project: lace sensor dresses

The Lace Sensor Dresses are part of the Lace Sensor Project, a collaboration with Anja Hertenberger. Anja and I worked with the Museum de Kantfabriek (Lace Factory Museum) to create conductive lace which we made into custom pressure sensors.

We've been invited to show our dresses at the StAnza Poetry Festival at St Andrews in Scotland! Anja will be presenting our dresses in their own event, Stitched and Spoken on 8-10 March and they will also be part of the Poetry Loops event 7-10 March. Good luck Anja! :)

After a long production process (both Anja and I had projects running parallel to this one) the Lace Sensor Dresses are finally finished! We only just got the chance to photograph them before they were whisked away for their big debut at the TechnoSensual Exhibition in Vienna's Museum Quartier.

Each of the three dresses in the Lace Sensor Dress collection is embroidered with a different poem, sourced from an antique embroidery sampler. Each poem evokes a different emotion, which corresponds to a gesture that triggers a recording of the poem to be played through tiny speakers crocheted into the dress. For example, when the wearer of the poem about death embraces herself, she presses the pressure sensors on the sleeves and triggers the audio. The sensors are created from custom-made conductive lace and the harder they are pressed, the louder the poem will play.

You can read more about the project and the individual poems on the Lace Sensor Project blog. By the way, we named the dresses for the women who recorded the poems for us with David Littler.

Here are the photos of our project:

The photos were taken by Pieter Claessen - I was amazed at what he managed to do with the light using flash photography! Our models are Daan Bolwijn, Lisa Randoe and Fione van Wijk and the makeup was done by Tamar Bosschaart. We did the styling together with Louloudi.


We also made a video. This was shot by Michiel Koelink and edited by Anja.

watch on vimeo

Geeky details

The dresses themselves use an Arduino Pro + Adafruit WaveShield sandwich, so the hardware is a little larger than we would've liked, but an Arduino Lilypad + WaveShield didn't make sense. We had to add amplifier circuits because the conductive thread traces connecting the speakers have too much resistance and make the sound almost inaudible, especially when the speakers were covered with crochet. We sewed the speakers onto contact pads so that they could easily be removed if necessary.