Active Protection

Many future developments in protective clothing lie in the arena of active protection; that is, garments which interact with or change the environment of the wearer rather than passively insulating the body from it. Hightech materials and developments in the field of wearable computers make active rather than passive protection the wave of the future.

By the early twenty-first century, loggers wore pants that incorporated fibers that pull out of a protective fabric to clog the chains of a chain saw, stopping it immediately, should the saw accidentally drop onto the logger's leg. Epileptics wear vests that read muscle contractions and automatically inflate personal airbags around the head when a seizure is about to occur.

The U.S. Army envisions that full-body hard suits will one day "walk" injured or unconscious soldiers back to safety. Fabrics of the future may be self-cleaning, fibers rippling to move unwanted dirt away or emitting an agent to neutralize a toxin. Braddock and O'Mahoney describe a future garment as being "made of small cellular units connected to one another by screws" (1998, p. 141). These cells and screws would be directed by a computer link that could order minute automatic adjustments in the shape of any part of the garment or direct heat, cooling, massage, or medicines through tiny channels to isolated body areas when needed. The protective possibilities for future active clothing designs are endless.

See also Aprons; Coat; Fashion, Health, and Disease; Space Suit.


Braddock, Sarah E., and Marie O'Mahoney. TechnoTextiles: Revolutionary Fabrics for Fashion and Design. New York: Thames and Hudson, Inc., 1998. Hatch, Kathryn L. Textile Science. Minneapolis: West Publishing Company, 1993. Renbourn, E.T., and W. H. Rees. Materials and Clothing in Health and Disease. London: H.K. Lewis and Company, 1972.

Watkins, Susan M. Clothing: The Portable Environment. Ames, Iowa: The Iowa State University Press, 1995.

Susan M. Watkins

PROUST, MARCEL Marcel Proust (1871-1922) is the author of the sixteen-volume A la recherche du temps perdu (known in English as Remembrance of Things Past [1922-1931]). The first volume was published in 1913, and the last after the writer's death. These novels reveal not only Proust's expert knowledge of dress—he researched very precise details of garment construction—but also the way in which his appreciation of fashion has far wider implications, both within his work and beyond.

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