Who are you wearing? Prada, Versace? No, Merlot!

Yes, clothes made from wine pulp. ABC Australia is reporting that the wine garments have been developed at the University of Western Australia is a project called Micro ‘be’.

Bugs make dress smell like old wine

By Anna Salleh  from ABC Science Online

red-wine dress

A dress that smells like the lounge room the morning after a boozy party may be just the thing to make you stand out in a crowd.

Australian researchers have combined art and science to make dresses from fermented fabric, using bacteria to ‘grow’ slimy dresses from wine and beer.

“We’re looking at [the dresses] to provoke some discussion about future fashions, about the possibility of other material we can use instead of our normal cottons and silks,” says Gary Cass, who works on the Micro’be’ project at the University of Western Australia.

Cass is a laboratory technician at the university who, among other things, writes science fiction.

He says 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.

And to get the shape of a dress, they lifted the layers of slimy cellulose off and laid them over a deflatable doll.

After each dress was complete, they deflated the doll and removed it, leaving the dress intact.

“It’s the bacteria that are weaving all these fibres together,” says Cass. “We’re not using any machines, sewing machines and so forth.”

Evolution of a new garment

The dress shown is made from red wine and is made in the style of a cavewoman’s dress.

The model is also made up to look like a cavewoman and is supposed to be emerging from a primordial swamp, says Cass.

“It’s a great narrative to talk about the evolution of a new garment,” he says.

Cass says other alcoholic drinks can be used to ferment fabrics.

“As long as we have alcohol, these bacteria will do their job,” he says, adding that one dresses has a clear panel made from beer.

Wet or dry?

But the dresses have to be kept wet, says Cass. Once they dry they become like tissue paper and can easily tear if the fabric is too thin.

This is because the cellulose fibres the bacteria produce are short, unlike cotton ones, which are easily spun into longer fibres.

Cass says the next step is for the team to collaborate with an organic chemist to find a way to polymerise the cellulose fibres.

This would produce longer fibres so the researchers can grow more-wearable fabrics.

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

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About itsfood

An IT Manager with an interest in tech (because he's a geek who enjoys his job too much) and food & wine (because he enjoys eating and drinking when not working).
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