As the famous designer Miuccia Prada once said, “fashion is instant language” — if worn with intention, fashion can allow us to express our inner identities without having to say a word. But what if our clothing was so in tune with our emotional lives that it responded physically to external stimuli — like the approach of another person? Anouk Wipprecht, a Dutch designer known for her explorations at the intersections of fashion and technology, has created an animatronic dress that does just that. Named the “Spider Dress 2.0” (an updated version of the original Spider Dress), this curious tech-garment embraces the torso in a spider-like carapace, while eight spindly legs shift from the shoulders. Eerie and enchanting, this specially-engineered dress should be approached with caution and consent, as Hep Svadja explains for Make:
“[The] Spider Dress 2.0 […] is a mechatronic dress with an Intel Edison chip that uses biosignals and learned threat detection to defend the wearer’s personal space. Mechanical arms extend and retract as a response to external stimuli, making it a truly intuitive system. As people approach, the wearer’s own breath will help to signal the defense posture of the robotic arms. The speed of the approach will also feed into defensive behavior; approach quickly and the arms will aggressively posture, but approach in a leisurely fashion and the arms will gently greet you.” (Source)
Wipprecht is known for her other cutting-edge designs, such as a dress that allows you to vanish in a smoke screen, and another that becomes transparent as one’s heartbeat increases (such as during intimate, interpersonal encounters). The Spider Dress 2.0 is her newest (upgraded) creation, unique in its mimicry of animal behaviour, and infused with the power to visually display deep-set emotions and experiences without a reliance on verbal cues. Words, after all, are typically put through a mental filter before they come out of our mouths; the Spider Dress communicates directly from the body via internal biosignals. It interprets and visualizes inner phenomena that may not be immediately known to the wearer. In this way, Wipprecht’s work imagines a future wherein fashion could be used to physically extend the expressive capacities of human body language.