Critical Costume – What do you do?

Published: May 2018

Proposal for 20min paper presentation at Critical Costume 2018
(can also be considered for exhibition or installation of work)

“What do you do?”
“What do you do?” is one of the first questions we ask another person upon first meeting. Our work has come to define who we are, yet our daily costumes speak less of our professions and more of our selves. But our selves being so entwined with what we do – how can we use what we wear-to-work to communicate who we are?

For the last three years I have been designing myself practical solutions for being more mobile in my practice of making electronic textiles. One of the first things I noticed as I carried my tools with me on trains, to the park, into hotels, is that in place of the question of “what do you do?”, I get asked: “what is this for?”. Prompted by this new cue, I began to design a response into my costume. Creating workwear that not only demonstrates efficiency but also speaks of the struggle for a work-life balance, the duality of “selling out” and staying true to one’s ideals, of loving nature while depleting it’s resources, of being proudly independent while craving community, and of crossing disciplinary boundaries by simply carrying the tools of one trade into the space of another.

Talk Content:
In my presentation I will describe my ongoing process of imagining, designing, making and wearing my studio practice and what value this holds in my life. I will do so by telling short stories about select items from the following collections: Tool Suits, Working Late, Always On, Adorn, PIFpacks, DAYpacks and Bare Naked.

Workshop: Our Tools, Our Senses
Following the Critical Costume conference I will be holding a one-day workshop in Bristol about extending your senses by designing personal costumes to carrying your tools with you at all times.

Our Tools Our Senses


Since 2006 Hannah Perner-Wilson has been crafting, documenting and sharing her work in electronics textiles – a hybrid field of craft and technology. Working in a field (still) without standardized solutions has both caused and allowed her to question conventions and cultures surrounding technology production and use. With her contributions to this field she aims to expand our ways of understanding, creating and using technology. Breaking with the image of electronics as industrially produced consumer goods, presenting them instead as an expressive medium, a cultural practice, something to take care of in making and using.