While engineering and fashion may not appear to go together at first glance, there are few fields in the world where engineers are not making a contribution, and fashion is no exception. In fact, recent advances mean that the contribution of engineers to the fashion industry may be even more important in the coming years.
In order to find out just how much engineers and fashion have in common, we spoke to Dr. Lucy Dunne, an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota and director of the Apparel Design Program at the school. She holds bachelor’s and a master’s degrees in textiles and apparel design along with a Ph.D. in computer science. Her specialized background has helped her to develop many unique applications including a sport jacket with integrated pulse-monitor, sensor-driven safety lighting, and temperature-activated heating pad; a solar-powered handbag that will light up and charge your cell phone; as well as lighted and vibrating evening gowns for an especially distinctive look.
Dr. Dunne mentioned that much of the engineering contribution to the fashion industry may come through textile science or textile engineering and the development of specialized fabrics. Protective clothing may be another major field as NASA and the military both employ engineers to design the specialized uniforms that keep astronauts and military personnel safe. High-tech sporting equipment and athletic shoes also benefit from engineering expertise as well as newer medical monitoring devices that are designed to fit seamlessly into jackets, t-shirts, and other apparel.
Interested in a career in fashion and engineering? At the University of Minnesota you can major in engineering and take a minor in design or fashion studies. You may even be able to take Dr. Dunne’s course on Functional Clothing Design or work on a project with fashion students in her Wearable Technology Lab. Similar options are available at other schools, or another option might include an undergraduate degree in engineering with graduate work in apparel. Either way, you’ll be set to work on the cutting edge at the intersection between two very dynamic disciplines.
About the Photos: The images in this article were donated by Dr. Dunne and were developed in the Wearable Technology Lab. The gown at the top left alternately glows and dims in response to a wearers breathing while the stamens on the flowers on the right vibrate when touched.