your thorax nice and toasty, it also conceals photovoltaic cells that convert solar energy into juice for your cellphone or iPod Another plus: Because the solar panels and battery are detachable, you can recharge a device even when you’re not wearing the jacket—or conversely, wear it sans solar paraphernalia at night without looking like a ninny.
THE ONE HUNDRED
Hayley Star’s “Fancy” dress is like the Optimus Prime of frocks. Draped, twisted, and cinched in myriad ways, this humble garment produces more than 110 different guises—at last count, anyway. Designed to be universally flattering on all body types, the Fancy gets its silky hand from Modal, a fabric derived from beechwood cellulose. But the biggest upside is the frock’s versatility: It cleaves to bodies young and old, petite and tall, sizes 0 and 16.
TO HAVE AND TO HOLD
Be prepared without the bulk: The sleeve scarf from Hessnatur by Eviana Hartman has built-in sleeve endings, so it can function as both a wide shawl and a cardigan. Bonus: It’s made from a blend of 90 percent virgin wool and 10 percent cashmere, which makes it extra-sumptuous.
BELT ONE ON
Could poor design spell the difference between life and death? A pair of Canadian designers tackled the bulky (and ugly) life jacket’s low wear rate by creating an inflatable bandeau-belt that flatters its wearer while keeping her safe with a hidden flotation device.
Creative Recreation’s three-in-one boot offers a bootie, knee-length, and over-the-knee boot in a single design. Although it’s an admittedly spendy $450, you’re really getting three boots for $150 a pop, not to mention all that extra closet and baggage space.
THREE IS A MAGIC NUMBER
Consider Stephanie Simek’s Hoodie bag the very definition of a triple threat. The malleable, multipurpose garment is as adaptable as you need it to be, transforming from a bag to a hood to a wrap top in a pinch. Twisted, braided, cinched, or reversed, the Hoodie contains a cavalcade of variations for dextrous fingers.
Designer Diane Steverlynck’s “Self-Couture” bedspread is a simple yet genius feat of engineering, with several layers that alternately function as bed coverings and clothing. The secret lies in the two-button closures that uniformly perforate each sheet, establishing multiple anchors for twisting and locking the fabric into a dozen configurations.
THRICE AS NICE
Handmade to order by two Brooklyn gents, the snug-as-a-bug Necklush is a long scarf that pulls triple duty as a cowl and necklace. You don’t have to stick to the official variations, either. Feel free to experiment with the Necklush as a belt, head wrap, or sarong.