Summer in the Makerspace: Mucha Smart Dress, Part I

Bonjour à tous!

I haven’t written in a long time because I wanted to wait for something very special to share. With Laura and Purdom’s encouragement, I am undertaking the creation of a wearable technology piece that I have dubbed (tentatively), the “Mucha Smart Dress,” which I hope to finish by mid-July…so I can wear it on my birthday!

In this post, I will describe the project and detail the goals, inspirations, and supplies I have in mind.

The Project

Mucha Smart Dress

My sketch of the “Mucha Smart Dress”

Although Alphonse Mucha ultimately rejected the “Art Nouveau” label his critics ascribed to his œuvre, he is nonetheless considered one of the founding fathers of this movement. A wildly popular style in the decades of 1890 to 1910, Art Nouveau marked an effort towards gesamtkunstwerk, or “total art.” According to Mucha, his contributions to the style sought to surround society with beautiful works of art in order to inspire happiness and general well-being. He also maintained that objects’ design, in order to bring this tranquility, had to indicate and contribute to the object’s use.

It is with this fusion of the inspirational and the functional that I wanted to make an Alphonse Mucha-styled wearable.  I have conceived of a “Smart Dress,” based on an amalgam of Mucha designs, that will not only pay homage to Mucha’s stunning legacy, but also be useful, wearable, and approachable. Despite the complexity of the design, I hope to make it a piece that I can wear on a normal day by toning it down with monochromatic colors and a more modern silhouette. The technology of the project will come in the form of a FLORA microcomputer housed in the dress’s center decoration (to be 3D printed with Ninjaflex) that will operate a series of LEDs sewn into the drapes of the fabric. With temperature changes, different color combinations of LEDs will light up, illuminating the silk overlay. This function is not entirely practical, yet it is firmly anchored in the physical world while also fusing the four panels of Mucha’s “The Seasons” quadriptych (see more details and a photo below) into one garment.

While creating this project, I hope to also think critically about the utility (or lack thereof) of wearable technology in my research on Alphonse Mucha’s “French period” of decorative art and poster designs. For example, I’m already asking myself, “Are these clothes practical for everyday life?” in 2015 and in 1900, and “Is this practical (or impractical) nature a part of the designs’ appeal?”


  • Create a wearable technology piece to be displayed in the Makerspace.
  • Overcome my Arduino anxiety (!)
  • Make a floor-length dress for summer that actually fits and flatters me.
  • Bring an Alphonse Mucha design to life.


  • This dress by Electromode showed me that Arduino-enhanced clothing could be chic. I truly admire all of the geekery-inspired pieces out there, but I couldn’t see myself incorporating them into my existing wardrobe.
  • I got the idea for a temperature-sensitive focus from Alphonse Mucha’s 1896 lithographic quadriptych of  “The Seasons.”

Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 1.36.02 PM

  • The dress shape and much of its design I owe to Mucha’s 1898 print “The Arts: Painting.” I have, however, adapted the dress to cover the breasts, since in our society this sort of garment is not – strictly speaking – legal to wear in public.

Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 1.37.32 PM

  • I was also inspired by “The Moon and the Stars,” with particular emphasis on the “Moon” since her dress looks like it already has LEDs on it, non?

Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 1.37.12 PM

The Mucha Foundation, upon my meeting with them, specified that they do not generally accept unauthorized reproductions of the artist’s work and “fair use” is not the same in the Czech Republic. Therefore I have posted screenshots from the Foundation’s website.

Supplies (selected)

Arduino supplies

3D Printing


Before Dress

I’ll turn this thrifted find (in Makerspace Red!) into a hacked 19th-century design!

Please let me know if you have any suggestions, alterations, or comments on this plan at any point during my work on this project!

Bonjour! My name is Julia V. Schrank and I am a Makerspace student consultant here at the SLab. I am also an M.A.-Ph.D. student in French, with a research focus on material culture in Belle Époque Paris.

When I grow up I want to be a digital humanist, public academic, and cool aunt.

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