This Dress Expands to Protect Personal Space

Do you hate being touched by strangers? You're not alone. Artist Kathleen McDermott's "Personal Space Dress" wards off creeps by expanding when someone gets too close. Sign me up, I need to own one immediately.

McDermott, who is currently finishing up her MFA in Hong Kong, created the dress as part of Urban Armour, "a series of playful electronic wearables for women." She started the project as a response to the scrutiny and harassment women face in public spaces. Urban Armour allows women to take back control of their environment and have some fun doing so.

The "Personal Space Dress," is both witty and groundbreaking. Two proximity sensors identify when someone gets too close and a plastic armature inside the skirt causes the dress to balloon outward. An item like this is especially useful on mass transit, because subways and buses are a prime area for casual sexual harassment. Touching on public transit is such a problem in Tokyo that the subways have some women-only cars.

McDermott's take is unique because it makes a statement. An expanding dress may not provide large-scale protection, but is direct and pointed in a way that women are not conditioned to be. The woman wearing this dress is not cowering from men, she's saying "Back up, now." While the practicality of the garment is limited, the message is not. At the very least, the "Personal Space Dress" will probably make a man think twice about casually touching a woman he doesn't know.

As a serious introvert who is fiercely protective of my personal space, I love this idea. Can I just have a whole wardrobe full of expanding clothes that encourage strangers to stay far away from me? I'm thinking a line of inflatable harem pants should come next.

For any intrepid DIYers out there, McDermott plans make instructions and code available for download so you can create a Personal Space Wardrobe of your very own!

Image: Kathleen McDermott