When it comes to trends and styles, the fashion industry is always changing. Our bodies constantly change as well. With the help of smart technology, a new dress developed by MIT adjusts to those changes. Whether it’s your style, body, or the constant shifts in fashion trends, the dress morphs with them.

4D Knit Dress

MIT’s textile innovators are bringing smart tech, fashion, and sustainability together. Their new invention of active fibers and innovative knitting processes make personalized clothes more accessible. For example, getting tailored clothes is expensive and inaccessible for most people. The dress’s creators believe the new materials open up the accessibility to personalized clothing.

They also believe it is more eco-friendly than traditional fashion items. Instead of wearing a dress for one season and then tossing it, it adjusts to the season or trend. “We’re trying to give people a way to express themselves through clothes that last,” said Sasha McKinlay with MIT’s architecture department, “Not just a season, but years.”

Examples of styles the dress can transform into; Photo: MIT Self-Assembly Lab

McKinlay teamed up with a fashion company called the Ministry of Supply which specializes in high-tech fashion to design the dress. Several different technologies are used in the dress to make it the perfect fit for someone. The main technological material is heat-activated yarn. The heat-activated yarn allows the dress to morph into different styles. For example, it can switch from pintucks to pleats or cinched waste. This makes the dress adaptable to a person’s style.

Changing the Industry

There are a couple of problems that the creator of MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab sees in the fashion industry. Skylar Tibbits says that bodies are unique, but mass-produced clothes are not. Tibbits said, “Everyone’s body is different,” and “Even if you wear the same size as another person, you’re not the same.” “Fast fashion” is also a growing issue where clothes are made cheap, worn briefly, and then thrown out.

Robotic heat gun warms up the shape-shifting dress; Photo: MIT Self-Assembly Lab

With the help of robotics expert, Danny Griffin, they found a way to ensure the dress fits all shapes and sizes using heat. Heat activates the “smart” yarn, which allows the dress to change styles. They use a robot-guided heat gun to do this. “It’s like tailoring performed by a machine,” Griffin explained, “Except you can redo it whenever you want a fresh look.”

Altering the dress with heat allows the dress to change. It’s an innovative and sustainable clothing item that allows for sustainability without hindering its “fashion.” Tibbits said, “Right now when people purchase a piece of clothing it has only one ‘look.’ But, how exciting would it be to purchase one garment and reinvent it to change and evolve as you change or as the seasons or styles change? I’m hoping that’s the takeaway that people will have.”