Living Clothing

Team Duck

Living clothing is a garment that empowers women who are in or aspire to be in leadership positions in the workplace. Through posture and shape, we aim to increase women's self-esteem, provide them with more sense of presence and allow creative interaction with people and the environment.

Living Clothing is a garment designed to empower women by making them feel confident, raise their self-esteem and express their fashionable side. Our concept is based on research into the psychological impact posture and presence has on people and gender inequality in leadership roles in workplaces; using this research we have created a garment that helps the target user to feel more confident at work, in team meetings and client negotiations, and enriches their social activities after work.

Living Clothing consists of two main features, the shape extensions and the light interaction. The shape of the dress extension mimics the Medici collar and will be triggered by the user's posture and is mainly used during working time, to gain the benefits of posture and presence. When the user holds the body upright and performs chest out and head up (positive posture), the shoulders of the dress will extend upward. We are linking positive posture with an enhanced appearance and presence, giving the user the benefits that posture can provide, as well as altering their physical appearance.

The interactive light section is mainly used for after-work social events. However, the user can dictate whether to activate this function, allowing them to choose the right occasion to experience and enjoy this feature during working hours. Otherwise, our use case is when the user finishes a busy workday, they can switch on the dress light function. Lights will turn on when the user turns on the control switch on the garment and will gently pulse while turned on. The dress's fabric will diffuse the lights across and the user can also choose the prefered light colours.

Technical Description

Below is a description of the materials, hardware and software used to build the prototype of the living garment.
The living garment is a dress made up of cloth fabric, elastic, nylon straps and adjusters, neo-pixel light strips, vibration motors, touch sensors, flex sensors, wiring, and several servo motors.

Neck and shoulder movement section

To demonstrate our Living Clothing concept, we have created a shape-changing dress that can glow and pulse colours when desired. Depending on posture it changes shape in the collar and shoulder areas. It is designed to fit various figures, allowing most audiences to try it during our exhibition. Underneath the dress, a harness will be fitted to the user. On this harness is a flex sensor. In the 'positive posture' (shoulders back, chest forward), the sensor is pulled and sends a signal to the parent board. This will trigger the motor that pulls on the shoulder levels and changes the shape of the garment. The elastic band that the flex sensor is housed on is joined with an adjustable harness at the front. We designed the harness so that it can be adjusted at the front, back and both armholes, so it fits different body types. We will be able to adjust the harness so that it can sit snugly on the user's body and allow the flex sensor to read properly.

When users are in a relaxed or slouch posture, the harness will not be stretched, and the flex sensor is bent. When users are in the positive posture, the harness will be stretched at the front resulting in the stretch of the elastic and sending a signal to the Arduino board via the flex sensor. Two servo motors sit underneath the shoulder extensions. Their servo arms are attached to the material, hence when the servo arms move, the shoulder extensions move with them. When the user enters a positive posture, the vibration motor buzzes once on the harness and the servo arms raise the shoulder extensions. This vibration is included to inform the user of the state of the garment. If the user has deployed the extensions, and then returns to negative posture (relaxed or slouched), the dress vibrates twice, to warm them to fix their posture, or expect the dress to undeploy. There are two sets of vibration warnings, with 4 seconds between them. To give the user ample time to adjust their posture. Finally, the dress will vibrate three times then retract the extensions.

Interactive neo pixel lights

Over forty neo-pixel make up the lighting section of the garment. Neo-pixel strips are soldered with wires to create two long strips of lights. These are attached to the lining fabric of the garment and under several layers of various textiles. These textiles have been selected to diffuse the lights, creating a softer lighting effect. Additionally, a touch sensor is connected to the light circuit and placed within the collar of the dress. By 'fixing their collar' users can activate the neo-pixel display and fading feature. The lights fade in/ out and diffuse softly through the garment. The lights are unable to function while the shape feature is in operation, to avoid the lights taking attention away from the user. If the lights are on and the shape is deployed, the lights will be switched off no matter what section of the fading function they are in. Additionally, by using the touch sensor, a user can turn off the lights when they see fit. However, once the LED lights are triggered, they will stay lit up until the user switches the lights off. The light band will then constantly cycle through the fading feature. It will smoothly fade to 10% brightness and then back up to 100%.

On top of the LED strips, a layer of fabric consisting of glad wrap, tissue paper, and lightweight textiles covers the lighting layer and is designed to diffuse the light to make it less dazzling and a smoother diffusion.

Final Statement

The Interaction Design Exhibit was a fantastic experience for us. Our final prototype worked as intended with only minor technical difficulties related to power banks and jittery servo motors. Our exhibit consisted of several brochures, a poster describing the concept, and a second poster describing the features of our garment prototype, and rubber ducks. The exhibit was busier than anticipated, and our team was non-stop pitching our concept to a mix of staff and students, friends and family, and industry representatitves. After a nervous start, we all grew into our pitch and thoroughly enjoyed surprising people with the interactive features of our garment. Our project was received well by most of the people that heard our pitch and interacted with our project. Attendees were surprised that they were able to wear the dress, and by the fact that we made the dress ourselves and did not outsource the production. Users reported that they did feel powerful and confident while wearing our dress, and almost every person to try it on was pleasantly surprised by the lighting feature. One unexpected benefit of the garment was that even without wearing the garment, people walking past or listening to our team's pitch were conscious of their posture. A few interesting insights from the exhibit were that a lot of male-presenting people enjoyed wearing the dress and felt confident while wearing it. It would have been interesting to have an alternative, more masculine, item of clothing to allow other types of people to engage with the concept.

Some future directions that arose from conversations had during the exhibit, are centred around the function of the lights, the shape of the shoulder deployment section, and the level of control granted to the user. If we continued this project, we would love to add more details to the LED features. The ability to change colours while wearing the dress, to manipulate the effects that the lights play (not just fade up/ down) and have some way for the colour to respond to the environment. Furthermore, we would like to explore other ways to enhance the shape of the user through moving parts of the garment, through scales similar to our initial prototype, or features like our final shoulder deployment area, but located on other parts of the body. Finally, we would like to give our users further control over the garment and its shape and colour features. Rather than deciding that colour features can't be operated when the shape deployment is active, we'd like to give the user the ability to make that decision for themselves.

Overall the exhibit, and the project itself, has been an extremely enjoyable process. There have been a lot of challenges over the course of the semester, but rising to them and producing a final project prototype that our audience enjoyed interacting with, and a concept that was received positively was a fantastic experience.