Sunday’s Grammy Awards featured a whirligig set with many moving parts, and performances from artists that could dance up a storm. Country music darling Carrie Underwood, however, showed that you could still give a dynamic performance while standing still.
Underwood’s dress when she first took the stage was a deceptively simple gray satin ball gown, but when the chanteuse began singing, lines of blue light began tracing themselves across her skirt. Throughout the rest of Underwood’s performance, her gown came alive with blooming roses, stars, and butterflies. The song’s title, “Blown Away,” seemed rather appropriate.
"They can do a lot of amazing things with projectors these days," Underwood told an Associated Press reporter while backstage, fresh from her win for best country solo performance. "We had a dress especially made. I said I should take that home and we can watch movies on it."
The ball gown, a custom dress from the fashion house THEIA, was made from 10 yards of Duchess satin, with 100 yards of tulle and crinoline supporting the four and a half-foot-wide skirt. Theia said in a press release that the dress was made in record time, with four people working for about 80 hours. Fusing fashion with technology added another wrinkle to the process, since the dressmakers had to get the thumbs up from Underwood’s stylists as well as ensure that the fabric was compatible with the video projection technology.
“One of the main requirements when selecting the fabric was that it wasn’t too shiny as the projection wouldn’t show up correctly,” THEIA spokesperson Melissa Veniero said in an email. “We sent a couple options for the projection company to test out… all worked,” which left creative director Don O’Neill to decide on a fabric that he aesthetically preferred.
The clothing line’s name is taken from Greek mythology. Theia, also called Euryphaessa, is the Titan associated with light and glittering. Some myths say she is the mother of the sun god Helios, the moon goddess Selene, and Eos, the “rosy-fingered” goddess of the dawn.
“There couldn’t be a more perfect opportunity to fuse light in a literal sense with one of my gowns,” O’Neill said in a statement.
Underwood’s performance isn’t the first time a dress has merged with a movie screen.
Last July, French designer Franck Sorbier unveiled an haute couture ensemble that used similar projection technology. The gown displayed a range of animations – chandeliers lighting up, a sky display resembling the Northern Lights, champagne bubbles rising, flowers opening, and shifting geometric patterns, to name a few. The show verged on theatre, and was loosely based on “Donkeyskin,” a dark fairytale about a princess who asks for fantastic gowns as part of a ploy to avoid marrying her own father.
The model stood stock-still, as Underwood did. "It took a lot of precision," the singer told the AP. Underwood also told Entertainment Tonight that she had to stand barefoot on top of an apple crate so that the images would line up properly, according to the AP.
So unless you plan on spending all your time at parties frozen in place, you probably won’t be able to replicate Carrie Underwood’s Grammys look.
But if you want light-up clothing that you can move around in, you’re in luck – there’s tons of supplies available to brighten up your style: LED ribbons and glowing wire, sewable circuitry and accelerometers and buzzers, just to name a few. The future is here, and it’s fashionable.