Back in February, burlesque dancer Dita Von Teese made a dramatic entrance at a conference held at the Ace Hotel in New York City, adorned in a 3D-printed, black-nylon Swarovski-crystal-studded dress. Yes, you heard me correctly: a 3D-printed dress. Apparently select designers have forgone the traditional needle and thread for a something a little bit more high tech.

Though 3D printing has been around for quite some time, the technique has only recently been put to use in the realm of fashion. 3D printers have been used to make jewelry and high-end apparel — it may not be too long before people can print out clothing from the comfort of their living rooms. (That’s definitely something to think about, being able to print your own clothes…)

Von Teese’s dress was created by designers Francis Bitonti and Michael Schmidt (who has designed outfits for Lady Gaga and Tina Turner) and was printed by the New York-based company Shapeways. The dress has almost 2,500 independently movable, interlocking joints; the chain-mail design makes the dress very flexible, so it can be put on and taken off as an ordinary dress would. Though interesting and perfect for the semi-eccentric celebrity, it’s still not exactly street attire.

But there are designers who’ve incorporated the same technology into their runway collections. Dutch designer Iris Van Herpen has put 3D printing to the test in her Voltage Haute Couture collection, which raised eyebrows at Paris Fashion Week back in January 2013. Van Herpen has been taking her 3D printed dresses and shoes to the runways since 2010. Still, even she admits that there are challenges associated with incorporating a new medium into the manufacturing process.

Does this make 3D printing the sewing machine of the future? As of now, it costs way more to use a printer than it does using traditional methods, so I don’t believe this to replace garment factories in the next five to ten years, but I do think this is technology that could send us into another Industrial Revolution. Machines for home printing, like Cube, are meant to bring small, simple designs to life — objects like bracelets and phone cases take around thirty minutes to print. Base prices for such machinery — not including printing materials — are comparable to a laptop, at around $1,300, so that’s good news for factory workers and clothing manufactures. [via Forbes]

Even so, the ability to print and wear custom creations designer by each individual person definitely has marketing appeal. You’d never be caught in the awkward situation of wearing the same dress as another woman EVER again. Interesting thought though.

What do you think, Lovelies? Could 3D printing weave it’s way into the fashion world?

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