concepts for wearables that bridge traditional fashion and technological innovation

The dressCode project explores human emotion, communication, and touch as expressed through clothing, integrating state-of-the-art interactive wearable technologies into a fashion aesthetic inspired by historical tradition.


dressCode is a fashion line consisting of three stories: Company Keeper, Emotional Ties, and iConversation. Utilizing accelerometer and touch sensors in combination with bluetooth mobile telephone communication, gesture recognition, embedded headphones and LEDs, dressCode garments tap into the emotional state of wearers and facilitate their well-being by either consoling them with sound or facilitating a visual conversation with a friend.


In contrast to many cyberfashion experiments, dressCode utilizes classic fabrics (tweed, silk, brocade, etc.) in cuts which are adapted from traditional styles to evoke a sense of familiarity in the wearer. The playful interactivity and visual dynamism of the garments introduce a tension between the comfort of the familiar and the adventure of the unknown.


My role on this team was to work in close collaboration with the fashion designer, but also with the programmer and engineer, to develop the narrative and interaction concepts for the three pieces. I also coordinated production schedules, project documentation, and co-organized a fashion show (Banff, March 2005) to present our work. I worked on this project for its initial 3 month design phase, and it was subsequently continued in development for a second 3 months.


Company Keeper — communication through sound

Company Keeper has an antidote for every social inadequacy you may encounter in daily life. Once installed, its occupant enjoys the perpetual company of a wise, humourous and absurd friend, always at the ready with a bespoke cranial concerto, capable of neutralizing the occupant’s nervous disposition. The wearer’s mood is assessed by his/her body language (calculated with embedded touch sensors and an accelerometer in a hanging beaded tassel) and the level of sound in the environment (measured with a microphone). When moods such as wrath, awkwardness, and claustrophobia are detected, an antidotal soundscape is played through headphones in the hood.


Emotional Ties — communication through body language

The subtleties of the unsaid word are inspiration for Emotional Ties. Male and female body language (preening) is monitored through strategically placed touch sensors inserted into the garments. Once certain body postures are detected, an audiovisual display is triggered on the other’s garment. For example, if the male adjusts his tie or a female smoothes the fabric around her waist, an LED animation and melody play on the other’s garment.


iConversation — communication through image

iConversation is an audiovisual dialogue between the wearers of two or more garments. Each garment is covered with twelve unique patterns, each representative of a particular emotional state or experience (lethargy, adventure, melancholy, joy, etc.) and located according to associated chakra energies. Using an interface embroidered into the garment’s sleeve (which is an interactive map key which illustrates the twelve emotions and their associated patterns), users can select emotional displays to illuminate on their own or their partner’s garment. Four distinct gestural inputs determine whether the patterns are turned on or off, and on one’s self or on the other.


This project, further developed by fashion designer Di Mainstone and a technical team, has been or will be featured in fashion shows at:

BNMI Fashion Show, Banff, Canada, March 2005

Siggraph 2005 Cyberfashion Show, Los Angeles, Aug. 2005

Wearable Futures Conference, Newport, Wales

Glitch, Chicago



Designed and developed in collaboration with the BNMI fashion research team, led by principal investigator Sara Diamond:

Fashion Designer and project lead Di Mainstone

Engineers Jan Erkku, Tom Donaldson, and Haydar Saaied

Programmers Jeroen Kaijser and David Gauthier


Banff New Media Institute, Banff, Canada 2005