Being stuck in a semi lockdown for two years gives people lots of time to work on wacky ideas, and Polish designer Iga Węglińska did just that. She had to work on a doctoral dissertation and figured she’d make tops that change colour so the wearer – and everyone looking at them – can see whether they’re stressed or anxious. How does it work? Well, stick around.
The main concept these tops are built around is called sensory substitution. What that basically does is take one sensory input and translate it into another sense. Think like how braille translates touch into vision so impaired people can read texts. Why do we need this on clothing, you ask? We don’t! But just because we don’t need to, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t.
The main idea of the collection is to make us focus more on our bodies and stress levels. The technical wizardry behind it basically has the tops measure stuff like heart rate, temperature and your galvanic skin response with a whole bunch of sensors. Those sensors then send a signal to some lights in the clothes that’ll basically show everyone you’re stressed out. One top even changes from black to translucent depending on your emotional state of mind which I doubt helps with the calming down thing, but if nothing else it’s very technologically impressive.
The main reason this can all work is that Węglińska was clever enough to use conductive threads to sew the materials in the tops together. This also means that getting shocked with electricity is probably even less of a good idea when you’re wearing these clothes.
The hopes are that these tops will help people be more mindful of their stress levels by getting visual indicators that they’re stressed out. You know – just in case the elevated heart beat and sweaty palms weren’t indicators enough for you. Where you’d normally blush or get goosebumps, the clothing will now extend that reaction and show it more overtly.
That said, there are some therapeutic arguments to be had for this. Mindfulness also work around the concept of biofeedback, where external sensors will measure your bodily functions and indicate rapid changes in them, allowing you to better master your own emotions. I kind of doubt having these clothes on would serve the same purpose, but at least it’s something that’s never been done before and it perfectly blends fashion and technology. And if it helps people be more mindful of their own and other people’s emotions, who could say no to that?