You’re probably familiar with the saying “you are what you eat,” but you are what you tweet? That’s the idea behind the “Printing Dress,” a high-tech frock designed to explore the impact of wearable text on fashion and social identity. Built almost entirely of paper (irony alert!) by Asta Roseway, a senior designer at Microsoft Research, and Sheridan Martin Small from Xbox, the dress allows you to type out the pithiest of thoughts and wear them as public art.
TALK TO ME
As a symbol of how human communication has evolved, the dress pays homage to the invention that started it all: the printing press. “Almost overnight, printing transformed longhand into an assembly of glyphs comprised of letters and numbers,” say Roseway and Small. “This streamlined the sharing of ideas and made replication of the printed word accessible worldwide.”
To reflect the ubiquity of texting on the go, the designers integrated a custom keyboard that allows the wearer to send messages to a display.
Composed of a bodice, corset, and skirt—all machine-stitched from paper—the dress intentionally evokes the past while acknowledging the role digital ink has on our present. To reflect the ubiquity of texting on the go, the designers integrated a custom keyboard (styled to resemble a vintage typewriter) that allows the wearer to send messages to a display—in this case, the skirt.
Technology-wise, the dress comprises four LilyPad Arduino boards, one USB hub, a laptop, a capacitive keyboard, solid and stranded wire, and a short-throw projector. Hitting a key sends it to the laptop, which then displays the character as animated text. Too flashy? Roseway and Small intentionally designed their piece to be anything but subtle.
“Some may be repelled by its ostentatious presentation, while others might dare to imagine a more transparent and open world,” they say. “It is our hope that this piece will inspire conversations that go beyond fashion or technology to topics such as awareness, accountability, privacy, and identity.” In other words, look before you leap, or rather, tweet.