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Pardon me,
that’s just
my jacket
Clothing of next millennium
will talk, clean itself, pay bills
By Sarah Tippit
    LOS ANGELES, Dec. 30 —  If you think your attire is smart now, just wait till it starts reading your e-mail out loud in the supermarket in French — and your jacket turns redder and redder, reflecting your impatience over waiting in line. In the new millennium, the term žpower suitÓ will take on a new, more literal meaning.  

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Garments of the future will clean and mend themselves, grow or shrink to fit a variety of shapes and sizes, change colors and temperatures
and pay bills.

       AS TECHNOLOGY GROWS ever more sophisticated, much of the fabric from which clothes are cut will contain microscopic computers, fiber optics and wires woven into the threads, making them interactive with daily routines and body chemistry, fashion and textile experts say.
       Imagine removing your jacket and absent-mindedly swiping a sleeve over a sensor to pay for your groceries. If someone grabs the jacket — containing your DNA code and your entire banking history — and runs out of the store, it is programmed to start shouting “Thief, thief.”
       What worries you is not that someone has just stolen your DNA code — that, after all, can be recovered — but the thief has taken a jacket that can also perform automatic acupressure and time-release Prozac skin infusions into your body, so you are in danger of losing your cool at any minute.
 As "smart" clothes evolve, which feature is most important to you?

Clothes that clean and mend themselves

Clothes that read your e-mail aloud

Clothes that serve as a personal assistant, paying bills and doling
out vitamins

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       Garments of the future will clean and mend themselves, grow or shrink to fit a variety of shapes and sizes, change colors and temperatures, translate foreign languages, pay our bills instantaneously and read e-mail aloud.
       They will likely have tiny ampuls containing mood-altering scents and doses of medicines to be absorbed through the skin. Colors and styles will have spiritual significance.
       Of course these things will not begin as the clock strikes midnight on Jan. 1 because most of the technology is still being perfected. And there will be many people who faithfully cling to their old jeans and natural fibers on principle.
       But many fashion experts say clothing in 10 to 20 years will be interactive, more functional than ever and tailored to a consumer’s personality and body chemistry rather than designed for looks.
       “As technology becomes more a part of clothing design, designers will have to adjust and create more personalized garments and not just focus on image,” said Roberta Wolf, coauthor of “Millennium Mode,” which features the futuristic fashion musings and sketches of the world’s top designers.
       “Functional clothing is going to appear more prominently throughout the millennium,” she said.
       While computers are still too large to be worn on the body comfortably, the time will come when they will be tiny enough to be woven into fabric, enabling clothes not only to cover the body but to be a personal assistant as well, scientists say.
       Police uniforms will light up, shirts will change color with moods, dresses will read e-mail aloud, pajamas will lull insomniacs to sleep.
Technology will expand on fabrics that shield the body from sun, such as these sold by Sun Precautions.
       These concepts are very real and could happen sooner than we think, said Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientists Maggie Orth and Rehmi Post. They invented cloth keyboards that enable shirts to play music, take notes or check e-mail.
       Within five years garments such as these will be widely available for a broad range of novelty applications, Orth said.
       “There will be clothes that play music, clothes that change color, clothes that communicate a message to someone you’re talking to,” she said. “It might be a romantic message, like a phrase or a joke that flashes on your shirt, or a less subtle sort of message — your shirt might turn red,” she said.
Textiles fused with non-fabric substances such as ceramic or glass are being developed to release natural remedies for ailments meant
to be slowly absorbed
through the skin.

       Computerized clothing will be even more commonplace and sophisticated 20 to 50 years from now. “Until then you will see people wearing very strange and weird computers as they filter through what makes most sense for people to wear,” Orth said.
       Slowly clothes will become less cumbersome and more versatile. Voice recognition and wireless technology will replace the need for cloth keyboards. The fabrics now on the market with claims to block ultraviolet rays or ward off bacteria will evolve and expand into lines of advanced body protective clothing.
       Hybrid fabrics made from textiles fused with non-fabric substances such as ceramic, glass, carbon or plastic are being developed and will, among other functions, release natural remedies for a range of ailments meant to be slowly absorbed through the skin, the experts said.
       Those include vitamins, insect repellent, bacteria fighters and scents for mood-altering aromatherapy. Fabrics are also being developed that would heat or cool in response to body temperatures.
       Many of these so-called healthy fibers were originally developed for use in space, said Marie O’Mahony, who coauthored a book with Sarah Braddock entitled “Techno Textiles: Revolutionary Fabrics for Fashion and Design.”
       “Some of these new textiles may sound gimmicky, but as they begin to be taken seriously and improved in production, we will soon see them on the market around the world,” O’Mahony said.
       For example, the Japanese company Kanebo Ltd. has created permanently perfumed hosiery and lingerie. Tiny capsules built into the fiber break very gradually during wear, so the effect is long-lasting and withstands washing, O’Mahony said. French designer Olivier Lapidus has begun experimenting with permanently scented brocade fabrics used for couture gowns.
       “They still have to perfect this fabric,” she said, to determine how much vitamins, for example, can be absorbed through the skin before it is too much. As for perfumed fabric now available, she said, “If you wash it a lot, it will end up looking like chewing gum.”
       Aromatherapy will be an important part of body care in the new millennium whether in clothing or not, said Mechele Flaum, president of Popcorn Products, a division of trend predictor Faith Popcorn’s company, Brain Reserve. Computer technology will make it much easier to replicate any fragrance that ever existed from prehistoric man on, she said. People who want to customize their scents can choose anything from 18th century Revolution to newborn baby to fresh chocolate chip.
Nanotechnology would enable fabrics to mend and clean themselves constantly by moving dirt to the edge, the way
cilia behave in
the lungs.

       If that were not enough, so-called molecular nanotechnology will create new fabrics actually containing tiny computers built to atomic specifications, said David Forrest, a materials engineer with Baverstam Associates.
       Such technology, which Forrest said may be available in as little as 20 years, would enable fabrics to mend and clean themselves constantly by moving dirt to the edge, the way cilia behave in the lungs when moving mucus away from the nose and throat. It will also give birth to lightweight mutant fabrics that will change shape to fit their wearers and transmit data effortlessly.
       “You could have little sensors in this thing to detect a rip that would then send little microscopic repair machines over to that part of the garment,” Forrest said. “It would be like putting on a new piece of clothing every 15 minutes. It would make recycling obsolete.”
       Garments would likely change colors easily, he said. “If you could just change a molecular arrangement so that it alters the way various wavelengths reflect off it, you could change the color. You could do that at a very fine-grain level.”
       Nanotechnology will also enable humans to more easily regenerate their skin to a more youthful form, Forrest said. In the process, plastic surgeons as we know them today may become obsolete — unless, of course, they perfect what they are working on now: weekend face lifts to repair loose muscle tissue, remove fat pockets and tighten skin without surgery.
       Maplewood, N.J., plastic surgeon Michael Valdes uses sound waves to liquefy body and facial fat, then removes it with liposuction. A head and neck wrap is then worn for two weeks at night to mold and tighten the new facial contours.
       “The skin actually tightens back up,” said Valdes, who successfully performed the procedure on his wife and is attracting hundreds of curious patients. Such a technique works best on sagging jowl lines and double chins, he said, and has not yet been perfected for eyes or deep smile lines.
© 2000 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters.
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