14 Science-Fiction Fashions That Are Now Reality

Eat your heart out, Jane Jetson. From genetically mutated silkworms to the beginnings of a closet full of 3-D printed outfits, fashion is on the cutting edge of science.

1. Engineered silkworms spin glow-in-the-dark silk.

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Japanese scientists have genetically altered silkworms to produce fluorescent silk in three colors. For orange and red, the worms borrowed DNA from corals, while the green glow came courtesy of the jellyfish. Yumi Katsura turned these unique threads into wedding dresses that pop under UV light. The next step? Figuring out how to engineer silk that glows without the aid of black lights.

2. Meanwhile, fiber-optic fabric comes alive.

Made up of ultra-thin optical fibers woven together with other synthetic fibers, Luminous Fabric lights up the night when connected to battery-operated LEDs cleverly hidden from sight in specially made pockets. The lightweight material is versatile; changing the look of the outfit is as easy as changing the LED colors.

3. Dresses transform with a flick of the wrist.

During Paris Fashion Week in 2013, designer Hussein Chalayan unveiled a whole line of transforming clothes. Long a staple of theatrical quick change, this was the first time the concept had been adapted to commercial use. One day, changing from work to drinks may be as simple as pulling the cord.

4. Flirty foils become transparent with arousal.

Called Intimacy 2.0, the high-tech foils read the heartbeat of the wearer. Starting off an opaque black or white, the panels become increasingly transparent when triggered by an increased heart rate. When sewn into strategically risqué patterns on clothing, the result can be quite revealing.

5. Shake-and-spray fabric comes from a can.

Created way back in 2000, Fabrican (better known as spray-on fabric) has since been constantly developed and perfected by scientists. Formed by cross-linking fibers that stick to one another as they’re sprayed, the instant fabric creates beautiful designs in the right hands — or an everyday T-shirt in the future for John Q. Public.

6. Connect to social media all day, every day.

Social media addicts never have to be without their fix again. Ping is one of the first smart garments that translates gestures into updates. Tie a bow, zip up, put up your hood, or simply gesture to connect to friends automatically. Combined with Google Glass (below), this turns humans into living internet hubs.

7. Seriously, never unplug again. Ever.

Google Glass is perhaps the most instantly recognizable example of high-tech fashion. Translate your voice, take photos or video, get directions via HUD (heads-up display), receive intuitive information about where you are or what you’re looking at, and more.

8. Garments are aware of the approach of strangers.

The Smoke Dress is the brainchild of Dutch designer Anouk Wipprecht. When the dress detects an approaching visitor, a cloud of smoke is released, camouflaging itself like the world’s worst ninja. Combined with the delicate metallic webwork, this garment looks straight out of a 24th-century socialite’s closet.

9. Embedded aromatherapy de-stresses workers.

Smart Second Skin is the creation of Jenny Tillotson. Still in the conceptual phase, garments would be lined with tiny tubes and biometric sensors to track stress levels and release calming aromatherapy scents. As an alternative, the wearer can also manually emit a range of scents — providing, for example, the option to smell salts instead of coffee in the morning.

10. Solar bikini charges your phone while you tan.

Andrew Schneider created swimwear capable of charging a cell phone or MP3 player. Made up of small, flexible photovoltaic film strips woven together with conductive thread, perhaps the most amazing thing is that wearers can still go for a swim. Since the bikini transmits directly to the electronics instead of storing energy, just unplug and jump on into the nearest body of water.

11. Mood sweaters replace mood rings.

Unlike current mood rings, the Sensoree Mood Sweater uses technology more akin to lie detectors instead of old-fashioned body heat. The bowl-shaped collar houses LEDs that reflect light onto the wearer’s face in an interactive display of biofeedback from hand sensors. However, some things never change. Green means tranquil, and blue equals calm, all the way through to red for nervous and purple for excited.

12. Bat your eyes, send a message.

Using headgear even Padmé Amidala would balk at, the Blinkifier takes flirting to a new level. Using fake eyelashes attached to the headdress via lines of conductive eyeliner, the LEDs respond to specific eye-movement patterns, whether voluntary or involuntary. Researchers hope the result will create a way to enrich emotional dialogues with visual cues.

13. Test the air quality with smart clothes.

A Danish design company laced its Climate Dress with hundreds of tiny LEDs designed to respond to greenhouse gases. Powered by a carbon dioxide detector, the embroidery lights pulse slowly in the presence of normal concentrations of the gas all the way up to rapid flashes in highly polluted areas.

14. Print out your own haute couture.

Designed by Michel Schmidt and Francis Bitoni, this fully articulated 3-D printed gown was based on the famous Fibonacci sequence. Assembled from 17 individuated printed pieces, lacquered black and studded with 13,000 Swarovski crystals, the final product is far from print-and-go, but hey, it’s a start!

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