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Here's a Nature-Inspired, 3D-Printed Dress That Looks Like Armor

Right here is about where technology becomes indistinguishable from magic.
Images courtesy the artist

Like mystical armor from a 80s fantasy movie, the new 3D-printed couture from designer, artist, and MIT lecturer Jessica Rosenkrantz's studio Nervous System exhibits many almost unexplainable properties. It fits the wearer perfectly, covering the skin with interlocking nodes like the plumes of a bird, is hard and protective like a lizard's armor, and is elegantly shaped like the petals of a flower. Arthur C. Clarke's oft-quoted law, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic," is aptly applied to Rosenkrantz's Kinematic Petals Dress. The project was commissioned for the Boston Museum of Fine Arts show #techstyle, which also features the work of Iris van Herpen, Neri Oxman, and Alexander McQueen.


Kinematic Petals Dress is the most recent iteration of Rosenkrantz's Kinematic Dress, which was acquired by the Museum of Modern Art for its notable fusion of elegance and being completely wearable fresh out of the 3D printer. "For the latest dress, we wanted to take it a step further and make it possible to also individually sculpt each of the interlocking panels in 3D," Rosenkrantz tells The Creators Project. After the wearer is fully body scanned, her measurements are adapted to the Kinematic Dress's design. She continues, "Our original dress was essentially like a digital lace (more or less see through) and now we've taken the same structure and covered it in an armor of parametric petals."

3D-printed fashion lends itself to the flashy, sculptural couture that dominates the perception of the fashion world, but Rosenkrantz wants to accomplish something different with the Kinematic Dress. "We're trying to make real clothes, not science fiction. And we want to do that is a way that takes advantage of what 3D-printing is really capable of," she says. "On the other hand though, our garments are still not realistic." With a price tag of several thousands of dollars per dress, and a comfort level not quite as accomodating as cotton, a challenge lies ahead of her.

But Rosekrantz's efforts are not for nothing. "The part our project that is most likely to be adopted and is really most essential is the incorporation of body scans and easy to use design apps that engage people in the process of making their own clothes," she says. That's where the technology really becomes indistinguishable from magic. "Our dress has always been about customization."


You can already order 3D-printed jewelry from the Nervous System website, fit to your fingers with the Kinematics app. Now the same technology can be applied to the Kinematic Petals Dress through the Kinematics Cloth app. If you design a dress, you can contact Rosenkrantz on her website to commission it on a case by case basis.

See the rest of Boston Museum of Fine Art's #techstyle show here, learn more about the Kinematic Petals Dress here, and find more of Jessica Rosenkrantz's work on Nervous System's website.


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