Fashion and Mathematics

The Museum at FIT is currently presenting an exhibit titled “Force on Nature”, that features clothing and accessories that refer to the natural world. There are many growth patterns found in nature that can be expressed mathematically, so it is no surprise that I found some interesting math in the show.
This dress created by fashion design collective “ThreeASFOUR” in 2016 features geometric fractal patterns.
MC Escher is probably one of the most famous examples of artists who explored math in his art.
This dress by Alexander McQueen in 2009 is inspired by Escher’s work. The birds become a houndstooth pattern.
All pictures courtesy of the designers and the Museum at FIT.
Susan Happersett

MANUSxMACHINA, Fashion in the age of Technology at the Met

Every year in May the Metropolitan Museum of Art presents an elaborate fashion exhibit. The Costume Institute at the Museum produces a huge show, not in their usual space in the basement, but instead in transformed rooms in the main galleries. This year the exhibition is titled “MANUSxMACHINA, Fashion in the age of Technology”. It examines the way relationship of couture designer clothing and the use of machines. I was not expecting to see any Mathematical references, but I was pleasantly surprised.


Miyake Design Studio “Flying Saucer” , Dress (flat), 1994

The  pleats on “Flying Saucer” Dress by Miyake Design were machine garment-pleated, creating a series of pleated circles. When lying flat it is easy to see the large center circle that create the body of the dress and smaller circles that form sleeves. The center points of the circles are in a straight line.


Miyake Design Studio “Flying Saucer” , Dress (unfolded), 1994

When the dress is opened to show its accordion construction, the body and sleeves become pleated cylinders.


Threeasfour, “Bahai” dress, 2014

The “Bahai” dress by design team Threeasfour features 3-D  printed elements by Materialise. The structure of this dress alludes to complex geometries. Here is a quote from Threeasfour from the exhibit’s wall signage:

“Next-generation 3-D modeling programs were used to construct the six degrees of fractal growth where each element operates independently from the rest”.

It is obvious mathematics was an intrinsic tool used to create this garment. As more and more designers have access to advanced technology, there will be great opportunities for them to use Mathematical themes and processes in their work.

Susan Happersett