Science

Australian scientists dress women in wine

Australian researchers are making dresses from fermented fabric, using bacteria to grow slimy dresses from wine and beer.

Australian researchers are making dresses from fermented fabric, using bacteria to grow slimy dresses from wine and beer.

Laboratory technician Gary Cass says the University of Western Australia's Micro'be' project combines science and art.

'It's the bacteria that are weaving all these fibres together.'—Gary Cass,Micro'be' project

"We're looking to provoke some discussion about future fashions, about the possibility of other material we can use instead of our normal cottons and silks," he said.

Cass, who also writes science fiction, said he was inspired to grow the dresses when he was working in a vineyard many years ago. He noticed that when oxygen got into the vats and turned the wine into vinegar, a slimy, rubbery layer grew on top.

This layer was cellulose, produced by acetobacter bacteria as a waste product when they convert wine into vinegar.

To ferment fabrics, Cass and his colleagues deliberately let vats of wine go off to produce cellulose. To get the shape of a dress, they lift the layers of slimy cellulose off and lay them over an inflatable mannequin. After each dress has been completed, they deflate the mannequin and remove it, leaving the dress intact.

"It's the bacteria that are weaving all these fibres together," Cass said.

"We're not using any machines, sewing machines and so forth."

Cass says other alcoholic drinks can be used to ferment fabrics. "As long as we have alcohol, these bacteria will do their job."

One of the dresses has a clear panel made from beer.

The dresses have to be kept wet or they become like tissue paper and can tear if the fabric is too thin.

Cass said the next step is for the team to collaborate with an organic chemist to find a way to polymerize the cellulose fibres. This would produce longer fibres so the researchers can grow fabrics that are more wearable.

The dresses are currently made from pieces of cellulose joined together, butCass hopes one day the team can make the bacteria ferment seamless garments.

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