Beth Jacks Column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Snippets by Beth Boswell Jacks
Will smart fabric clothing be regulated by health department or fashion police?

“It’s always the badly dressed people

  who are the most interesting.”

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                       ~ Jean Paul Gaultier

One of the more mature of my realizations as I’ve become “a woman of a certain age” is that I’m no fashion plate.

Actually, I once thought I was pretty cute. I even remember certain frocks I considered outstanding. In my youth these included a hand-me-down blue chiffon/net number with tiny appliqued roses that I wore to numerous cotillions until my date on the fourth or fifth formal occasion (his initials were MSS) asked me, “Is that the only evening dress you’ve got?”

It was.

The Nehru collar blouses and pleated skirts during my college years were handsome, for sure, as was the yellow maternity outfit several years later that I thought made me look perky. (Hubby G-Man finally confessed the yellow outfit reminded him of a giant parakeet.)

Oh, woe – my fashion sense has never been, shall we say, on target.

Back almost 40 years ago when G-Man and I moved home to Cleveland, a very dear older friend, now deceased, appeared at my door. She meant no harm, intending only to mentor this poor, uninformed fashion wreck. In her arms was a stack of WWD newspapers. For the equally uninformed, that’s “Women’s Wear Daily,” a fashion-industry trade journal that’s sometimes called “the bible of fashion.”

She thought I . . . umm . . . needed the advice. She was right. I did. But for some reason I’ve never been that interested in clothes. I guess I’m kind of like the late Molly Ivins who once wrote:

“Although a life-long fashion dropout, I have absorbed enough by reading ‘Harpers Bazaar’ while waiting at the dentist’s to have grasped that the purpose of fashion is to make A Statement. My own modest Statement . . . is ‘Woman Who Wears Clothes So She Won’t Be Naked.’”

But lately I’ve been reading where current clothing styles are no longer most important. Now we’re talking clothes that promote good health with “smart fabrics” that have the ability to repel bacteria and viruses as well as to send (how handy is this?) distress signals. Acoustic wave sensors, for example, are made into the clothing and can measure the wearer’s pulse.

According to “Earth and Sky,” a newsy science-oriented radio show on public radio, “these fabrics are coated with invisibly tiny nano particles . . . that can act as environmental sensors for people with allergies, [and can] monitor a person’s vital signs and even transmit a call for help in case of an emergency.”

I don’t know how these nano particles are created (my scientific understanding is worse than my fashion sense), but it all has to do with treating the fabric with electrically charged particles of silver and other metals. Seems the negative charges on the nano particles are attracted by the fabric’s positive charges.

Which doesn’t explain a thing to me about how the outfit can fight germs or dial 911.

“Medical News Today” says these smart clothes will be especially valuable for certain segments of our society – the chronically ill and elderly, infants, soldiers, firefighters, athletes, and many others who are at risk due to their age, health or profession.

I listened to this on “Earth and Sky” and thought, “Oh, yeah. They’re talking 25 years from now,” but they were not. These fabrics are being produced and tested right now, and you and I will probably be wearing “smart clothes” before we know it.

Well, now clothing is making sense. I no longer have to be that woman who wears clothes so she won’t be naked. I will be that woman who wears clothes so when she falls and can’t get up the emergency medical techies will come running.

One other thing: I want at least one of my nano particle outfits to be adorned with tiny little pink appliqued rosebuds . . . and MSS (I have yearned to say this for so many years), you can like it or lump it.