»(Homage to) the shrimp 2014

An interactive crystal/LED/glass brooch embedded in an upcycled dress

Sally Pryor and e-dressCreated at the Zigzag Electronics Lab


One outcome of this residency was the creation of a piece of wearable technology.

I'd taught myself the basics of constructing and programming circuits using the Arduino computer and LED lights. Then I applied these skills to the Arduino's cousin, the LilyPad (it's washable - can this be true!).

I designed and coded a circuit. Then I sewed it using conductive thread, along with an electronic 'brooch' made of LEDs and crystals, into an upcycled dress .

The code and circuit are set up so that when the hip switch is pressed, the brooch can move though various modes, ranging from tranquil to dynamic. This allows the dress to transition from (say) a quiet dinner to an energetic and (perhaps) attention-seeking dance floor. The central LED 'gem' can be a number of colours (red, purple, blue, blue-green, green, yellow, white) while the surrounding white lights can assume various choreographed patterns.

brooch colours This image links to an early and very rough video that gives an idea of the brooch modes. As you may know, LEDs do not photograph well, so you can't see the purity and clarity of the colours here. I have also developed the range of patterns substantially; new video to follow later.

Sally Pryor and e-dressThe inspiration was an outfit that Jean Shrimpton (the Shrimp) wore to the 1965 Melbourne Cup. I'd been wildly impressed by the sense of freedom and youth that this picture expressed. The story goes that Jean was asked to model a dress made of a groundbreaking new synthetic fabric and she added the brooch to make it look more interesting.

I found the dress that I used for this work at a local second hand shop and was subsequently very glad that it was black, rather than the pristine, error-revealing white of the original inspiration!

brooch circuit It was aesthetically important to me that the non-brooch electronics be invisible, so they are hidden inside the dress, with the LilyPad at roughly solar plexus level.
The diagram shows the connections that I sewed into place. The top circle is the multi-colour LED and the 5 surrounding elipsoid shapes are the white LEDs. The bottom circle is the LilyPad. The light red lines refer to connections to ground. Where they (or any other threads) crossed, I insulated them with plastic tape.
Clicking the circuit image takes you to information about the LilyPad.