3-D Printing Fashionable Dresses


3-D printing is being used to make everything from firearms to casts for broken bones to car parts. However we seldom hear how 3D printing is affecting fashion.

Seldom, it’s true, do we even wonder how it’s affecting fashion. We may not ask the question, but it has an interesting answer anyway.

Nervous System, a design studio, has recently adapted a process that allows them to make a dress with 3-D printing plastic. So instead of pinning fabric to a dress form, the garment begins as a 3-D model, which the software breaks down into fitted triangular segments resulting in a plastic dress that can flow and sway like real fabric. Once the designer is satisfied, algorithms add hinges to the triangles uniting the garment into a single piece and compress it to its smallest possible size to optimize the printing process and avoid waste.

The project pushed design, fashion, and fabrication nearly to the point of science fiction. Nervous System needed to concoct new tools to load its software and design other tools that had never been developed before. The complex interlaced triangular patterns could be done on smaller scales, but when it was scaled up it simply crashed the software.

So while it’s certainly a milestone for design, computing and engineering, the process still needs to be perfected and streamlined if Nervous System is going to commercialize the process. They are developing even more sophisticated additions that may allow clothing to be printed using different materials. Most challengingly, the firm is working to bring down the cost of the process; with dresses currently priced at $3,000 the dresses cater to a very select market. Yet the implications are clear: if a process as revolutionary as 3-D printing can be applied to a medium like creative fashion, then the possibilities are truly endless.

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