When clothing is restrictive or otherwise uncomfortable, you pull, pinch, and generally exert more energy than the act of wearing it alone requires. But what if you wore uncomfortable and restrictive clothing on purpose? “Captain Electric and Battery Boy,” developed by XS Labs, is a collection of three dresses that use energy from movement to generate electricity in the form of lights or sound. Instead of camouflaging the power-generating mechanisms, however, the Captain Electric dresses integrate those features in a visible way, with a deeper, almost philosophic motive.
The Sticky is a hooded leather dress designed to constrict the natural movements of the wearer’s arms using retractable cables. The sleeves are tethered to the chest, which forces your arms to exert energy to move. This in turn powers some gentle blue LED forms hidden in the pockets. The deeper meaning of the dress: When you stop trying to free yourself from the restraints and relax, you’ll be rewarded by a soft blue light in your pockets.
Stiff could be a good teaching tool for better posture, but it really just makes your movements, well, stiff. A large back brace runs from the waist all the way up into the hood. When the wearer presses against the brace or a friend exerts gentle pressure, the energy that is generated activates an MP3 player (located in the hood), which plays “conflicting soothing messages.” The Stiff makes its wearer feel secure and at ease but also isolates the individual from the world beyond the dress.
The Itchy is a tailored leather dress decorated with large wool necklaces reminiscent of bulky wool turtlenecks. The oversized hoops are meant to irritate the wearer into constantly fussing with them, thus generating enough power to turn on a set of LED lights in one of the necklaces. The more the wearer fidgets and rotates the necklaces, the brighter the lights become, which draws attention to the individual’s discomfort.
Although these human-powered dresses are less about energy conservation and more about exploring our ideas of boundaries and perception, they are still an interesting exercise in clothing design.