Alginate + Dress


I have started the process of thinking about my dress hoping to make it look like a second skin. I wanted it to be somewhat transparent and skin coloured. And hopefully look like skin itself. What I had to account for as I made my tests, espercially the initial ones documented at the Bioflaskin page, was that I needed this material to be stronger than just the pure alginate allowed me to have it be.

This dress on itself would have quite a lot of weight, as alginate in fact is not the lightest material. It had to be able to support itself. Also to its weight I would add on the weight of the Bacteriquid inflataing the Bioflaskin.

For this reason I decided to test out different fibres mixed into my alginate pour in different ways. I figured, skin grows hair too. Why not add that to y second skin if it would allow a better result?

Tests with fibres on alginate Gabriela Lotaif

Different Fibres

I tested out the following fibres:

Fibres with numbers

  1. Islandic Wool
  2. Hemp
  3. Thinner and clearer Hemp
  4. Darker wool (with origin unknown)

Initial Methodology

When I first made those tests what I was doing was:

  1. Spraying the base fabric with calcium chloride
  2. pouring a first layer of alginate
  3. placing the fibres down without prior setup or properly spreading them out
  4. pouring a second layer of alginate
  5. spray the top with calcium chloride
  6. leaving to dry

This ended up leaving me with material that had many weak spots and in which the fibres, because they weren't properly spread out first, gravitated into big bunches.

First Fibre tests

I also tried to spray the fibres before placing them once, which ended up leaving me with many bubbles between the two layers and a quite cool bit of the fibres that didn't get embedded, that could at one point be useful, not for making my algdres, though.

Cool fibres pre-sprayed one Gabriela Lotaif

Final Methodolgy

Once I spoke to Anastasia and Jess (thanks ladies!) about those inital tests, they instructed me on a better way to make this work and I adapted it with a touch of organicity to the look of the fibres dispersion:

  1. Setting up the fibres as I wanted them to be disposed on the side of my fabric base, in order to just transport it to the top of my alginate pour
  2. spraying the base fabric with calcium chloride
  3. pouring the alginate
  4. transporting the fibres I had previously layed down to the top of my alginate pour
  5. Delicately pushing them down onto the alginate until they were fully embedded there
  6. playing around with their positioning to create an organic image out of them, but making sure not to get any fibre-bunches
  7. spray the top with calcium chloride
  8. leaving to dry

I decided to go for the hemp, as this would allow me to make a veagan dress all over, since alginate is an algae based material. I also Really liked the colour of the thinner and clearer hemp on my colour mix. Lastly, the length of the hemp allowed me to dispose it in my alginate in a quite organic way, that realted to my entire design very directly.

Preparation of the hemp on the side

Hemp on alginate Gabriela Lotaif

Hemp on alginate skin Gabriela Lotaif


I have also tested out all of my samples by sewing them, which again led me to deciding to the final Methodology described above.


For this part of my process I was already working at home, due to the COVID19, so I couldn't build myself a huge frame, nor buy any more of the base fabric than what I luckily already had at home. I also did not have a big enough and completely flat surface to pour my alginate sheet in, so I had to find the flatest part of my building's rooftop and make it there. This meant that I had one side that was slightly thicker than the other. What I did in order to "fix" that to my ability was I added a bit more fibres to this thinner side, to make it stronger.

I started by mixing 5 litres of my alginate mix, using the same recipe I had used to make my Bioflaskin. Funnily enough, even using the same exact amounts and the same exact recipe my Bioflaskin became much clearer than my Algress material, likely because I boiled the annato paste for a bit less time when making the Bioflaskin mix.

5 litres of alginate mix

I left it overnight, to get rid of all bubbles in it.

I then went up to my roof and created a working space for myself:

  1. taping the big plastic protection to the floor (to keep mould away from my alginate).
  2. I then taped my fabric as stretched out as I could on that plastic.
  3. On the side of the fabric, I prepared my fibres more or less as I would dispose them on my alginate pour. This was super tricky, with the wind coming to visit at times.
  4. Once I had the fibres as I wanted them, I sprayed the base fabric with calicum chloride all over.
  5. I poured the alginate on the base fabric. The quantity was very right for the size of the fabric, which meant that the alginate did not spread out further than it.
  6. Then me and my official assistant (Thank you Sergi! :purple_heart:) carefully transported the fibres to the top of the alginate sheet.
  7. I then spent a very long time pressing them down delicately until they wer embedded in the alginate, after which I was able to manipulate their shapes throughout. I also added some more fibres to certain parts that were a bit empty)
  8. I sprayed the whole surface with calcium chloride and let it dry there for 2 days. (I had to plan this super carefully hoping to my heart that the foreast was right and that it didn't rain, and I was happy to say it worked!)
  9. After those two days I un-taped the fabric from the plastic and turned it upside-down to dry the bck, leaving it there for another day.
  10. Lastly I took it out of the fabric and left it on the plastic to finish sweating, ot I thought it would.
  11. I then rolled it with baking baking paper all over making sure it never touched itself directly (who knew if it could glue to itsef otherwise...) and waited until I was ready to cut out my dress' pattern.

Making alginate Big sheet gabriela Lotaif0

Making alginate Big sheet gabriela Lotaif1

Making alginate Big sheet gabriela Lotaif2

Making alginate Big sheet gabriela Lotaif3

Once it was dry I did some movement experimentation with it in order toget the feel it gave to my body before turning it into the algdress:

alginate big sheet dry dance Gabriela Lotaif


I was able to take Moon Ribas' measurements from her 3D body scan, in order to do it I made a curve on front view wher I wanted it to be, projected it on the body and used the length tool to see how long that project curve is. There is you measurement. You can then input that number on you measurement sheet, which I added on the Files, the last item of this page.

