Ten unconventional dresses that reject fashion norms

After French label Coperni gained worldwide attention for its spray-on dress at Paris Fashion Week, Dezeen rounds up 10 experimental gowns with unexpected forms and materials.

Fashion designers are constantly seeking to push boundaries, and recent years have seen them shake up the way we dress more than ever before.

From gowns made live on the runway to meticulously engineered garments over hundreds of hours, here are 10 inventive dresses from the Dezeen archive:


Photo courtesy of Coperni

Fabrican dress by Coperni

At this year’s Paris Fashion Week, French brand Coperni created a dress in real-time using a sprayable liquid-fibre manufactured by fabric technology company Fabrican.

Over the course of 15 minutes, the fiber was sprayed onto the body of model Bella Hadid in the outline of a dress, before it transformed into a suede-like fabric over her skin.

The liquid fiber was developed by Fabrican using natural and synthetic fibres, and it is strong enough to create, customise and repair clothes that can be re-worn and washed.

Find out more about the Fabrican dress ›


Fredrik Tjærandsen rubber bubble clothing
Photo courtesy of Central Saint Martins

Balloon dresses by Fredrik Tjærandsen

Giant balloons were self-deflated by models from within to create the colorful rubber dresses in former Central Saint Martins student Fredrik Tjærandsen’s graduate collection.

Presented in a series of colors and shapes, all of the outfits were made from rubber sourced from Sri Lankan suppliers that support and buy from local growers.

Find out more about the balloon dresses ›


Aida robot wearing a dress by Aurorboros
Photo is by Mika Kailes

Biomimicry by Auroboros

This sleeveless gown was tailored to fit the artificial intelligence (AI) robot Ai-Da and crafted by the fashion brand Auroboros from a mix of salt, recycled glass beads and plastic.

On its upper layer, a salt solution was applied and left to oxidise, behind uniquely colored and shaped crystals, which eventually fell off the dress like petals on a flower.

According to the dress’s designers, it was intended to illustrate that “the process of growth is fleeting, reminding us to cherish the beauty of the burgeoning life before its eventual end”.

Find out more about Biomimicry ›


Dissolvable dresses by Hussein Chalayan
Photo is by Dan Lecca

Dissolvable dresses by Hussein Chalayan

Soluble white fabrics were used to unexpectedly reveal dresses with intricate stitching and appliqués at Hussein Chalayan’s experimental Paris Fashion Week show in 2015.

A pair of models entered the runway wearing pared-back white dresses, before stepping beneath two showers that caused the outfits to dissolve, exposing the final pieces.

Find out more about the dissolvable dresses ›


To-be-looked-at-ness is a giant dress by Hsin Min Chan
Photo is by Jian da Huang

To-be-looked-at-ness by Hsin Min Chan

Design Academy Eindhoven graduate Hsin Min Chan drew on her experiences of 24-hour surveillance in Taiwan when creating the giant To-be-looked-at-ness dress.

As its name suggests, it is intended to make its wearer highly visible and features a structure built from metal mesh covered with papier-mache, plaster, fabric, resin and expanding foam.

Find out more about To-be-looked-at-ness ›


Detail image of Intimacy 2.0 dress by Studio Roosegaarde
Photo courtesy of Studio Roosegarde

Intimacy 2.0 by Studio Roosegaarde

An increase in heart rate is all it takes for the transparency of this dress to change.

Invented by Dutch designers Studio Roosegaarde and Anouk Wipprecht, the Intimacy 2.0 dress forms part of a clothing collection that marries leather with electrically-sensitive foils that become opaque or transparent when exposed to alterations in voltage.

It was the evolution of the duo’s original Intimacy collection, which featured dresses that became transparent when the wearer was approached by another person.

Find out more about Intimacy 2.0 ›


Algae sequin dress by Phillip Lim and Charlotte McCurdy as part of One X One project
Photo courtesy of One x One

Algae-sequin dress by Phillip Lim and Charlotte McCurdy

The sculptural green sequins layered over this dress are made from pieces of algae bioplastic film, sewn onto a layer of biodegradable plant fibres.

It was fabricated by fashion designer Phillip Lim in collaboration with industrial designer Charlotte McCurdy to challenge the use of polluting crude-oil derivatives in clothing, such as in conventional plastic sequins.

McCurdy told Dezeen that, in order to limit carbon emissions, “we need to be thinking about how to replace the 60 per cent of textiles that are currently made of fossil fuels”.

Find out more about the algae-sequin dress ›


Biodegradable dress by Scarlett Yang
Photo courtesy of Scarlett Yang

Biodegradable dress by Scarlett Yang

This biodegradable, glass-like dress can crease, shrink and stiffen in response to the climatic conditions of the place in which it is worn.

It was made by Central Saint Martins graduate Scarlett Yang using a mix of water, algae extract and silk cocoon protein – substances that also enable the garment to quickly decompose in water at the end of its life.

According to Yang, it was developed in reaction to the wastefulness of the fashion industry and aims to “challenge audiences’ perception of the concept of material life cycles”.

Find out more about the biodegradable dress ›


Infinity dress by Iris van Herpen
Photo courtesy of Iris van Herpen

Infinity dress by Iris van Herpen

At Paris Haute Couture week in 2019, fashion designer Iris van Herpen presented a collection of hypnotic, kinetic dresses modeled on the work of artist Anthony Howe and patterns found in nature.

Among them was the Infinity dress, which the designer described as “the most difficult I have ever made”.

The short white garment juxtaposed an aluminum and stainless steel skeleton with a layer of white feathers that were rotated by a mechanism hidden in the back.

Find out more about Hypnosis ›


Zac Posen designs 3D-printed rose petal dress for Met Gala
Photo courtesy of Getty

Rose-petal dress by Zac Posen

Among the most innovative outfits featured at the 2019 Met Gala in New York was British model Jourdan Dunn’s dress developed by fashion designer Zac Posen.

The bespoke gown featured 21 overlapping petals that were all 3D-printed in durable white plastic before being covered in colour-shifting paint. It took more than 1,100 hours to create and each petal was estimated to be worth around $3,000.

Find out more about the rose-petal dress ›

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