Fashion as a kinetic bodily prosthetic
Let us imagine that fashion is a kinetic bodily prosthetic extending bodily communication beyond its physical boundaries. Nowadays, we are preoccupied with keeping our virtual profiles up-to-date; we communicate through devices and we order our clothes online. We limit our bodily expressions to a minimum by substituting it with virtual technology. However, while we stay silent, our clothes speak aloud. They reveal the most intricate and sinister of our daily activities. They see more and they sense more than we think. They are our second skin; a skin that becomes more prominent without us realising.
The voices of clothes are visual. They commonly tell a story through folds, scars and marks on their surface. The very first folds, which became witnesses of our daily routine, are the ironing residues in their fabric. We perceive a smooth and crisp texture of a garment as a social norm elevating neatness and elegance. According to design studio Diller Scofidio + Renfro, the standardized orthogonal pattern on a shirt representing efficient storage of a garment, was worn on a body and traced its residue patterns onto our skin. A sense of refinement of a crisp and smooth texture overtook the importance of the efficient storage: “The parallel creases and crisp square corners of a clean, pressed shirt have come to represent refinement and distinction: the by-product of efficiency is now the object of desire.”
Diller Scofidio + Renfro have challenged the standards and categories through dissident ironing in an installation called Bad Press: Dissident Housework Series, 1992-1998. They displayed a series of shirts ironed in unusual ways. We do display these folds on our bodies, not merely as a witness of the housework we performed. Clothes encase our bodies as daily diaries documenting every lasting activity. As a result, mappings of bodily choreography are recorded. These physically communicate our bodily movements and continuously accumulate more information of our activities on the surface. The only tool capable of removing a history of bodily choreography is an iron. It relentlessly wipes the information and leaves a crisp surface devoid of bodily contact. Our clothes gain voice while in physical contact with our bodies and loosen with the aid of a machine (an iron).
Although a machine might bring a destructive cause to mappings of bodily movement, technology-infused devices have the power to amplify the voices of cloth. We can imagine that a cloth becomes a kinetic prosthetic of a body by communicating the intricate changes it encounters. Weaving of fabric with technology has created smart textiles which are able to convey intangible information from our bodies. While bodies subconsciously transmit information through heat, pulse and kinetic movement, perceptual surfaces depict all intricate changes through sensors and multifaceted molecules:
“Although surfaces created by thermochromatic pigments have ephemeral characteristics, they are essentially bound to physical space. Their reliance on the wearer’s body heat and physical contact links them inextricably to real materials” explain Quinn & Bradley in Textile Futures: Fashion, Design and Technology.
Our garments acquire a language to vividly communicate bodily signals. Not only do they convey information, technology-infused cloth mimics ephemeral qualities of human skin truly extending the boundaries of body beyond physically confined within. “The Smart Second Skin Dress” by Jenny Tillotson is rather a sensorial prosthetic. Through integrated artery-like cabling, the interchange of signal between the dress and the body occurs, activating the body’s scent centres. Not only does the dress activate our scent; it also emits aromas which trigger our olfactory sensations and memories. The dress becomes a kinetic prosthetic of a body actively engaging it with the surrounding environment through perceptual qualities.
Cloth is a register of bodily choreography. All movements are mapped against its surface and preserved in rather an inert mode. While we communicate through technology and devices, fashion accumulates technological possibilities and imbeds them into a garment. Hence cloth becomes an interactive communication tool between the body and its surrounding environment. It is capable of telling an explicit story and exchanging intangible information depicted from bodily signals. When we speak little, our bodies rely on fashion to tell a story; therefore, we can imagine fashion as a kinetic bodily prosthetic.
This article was written and submitted by Agata Murasko for Round 1 of Modeconnect’s International Fashion Writing Competition. Agata was invited to take part in Round 2. Read all the published submissions.