Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Warding Off The Space Invaders

I have done it several times: let a train leave without me even though I desperately needed to get on it, as it's heaving with commuters I knew I'd end up tortured by warring underarms, butts, and feet finding its way on someone else's toes. 

Without a doubt, men are also subject to the same inconvenience when travelling in a jam-packed public transport. But while it naturally comes to men to stand or sit with their legs a few degrees apart (at least for some who don't make trains their front room), it involves logistics for us women to assert our personal space. The bag where our essentials (and non-essentials) are stashed is our buffer and shield, and depending on the anterior and posterior requirement, it'll be strategically guarding us where our vulnerability is compromised due to the limited space. 

In other words, we'll find ways to avoid getting groped in public where it could easily be dismissed for spatial reasons.

If you can't be told to inch over, then you may have to be poked. 

Exactly the idea of designer Kathleen McDermott. 


With the aim of exploring wearable technology, Kathleen has been designing prototypes of urbanwear utilising technology that impacts a person physically rather than virtually. Living in space-devoid Hong Kong, she created the first three of a series of artworks born out of her observations of public space in the Asian city.

Aimed at women, her artworks are collectively called 'Urban Armor' which is her answer to "...ways women could take more ownership over their personal space in public."

Kathleen's website describes The Personal Space Dress as 'A dress with two proximity sensors and a plastic armature that allows the dress to expand when a person comes too close to the wearer. Watch how it works via the video here.

I must say watching the video was like watching a sitcom where the lead female character couldn't figure out why she couldn't get a date, while her dress expands under her belt. Says that when a 'presence' is detected, the sensors react. I thought of an unseen eldritch presence. Could the frock sense that as well?

Kathleen admits her creation - though ingenious -  is impractical, but since it's a prototype, it can be developed, especially with the right funding and collaborators, which she intends to pursue. I'm not sure why she would give away the codes and instructions free to download for others to build their own. If it takes off, lots will be up for a DIY in their garage, and the whole daily commute would look like a Halloween party where everyone's intention is to stay out of each other's way as far as possible. She might have to change the plan once investors get involved. 

 Soon, your network provider may start offering bundles for, say, a Samsung 'Urban Armor' dress which comes with your choice of shoes based on your tariff.  Provided that the device doesn't malfunction and end up injuring the person next to you with any sharp part, or electrocuting due to a faulty wiring, then you shouldn't be worried about being charged with grievous bodily harm.

Would you wear this mechanical petticoat?


  1. Haha, I watched the video and chuckled a bit, did you see the guy's facial expression when the petticoat was sounding off. :) Interesting design nonetheless, but yes impractical. I hope your week is going well.

    1. I know! It would be very strange to see anyone wearing this gadget, I'd have to have a selfie with the wearer. Hahahaha. Very impractical but I'm sure there'll be a niche market for this, or it could be a predecessor for something more ergonomic in the future. Hope you're having a good week, too x

  2. The video really made me chuckle. Such a clever and creative idea! Obviously needs a bit of fine tuning before I decide to wear one on the tube in London. I've often waited for the next train to avoid being crushed.

    1. I think it's making everyone who's seen it chuckle. I was at 12:30am when I saw a piece on it. I'm sure she'll work on it and would love to see it in full production one day :)

  3. I love the idea but I wouldn't wear it in Luxembourg... but maybe in New York or London where people don't care what you dress like.

    1. Yeah, London and NY also. I can already see it on the tubes here, and people won't bat their eyelashes.

  4. HAH! This video made me laugh! And gosh, I can't imagine anyone being bold enough to wear something like that around the streets of London, let alone the underground!


    1. We shall see London, you'll just never know. Haha.


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