Coat to Wear the Rain is an experimental garment designed to catch, hold, and display rainwater. A large collar collects and channels water into eight tubes in the front and back of the garment. The tubes carry the water into the lining of the jacket where it is stored. Because the jacket is transparent the water is visible at all times. Optional dye packets can be added to the collar to change the color of the water, thus the water is not merely transported by the coat, but also becomes part of its aesthetic. The coat contains a drain plug at the bottom which allows the water to be removed.
Coat to Wear the Rain developed from thinking about what wealth and poverty might look like in a future where water is scarce. Water is already insufficient in many places around the world to fill human and ecological demands. Changing weather patterns, over use of aquifers and rivers, and melting glaciers are creating lasting changes to water access all over the globe. The same environmental forces that are causing unprecedented flooding in some parts of the world are leaving others barren and parched. Ultimately, the Earth’s reserve of fresh water is in precipitous decline.
As the climate changes, so too does humanity’s relationship to this essential resource. Perhaps endemic drought brought on by global climate change will soon restrict access to clean water to such a degree that even its mere presence will become a symbol of status, wealth, and power. In such a world, those who have the means may flaunt their access to this precious resource in visible and ostentatious ways, such as through their garments. Conversely, clothing could become a means for those less fortunate to gather this life-giving commodity. The use water-collecting garments may become a vital necessity to the poor.
Coat to Wear the Rain began as an exploration of wealth disparity through the medium of water, but it did not end there. In my original idea, I had imagined that the water could either be collected and stored or dyed for use as a decorative element in the jacket. The wearer would have to choose between want and waste. However, it came up in conversation while I was working on the project that dyes need not be toxic. Perhaps the jacket could both collect the rain and use it as a visual component. The idea that beauty could be a reward for conservation is ultimately far more appealing and potentially useful than a meditation on hard choices. Thus Coat to Wear the Rain becomes a starting point. How can beauty be used to inspire environmentally friendly behavior with respect to everyday objects? Desire is often a better motivator than fear. If may be that in order to promote the adaptations required for humans to survive in a changed climate we must also develop new aspirations.
I began by creating sketches to develop the look and feel of the jacket and to start envisioning how the garment would be patterned. I selected clear plastic vinyl for the main jacket material both because it is waterproof and because I wanted any water collected by the jacket to be visible. I used a heavy coated nylon thread to avoid it sticking to the plastic when sewing and half inch diameter clear plastic tubing because it was the thinnest I could find.
Using an existing jacket as a model, I developed a basic pattern on quarter inch graph paper that I then scaled up to actual size using one-inch grid paper. I tested the measurements and angles using a sloper pattern. A sloper is a pattern made to fit a specific person (me in this case) as snuggly as possible while still allowing movement. It is useful when patterning because it shows the minimum measurements the garment must have in order to fit. I created a scale mock-up of the jacket in muslin, and then revised my pattern based on the fit. This step took multiple repetitions. Once the pattern was satisfactory I cut out the pieces from the plastic material and assembled the jacket most of the way to completion. Before the final seams were joined, I insert the plastic tubing. At several points the tubing passes through the surface of the garment. I applied silicone caulking around the tubing where it pierced the fabric and on seams intended to hold water. The act of sewing also punctures the plastic, so the seams needed to be sealed wherever water would rest on them.
Once the caulk was dry, I tested the functionality of the jacket with water and added additional caulk where necessary. I also added a plug to the bottom of the jacket to allow water collected by the jacket to be removed. Finally, I added the finishing seams and zipper to the jacket.
Even with the caulking there were still leaks in the seams. This could possibly be corrected by using an adhesive or heat seal instead of stitching to join the pieces.
Although the jacket performs the basic functions I set out to achieve, there are several items that I would like to revisit and expand upon in subsequent iterations. I would like to explore the possibility of re-making the jacket out of bio-plastic. The jacket in its current form is recyclable, but otherwise the materials used are not particularly environmentally friendly. I would also like to research what other types of edible dyes I might use instead of food coloring. On a technical level, I would like to experiment with the collar shape to optimize rain capture without loosing structural integrity. Finally, I would like to find a more elegant solution to the drain stopper and dye packets.
Hyeona Yang and Joshua Noble, Raincatch. – These students at the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design created a raincoat that collects and purifies water and then lets the wearer drink it. This design turns the jacket into a water bottle. http://ciid.dk/education/portfolio/idp11/courses/performative-design/projects/raincatch/
Engineers are studying a lizard that wicks water through its feet in an attempt to imitate its biology for use in design. http://io9.com/370065/this-lizard-drinks-through-its-foot-and-soon-you-will-too
Another resource with is potentially collectible using clothing is solar power. This blog post shows some garments that designers have created to capture energy from the sun. http://www.ecouterre.com/7-solar-powered-wearables-guaranteed-to-give-you-a-charge/
Jaron Lanier, Who Owns the Future? New York: Simon & Schuster, 2013 – Lanier discusses a future in which digital technology is freely available and accessible but water and other essential resources are scarce.
Blade Runner, Directed by Ridley Scott, Warner Bros. This clear plastic raincoat worn by Joanna Cassidy in Blade Runner was an inspiration for the look of the jacket.
I came across these images when searching for other garments that use water as a visual element. Dress water fountain http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-WUqkhuU0x7c/TYpvvMZqEAI/AAAAAAAAAkI/J_Dubvzs2Z0/s1600/Inspired%2B4.bmp
Jewelry made of ice http://phantasmagoriastyle.com/2012/09/09/thin-ice/
These garments by Iris Van Herpen do not use water itself as an element, but they are based on the crystalline structure of water in a solid state. http://www.mikapoka.com/2010/07/turning-water-into-crystal.html
Frank Herbert, Dune – Water scarcity is a theme in Frank Herbert’s Dune. On a desert planet where water is extremely valuable, the royal family has an ostentatious display of palm trees (which require a lot of water) in front of their palace.