How to Take Measurements Out of a 3d Body Scan from Gabriela Lotaif on Vimeo.


I started making the algdress by using this pattern tracing instructions:

How to Draft the female Bodice Block

From the basic bodice I adapted its cuts to make it seem more organic and to make sure to fit the Bioflaskin in the centre on the front according to the following drawings I made:

Pattern adaptation Gabriela Lotaif

Pattern adaptation Gabriela lotaif

I then made the dress and tried it on, but I really wasn't happy about its shape, nor about the size of each of the patterns in relation to how much basic fabric I had available in my house to make the alginate sheet from (at this point I had been working from home due to the COVID19).

Making the first dress Gabriela Lotaif

trying it on

I decided to completely readapt my pattern afte giving my whole design deep thoughts, as wel as trying out some of the movements I wanted to have on the performance in order to put the Bioflaskin in focus.


What made me change my pattern for the dress based one was:

  • According to my very inital plan, when mapping the body and you will find out in Structural Body Paramap, I had the idea of the performer's real skin also showing from within certain holes in the costume, an aspect which I lost when making the Bodice Based Pattern.
  • When I tried the movements I wanted to include in the performance of Dar À Luz, both trying out the Vynil Bioflaskin and in the movement experimentation I did with the Big Alginate Sheet (that can be seen on The Making of Dar À Luz), I realised that having one entire piece my movements would be very restricted as per detaching the hips' movement from the torso's.

I then remembered a dress I own that would be ideal to give the freedom of movement needed and show some real skin as a base for the algdress' pattern:

dress pictures

Based on this dress I traced it's patterns and adapted them to having a more closed neck, with wider shoulders, initally not having any seems on the top part, only the one connecting to the skirt and the closure on that back, that I would use lacing for. I also adjusted the skirt length to give it the effect I wanted it to have, a shorter frontal length on the right leg, a longer one on the left, even longer central back lenghths. Lastly, I took out the seem on the centre back, leaving the back of the top and bottom completely separate:

Patterns Algdress Gabriela Lotaif

When I place the patterns on my Big Alginate Sheet, I was quite desperate at first as I had not as much space as I had thought I would and I had no more acess to alginate, since Spain was still on complete lockdown due to the COVID19 and the delivery systems would not transport the alginate to me due to its content (I don't know, they must have thought I was making very dodgy things).

I had to add both a shoulder seem and a lateral one to my top in order to fit all of the dress in my sheet. I had also not the abilty of positioning the seems strategically on the strongest bits (with more fibres embbeded) as I wish I had been, which made me have certain weak spots that I sorted by adding the very little strong remainings of my sheet to its back, sewing both carefullly. Not ideal, but it solved my issue fo rthe time-being.

I had also to add an improvised bias from the remainings of my Big Alginate Sheet on the back cuts of my top in order to be able to punch holes through it for the laces to go through. Luckily, I had hemp lacing at home, so I used it.

Had I had my ideal production in this case, I would have made each piece's frame's cut on the lazer cutter (with enough margin for shrinkage) from the base fabric and poured my alginate in separate bits, being able to manipulate the position of my fibres to my bennefit.


When it come to the frontal opening for the Bioflaskin I had spoken to Anastasia and Cecilia about a few options and they gave me some tips on how to make a pocket for the Bioflaskin to go into (thanks ladies).

My silly initial thought was to sew the bioflaskin to the dress, that's why I made the tests with fibres on the outside for my inflatables. This was not a good idea for two reasons:

  • These inflatables were made with the washable fabric, which created holes in the top layer of alginate because when disappearing it would break the recently-sprayed membrane
  • I had to be able to take out the Bioflaskin and potentially throw it away considering that it would be inflated with the Bacteriquid and that the bacteria may like the alginate bag a bit too much, feeding from it and becoming a bio-hazard.

I thought of a way to make the pocketting:

  1. Cut a base fabric that will be behing the bioflaskin, holding it.
  2. On the outside pattern of the dress make a cut, leaving 1/2 cm margin that would hold the Bioflaskin all around
  3. Sew the two together, with 3 mm distance from the pattern of the BVioflaskin once dry.

I then tested out how to make these pockets, first with calico and the Bioflaskin initial pattern:

calico pockets initial Gabriela Lotaif

Then, once I had the Final Bioflaskin and it's pattern, I made another calico test in order no to cut directly my only Big Alginate sheet cutted patterns:

calico pocktes final pattern gabriela Lotaif

I had to adapt its shape slightly, but finally made the pocketing on my final algdress:

pocketing algdress Gabriela Lotaif

I also added to it a small strap on the seem between the top and bottom, this strap could be taken out and buttoned back in, I used transparent plastic poppers for it, the only ones I had:

strap with poppers Gabriela Lotaif

I used actual fabric for the back of the pocketing for two reasons (and I was lucky to find a good-enough-coloured one in my fabric scraps at home):

  • I had no more alginate to make it out of
  • I wanted it to be very strong and to give the small seem between the top and bottom some stability


Final Algdress Gabriela Lotaif

Final Algdress 2 Gabriela Lotaif

I Spent more than usual sewingv the Final Algdress, just to make sure everything was fine with the alginate, it's very important to be EXTRA EXTRA careful handling it. (And I am not the most delicate human being on earth)

algdress patterns

Algdress in the making Gabriela Lotaif

I love the fact that the algdress's alginate, even after many days from when it was made, was still seating while I was cutting the pattern on it, with the paper patterns pinned to it, it made think that I really had made a biomaterial skin:

Sweaty alginate skin Gabriela Lotaif



My idea is to also scan all my patterns and create a Open Source Rhino File with them.