3D printed fashion is now ready-to-wear.  After years of analyzing and observing the 3D printed fashion field, I recently had the honor to wear a fully 3D printed dress.  Wearing the dress for over 10 hours, I can honestly say that 3D printing fashion is here now.  It is no longer a concept, but a viable and exciting way to make an innovative, cutting edge fashion statement.

Recently I was invited to come to the world-renown Boston Museum of Fine Arts to present an overview of 3D printing, as well as its uses in the fashion world.  MFA has recently acquired the Iris and Herpen and Neri Oxman cape and skirt ensemble, that was printed by Statasys and presented during the Paris Haute Couture week as part of the “Voltage” collection.  It was an absolute pleasure to connect with the MFA’s Department of Textile and Fashion Arts, and to discuss 3d printing and its role in the future of fashion (as well as to participate in a conversation about a very exciting upcoming exhibit).

What to wear to a 3D printing and Fashion presentation?  A 3D printed dress, but of course!  A boxy vintage black velvet jacket, leggings, stiletto heels and my favorite 3D printed bronze “Jack of Diamond” earrings by Dyvsign completed the the versatile, day to night look.

Wearing a 3D printed dress at the MFA

Wearing a 3D printed dress at the MFA

This gorgeous 3d printed dress was designed by Yen Ngoc Nguyen for the Descience competition.  Yen Nguyen worked together with Katica Boric,  a scientist who’s research focused on effects of alcohol on development.  As inspiration, the team used research on the effects of alcohol exposure during development in zebra fish embryos. The dress was 3d printed with the help of The Printing Bay, a recently opened “3d Printing studio providing educational and technological resources to make 3dD design and 3D printing more accessible for all.”

Coming from business/fashion background, Yen Nguyen articulated vision and collaborated with mechanical engineers and 3D modelers who used SolidWorks and AutoDesk Fusion 360 to create the patterns and the objects, and experimented extensively to prefect the final look.  It took over 3 months to complete the dress.  Ninja flex filament was used for the scales, and PLA for the accessories and lining.  Using a MakerGear 3d pinter,  it took hundreds of hours of printing time, and additional assembly time, to create the final look.

3D Printed dress by Yen N

3D Printed dress by Yen Nguyen

The hard work paid off, as the dress is absolutely stunning.  The design is reminiscent of fish scales, with a beautiful translucency. The subtle variations in pattern add complexity to the ensemble. To add an extra dimension to the dress and support the fish scale feel, Yen Nguyen covered the scales in subtle sparkle.

3D printed dress by Yen

3D printed dress by Yen Nguyen

“To me it was important to be true to the original concept of the 3D printed dress.   I insisted upon only using 3d printed elements in the design and execution of the ensemble.  Yes, it would have been much easier to line it in fabric, or to use the zipper – but it would not have been the same.” – Yen Nguyen told me in response to my surprise at finding the lining of the dress to be 3D printed as well.

This purity of vision lead Yen Nguyen to make some exciting discoveries, such as creating a completely new closure system for the top of the design.

specialty closures for a 3d printed dress

specialty closures for a 3d printed dress by Yen Nguyen

I tested the dress by wearing the ensemble while getting in and out of the car, eating lunch, conducting the presentation and participating in an animated discussion, running errands and meeting friends for some after-work cocktails.  I sat, I walked, got in and out of the car, jumped around a bit (3D printing and fashion naturally leads to an animated conversation), walked up and down the stairs, and used the powder room.  At the end of the night, I could honestly declare the experiment a complete success.

The dress did not require any adjustments or fidgeting while wearing, it did not pinch or feel in any way uncomfortable against my skin.  With just the right amount of stretch (stretchable equally in all directions, unlike the traditional weaved textiles), and a comfortable lightness, the top of the dress did not feel clammy or sticky or slick against the skin in any way.  Unlike many traditional garments, the dress did not stretch out or loose its shape over hours of wear – it remained exactly the same as the minute I put it on.  As an added pleasant surprise, the skirt hand an interested bouncing/flowing movement when I walked around – thanks to the flexible properties of the filament and the filigree of the scale design.

Another great aspect of the dress is that is is mostly spill proof and easy to clean – a wipe down with a soap & water moistened paper towel, as needed, would quickly refresh the garment.

Wearing a 3D printed dress out for a drink with friends

Wearing a 3D printed dress out for a drink with friends

I received numerous complements on the dress, both during the day around central Boston, as well as in the evening in Cambridge.  It was fantastic to wear the dress and have the opportunity to engage people in conversation about 3d printing.  While the dress was still uncommon and stood out in the sea of loose jerseys and relaxed business wear, the design made it very ‘wearable’ – although people could tell that it was something different from a first glance, it was still an approachable “ready to wear” garment, rather than a promotional piece.

This 3d printed dress might not have the sculptural elegance of Materialize’s SLS creations, but it does not need it.  This is a wearable 3d printed dress that is here right now, made with an accessible 3d printer, and is ready to go from the meeting room to the car to the after works cocktails.  Yen Nguyen’s dress has movement, and flexibility both in terms of material and style.  This is the dress that is ready to move the 3d printing application in fashion conversation past the concept and into the wearable everyday.


Photo Credits:
Paulina Perepelkin
Niki Lazaridou
Yen Nguyen

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3D printed fashion is now ready-to-wear.  After years of analyzing and observing the 3D printed fashion field, I recently had the honor to wear a fully 3D printed dress.  Wearing the dress for over 10 hours, I can honestly say that 3D printing fashion is here now.  It is...