Whether it’s drone-proof hoodies, eye-tracking dresses or pants that let you text from your pocket, these days, clothing is doing a lot more than just making fashion statements and shielding us from the elements.

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New to this task-oriented wardrobe is Wearable Solar, a potential clothing line that incorporates solar panels into garments for charging personal electronic devices.

The project led by Christiaan Holland of Dutch creative agency Gelderland Valoriseert, fashion designer Pauline van Dongen, solar panel specialist Gertjan Jongerden and students from the University of Applied Sciences in Nijmegen, the Netherlands.

Two prototypes were created — a dress and a coat. Van Dongen said she carefully studied the layered structure in human skin cells, then translated that research into her designs. For example, with the coat, flaps embedded with solar cells can be unfolded on the shoulder and waist when the sun is shining. Alternatively, the flaps easily fold away and can be worn invisibly. Just a head’s up: Be prepared to feel like a lost character from the Matrix or Mortal Kombat, as unfolding the solar flaps is tough look, full of sharp, jutting shoulders and sweeping accents at the waist.

“The coat contains fairly rigid solar cells, which is why I used a combination of wool and leather. These materials both provide the strength needed and are aesthetically pleasing,” Van Dongen told a Dutch design website. “In total some 48 solar cells are incorporated into modular leather panels, allowing a typical smartphone to be 50 percent charged if worn in the full sun for an hour.”

She added: “For the dress I used flexible solar cells. These are less efficient but are easier to integrate and more comfortable to wear. The dress is made from a flowing lightweight wool combined with leather. The cells have been subtly integrated in such a way that it’s hardly noticeable when you wear the dress as a normal piece of clothing.”

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Now that summer heat waves are starting to blister the United States, it may be hard to comprehend walking around in anything that’s made of leather and wool, but the Netherlands’ cooler maritime climate would certainly make for a less-sweaty fit. Interested in doing a little window shopping? Then try on some Wearable Solar in the visual fitting with this video.


Credit: Pauline van Dongen