Zac Posen Debuts an LED Dress Made by (and for) Female Coders

Fashion and tech, an inspiring combination

Headshot of Angela Natividad

Fewer than 1 percent of high school girls plan to study computer science in college. Hoping to change that, Google's Made with Code initiative recently encouraged girls to design a "little black dress" for the digital age. 

The result debuted as part of Project Runway judge Zac Posen's spring 2016 collection at New York Fashion Week. Coded by LED dress technologist Maddy Maxey, it incorporated animations designed by a group of girls from around the world.

Using, a basic programming language, girls could change the look of their dress by moving shapes, colors, patterns and other variables.

Agencies Swift, 72andSunny and Nexus Interactive Arts supported the LED dress initiative, including the social media, website and coding app. Offline executions include Made with Code digital trucks, which enable people to learn basic programming while designing their own LED dresses. The trucks appeared in Times Square on Wednesday and at the Harlem Children's Zone on Thursday; mobile coding stations will also be available Friday and Saturday during the Re:Make summit and festival.

Maddy Maxey is a "coding mentor" at Made with Code, whose goal is to teach girls to code using challenges that capture their imagination. Whatever reservations people may have about using fashion to bait young girls into more erudite pursuits, it bears mentioning that this is a complex industry in its own right, and that the "little black dress" is only the most recent of a string of diverse projects, including a dancing yeti, music mixer, beat-maker and the ability to code your face into a kaleidoscope.

"If you like Made with Code projects, try JavaScript or something else that's similar," encourages Maxey, who believes coding knowledge is critical to the future of fashion. "Keep diving in. Don't stop yet."

Other fashion endeavors she envisions include clothing that responds to body temperature, outfits that change color … or simply cashmere sweaters that are machine washable.

Below is a video of the dress reveal, featuring interviews with Posen, Maxey and some of the girls who came out to watch their work come to life.

@luckthelady Angela Natividad is a frequent contributor to Adweek's creativity blog, AdFreak. She is also the author of Generation Creation and co-founder of Hurrah, an esports agency. She lives in Paris and when she isn't writing, she can be found picking food off your plate.