What was beneath Chalayan’s morphing dresses

Earlier this month, Hussein Chalayan wowed the Paris runway audience (and the blogs!) with five dresses that twitch, move, and morph through decades of their own accord. Zippers closed, cloth gathered, and hemlines rose.

With the first dress, the girl walked on in a 1906 costume, and it morphed from 1906 to 1916 and then to 1926. So she ended up having a beaded flapper dress of the twenties. The next dress was from 1926, and it evolved from 1936 to 1946, and so on. The final dress was 1986, 1996, and then 2007.


Beneath each skirt was a computer system designed by 2D3D. The company director, Rob Edkins, talked to Technology Review about the wires, chips and batteries hidden under the garments (images).

Little bum pads were engineered for the dress that featured a rising hemline and a bustling of the skirt at the back. On the model’s buttocks were some hard containers that hid the battery packs, controlling chips–the microcontrollers and microswitches–and little geared motors. Each motor had a little pulley, and the pulley was attached to a monofilament wire which was fed through hollow tubes sewn into the corset of the dress. Video of the mechanism.


Some of the corsets had up to 40 little tubes running everywhere, carrying these little cables, lifting things up or releasing little linked metallic plates.

For the bodice with the zipper that closed automatically, a magnet was drewn up on a string. The monofilament was sewn into the hem of the fabric and then over the shoulder and down the back.


Another skirt seemed to be made of plastic cards that automatically rose up off the body, shrunk, and then changed color, from white to silver. That effect was precontrolled on a microcontroller, on a timed sequence. At the appropriate moment cables released the panels and pulled them down.

Video of the dress that morphed into a hat, then rained down as a cloud of crystal dust.

Boing boing has loads of links.
Chalayan’s complete Spring 2007 collection. The Telegraph has a more sober slideshow.
Thanks Andrew.