In the Future, Wearing Plastic Wrap May Be a Real Trend

Stanford University is developing futuristic athleisure-wear.

Photography by Steven Klein

Between figuring out how to leverage e-commerce and social media to better reach customers and The Met’s Manus x Machina exhibit, technology is very much on the fashion world’s brain at the moment. In fact, actual scientists may be some of the most important trendsetters at the moment. And not because white lab coats and chemistry goggles are suddenly stylish (though, give Vetements a few more seasons and that could be the case).

No, scientists are hard at work trying to come up with the fabrics of the future. Which means eventually your go-to summer wardrobe may be made out of something very close to the plastic wrap you find in your kitchen.

A team at Stanford University announced yesterday that they’ve developed “low-cost, plastic-based textile.” Imagine, you and your leftover summer picnic potato salad may someday match. How chic.

The idea is that the clothing would actively help to cool a person’s core body temperature. Meaning the fabric could be useful to both those without access to air-conditioning and could save energy costs for those who do have it.

“If you can cool the person rather than the building where they work or live, that will save energy,” said Yi Cui, an associate professor.

The fabric allows the body to naturally discharge built up heat, and the wearer would feel about 4 degrees color than if they were wearing a cotton t-shirt.

“The material cools by letting perspiration evaporate through the material, something ordinary fabrics already do,” explains the school. “But the Stanford material provides a second, revolutionary cooling mechanism: allowing heat that the body emits as infrared radiation to pass through the plastic textile.”

Under normal conditions when simply sitting in an office, about 40 to 60 percent of the body’s heat is giving off in the form of infrared radiation. Meaning to 40 to 60 percent of your body’s heat is captured by cotton clothing.

The new fabric uses polyethylene (literally clingy plastic wrap) as a base, and then used a mixture of nanotechnology, photonics and chemistry to improve it. The final product includes two sheets of the material separated by a cotton mesh.

This video explains the process in depth.

Though, the material isn’t quite ready for your closet yet. Scientists are now at work trying to make it not only more wearable, but more fashionable as well. The researchers are investigating ways to produce the fabric in more colors and textures and in a more traditional cloth-like version as well.

As we were reminded by Solange Knowles and her dress of dry cleaning bags, some fashionistas probably could pull off the prototype material.

Other scientists are of course hard at work trying to figure out ways to combat the increasing ills of global warming, but, if they fail, at least science will provide us with ways to still remain looking both chic and feeling cool long after the entire world turns into a giant, musty swamp. Thanks, Science!

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