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These Hypnotic Dresses Respond To Ambivalence

Ying Gao's Neutralité Dresses use facial tracking technology to shut themselves down in response to the emotions of onlookers.

Fashion is not just about covering up our naughty bits, or even about expressing ourselves. It's also about causing the people around us to feel something when they see what we're wearing: delight, envy, puzzlement, lust, or even disgust.

Interactive designer Ying Gao is no stranger to making dresses that react to the ogling of viewers. She previously designed a photoluminescent dress that transformed when people stared at it.

Her Neutralité dresses, though, takes things in a different direction. Called Can't and Won't, the dresses are evocative of microbial life. They are made up of lacy tendrils that gently undulate when viewed, thanks to robotic actuators running through the fabric attached to a facial recognition sensor — but only if the viewer keeps a completely neutral expression on his or her face. The second he or she begins to react to what he's seeing, the Neutralité dresses demurely stop moving, and go limp.

Gao describes her dresses as as much a fashion statement as a paradox. "[My dresses] demands a level of humility clearly out of synch with today's over-the-top expressiveness," the project's Vimeo description says. It's a Zeno Effect of a dress, which only moves as it's meant to when people feign to not be noticing it at all.

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