Dev Blog

The blog of BAMoore.

Monroe's Heels Wareable Fashion First Prototype Completed

Work has begun on my senior capstone or more correctly, multiple capstones. each within the realm of wearable technology imbedded into fashion. The idea to augment existing fashion (and it's accessories) with technology to bring it to a higher level of aesthetic and interactivity. A perfect example of retrofitting something purely aesthetic to functional is the Cira Center in Philadelphia, when they changed the external lighting to resemble Tetris and let Philadelphians play the game on it as the screen.

The first prototype called "Monroe's Heels" is based after the music video of the same name, from KPOP artist Lee Hwan Hee. It's lyrics speak of a heel too short for Marilyn Monroe and her choice to ignore this and continue on her quest. The video uses post-production motion graphics at times and it's live version comparison falls flat at times because of this. Additionally the heels in do nothing; no changing heel height, color or other. I believe with the addition of wearable technology a higher level experienced by both audience and artists can be attained.

My second source of inspiration was Ada-fruit's Firewalker LED Sneakers. This is rehash of children's shoes that light up as you walk but with more flare, a higher level of artist aesthetic design with its multicolor ability and sequential lighting. The negative to their design is the requirement of a 5 volt (or more) powering. For my heels I wanted them to not take away from the initial construct of it.

The heels from Elie-Tahari where acquired from a thrift store in Northern Virginia, a pro-tip to getting good fashion on the cheap, go to thrift store in an affluential town; Philadelphia not being one of them.

The main hurtle to overcome was how to power the lighting, sensors and micro-controller without taking away from the initial aesthetic of the heels; the shape, black mat fabric lining and polished toebox; while still being useable within a music performance or special gathering and waterproof.

Thusly the decision was to use an AdaFruit Gemma micro-controller than runs off 3.7 volts with the addition of a 105mAh Lithium Ion Polymer Battery that can also power their NeoPixels and LED Sequins. While their LED strips as seen in the Firewalkers such as the Digital RGB LED Weatherproof Strip would give better presentation for illumination, it's power consumption exceeds what can be built into the frame of the heels. The Lithium Ion Polymer Battery aka lipo mAh may need to be amped up to increase the duration of the heel's interactivity, but this will be discovered in later research and testing. The NeoPixels are predomintly waterproof and the micro-controller can be encased in a clear coating of Insta-Morph or even Sewable Snaps so it can be removed as needed.

For the illumination of the breast of the heel, a small piece of EL Tape measuring 2.5 inches is used and powered off a coin cell battery incased in an inverter or sewable battery holder in the platform of the heel. This will of-course need to be cut into and have the ability to be fastened in some manor to make the battery replaceable. I may however imbed two to three AAA batteries to power a line of Electroluminescent Wire that runs the rim of the heel.

A dime sized Force Resistant Sensor aka FSR will be glued between the top piece and heel to sense when the heel meets ground and the illumination pattern is to begin. This too can be augmented be use of Velostat but will also take additional research and testing to find the best item to use.

And lastly, some type of textile will be used to cover the NeoPixels and EL wire, be it sheer fabric or some type of semi-transparent glossy so as to better hide the lights when not lit and keep the shoe's initial look.