‘Personal Space Dress’ gives you room to breathe

personal space dress
Need some space? Try on this dress for a breather.
Credit: Kathleen McDermott

Sometimes earphones, a tablet or a good old newspaper just isn’t enough to protect your personal space on an overcrowded subway. That’s where the “Personal Space Dress” comes to the rescue. The outfit, which includes in-built sensors to detect any pesky space invaders, unfolds and expands like an umbrella to keep any undesirables at bay, only to retract when personal space has been restored.

Kathleen McDermott’s formidable creation wasn’t actually designed for everyday use. In fact, it’s a work of art designed to highlight our relationship between wearable technology and the physical world. Here, the Hong Kong-based artist tells Metro about the dress that is a growing sensation.

Is this a serious solution to personal space problems?

No, it’s actually a piece of art. All of the pieces in my “Urban Armor” project deal with issues that are happening in public spaces. One of my interests is the relationship between technology and the body. A lot of wearable devices are focusing on the way you relate to your virtual world, whereas these devices are relating to the physical world.

This could be a polite way of people silently saying, “Don’t stand too close to me!” Is it a solution to unwanted intimacy?

They’re meant to be funny but they’re not meant to be hyper-literal. I don’t think they’re viable solutions to societal problems but some people think they are. Some people go, “I would wear that … ”

Some women feel threatened on public transport, so will this keep women safe?

I wasn’t thinking about threats, it’s about how you have a knee-jerk reaction when someone comes into your space. Maybe you have a reaction to move away, but instead of you moving away the dress does it for you and it does it in a much more exaggerated way. The dress is a part of the relationship – it’s a kind of third force.

You’ve designed a “Miss-My-Face” veil that protects you from CCTV and an “Auto Filter” scarf that protects the wearer from pollution, so what’s next?

The next project is going to relate to words that make you cringe. Everybody has a word that makes them twitch. I’ve found out that my sister has a really exaggerated reaction to the word ‘moist.’ It’s kind of gross.


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