BOOK REVIEW: Fashion and Technology by Aneta Genova and Katherine Moriwaki

In the spring of 2018, I'm super-excited I'll finally be teaching a course i've worked on conceptually and clerically for the past five years: Digital Technologies for Costume Production.

(It takes a long time to turn a big ship in academia. To redefine and restructure a course or add one to the official catalogue is a migrainally-complicated process, and once the course redefinition i wrote was approved, the department assigned to another faculty member to teach. This year though, it's mine!)

Anyway, the concept for the class is to address the myriad ways in which advances in digital technologies are impacting our field, and to provide students with a basic understanding of and facility with several areas--from how we use software like Microsoft Office and Adobe Creative to streamline organization and production, to how we digitize analog artwork (both 2D and 3D), to 3D fabrication options and negotiating the integration of circuitry.

Because the field of costume production is both narrow and sprawling, highly specific and incredibly far-reaching, I didn't expect to find any comprehensive textbook, but I spotted this title on the Bloomsbury/Fairchild list and figured i ought to check it out. What we do as costumers differs from fashion design in several key ways, but the application of emerging technologies in wearable forms is highly relevant, regardless.

Turns out, i think this book is awesome! I read it cover to cover in a couple of days, as if it were a novel or a biography, and i found it to be excellent in terms of the range of relevant topics it covers. The authors address various areas of technological applications on a chapter-by-chapter basis, covering everything from integrated circuitry to 3D fabrication to the rudiments of coding. Each chapter ends with  tutorials that walk you through a basic related project (example: using conductive thread, electrical parts, and metal snaps to sew a circuit in which the engagement of the snaps completes the circuit to power an LED light). Each chapter also includes an interview with a relevant practitioner in the field whose work pertains to the chapter's topic.

I particularly appreciated the chapter evaluating existing DIY-oriented kits on the market aimed at demystifying various processes for innovators. In theatre, the one variable we often cannot manipulate is time: tickets are sold, so a costume has to exist for the actor by a hard deadline. While we all do typically work in a building full of experts in various fields, it's good to have a head start on an uncommon and unusual project like integration of lights into a headdress, for example. A costumer can and does typically consult with the theatre's electrician and/or lighting designer, but DIY kits are a way one might be able to take care of the electrics of a project solo in a pinch.

I feel like this book is a solid resource for costumers who are interested in emerging technologies in wearables but have no idea where to start in terms of what's out there and what's possible. And, i'll leave you with a quote from the book's interview with a designer named Joanna Berzowska.


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