Dress Helps Purify the Air

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A collaboration between London College of Fashion, University of Sheffield, and the University of Ulster, “Herself” is a prototypical dress sprayed with a concrete mixture that purportedly absorbs pollutants in nearby air. The details of the process remain a little hazy, although pollutant-absorbing concrete does actually exist — in fact the same Italian company that made this “transparent” cement (as some readers pointed out, this should have been concrete, which is actually the mixture of cement plus gravel and sand) has already built some air-friendly structures in Europe with it. Using sunlight as a catalyst, titanium dioxide on the surface of the material reacts with pollutants in the air, reportedly decreasing nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide in the surrounding area by up to 65 percent. I suspect the concrete spray in Herself works similarly.

Though right now the dress exists as a fabric sculpture in a box, the team hopes that it will one day be more than art. They predict that forty people wearing such clothing could purify two meters of airspace in just one minute– if they were all standing in one meter of pavement. While I at first want to say this might only be appealing at an asthma convention, city life could prove me wrong. Subway platforms and the interior of busses or trains seem like obvious places where an air-purifying dress/skirt/hat/face mask would be more than welcome.

Herself is just the first prototype in a larger project between the three universities called Catalytic Clothing. According to the Helen Storey Foundation, a London-based nonprofit that aims to bring fashion and science together and helped originally conceive of the project, Catalytic Clothing “will investigate how clothing technology can be used to engage the public in the science behind the impact that pollution has on our health.” The splotchy design on the dress, reminiscent of a butterfly or maybe Rorschach ink blots, is certainly artistic, but I'm waiting for a little more proof of the science before I send my measurements.