Photos by Albert Sanchez

Dita Von Teese did more than show off her curves at Manhattan’s Ace Hotel Monday night. The burlesque star and fashion icon also modeled what designers Michael Schmidt and Francis Bitonti claim is the world’s first fully articulated three-dimensionally printed gown. (Iris van Herpen might beg to differ, but we digress.) Created in conjunction with rapid-prototyping marketplace Shapeways, the Fibonacci-inspired mesh number consists of thousands of nylon chain links, dyed black, lacquered, and embellished with more than 13,000 Swarovski crystals to achieve its “sensual flowing form.”

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Bitoni compared the dress’s construction with that of a Chinese finger trap. “It’s that continuous variation—managing the complexity of the subtle adjustments in form to respond to curvature of the body, how things tighten or narrow, where we need more flexibility or less flexibility of the mesh, all that was able to be tuned to a really high level,” he told Wired on Tuesday.

Bitoni compared the dress’s construction with that of a Chinese finger trap.

Aptly enough, the entire process was communicated digitally. Bitonti used Maya, a high-end software tool used by architects and animators, to create a 3D model of the dress based on Von Teese’s measurements and Schmidt’s original sketch. Using Rhino, another modeling program, he detailed 2,633 individual links across the surface of the gown. Finally, Bitoni laser-sintered the entire piece into 17 parts, which he then manually assembled.

“This would have been incredibly expensive, if not impossible, to do by hand,” he said. “The level of craftsmanship it would require is being assumed by the machine.”

The fashion industry, one of the few remaining that still requires significant hands-on manufacturing, might be due for a shakeup, according to Shapeways “designer evangelist” Duann Scott, particularly once printer manufacturers start offering more garment-friendly materials.

“Traditionally, all garments are either a weave or a stitch,” Scott said. “And with 3D printing, we can introduce something completely different. So we can grow designs rather than just using something that’s centuries-old technology. It’s a whole way to move forward in fashion and clothing and textiles.”

[Via Wired]