Electric Corset: an approach to wearables innovation
One criticism of electronic textiles and wearable technology is that instead of being integrated into the modern wardrobe, the electronic garment is perceived as the ‘other’, as an ‘unusual’ item within the wardrobe. Contemporary fashion is a field of play in which individuals constantly manage personal expressions of social belonging and transgression, at the same time as it closes down the potential for new forms as a result of increasingly fast fashion supply chains. The Electric Corset project proposes that the uptake of wearables is compromised when development is based on modern categories of dress/dressing, and proposes that designers look to obsolete and ‘in-between’ items of dress to rethink the foundations of wearables development. In collaboration with Nottingham Museums and Galleries Costume and Textiles Collection, we have reproduced a small selection of such items, and recast them as ‘sacrificial’ toiles to provide a non-precious basis for embodied experimentation. The paper describes some of the barriers to innovation in wearable technologies, and frames our approach through the twin concepts of deconstruction and reconstruction in fashion theory. It reports on our experiences of embodied responses to the toiles within the making process, and presents early findings from a pilot study using improvisation.