Solar clothing has a way to go

Photo: www.selectsolar.co.uk

Mostly are just prototypes or like the Triumph bra and panties set, not very practical.Mostly are just prototypes or like the Triumph bra and panties set, not very practical. But clothing powered by the sun is about to hit the fashion market. There are just a few bugs to iron out.

Using sunlight
Solar clothing use flexible solar panels incorporated into the arms, legs or backs of jackets and trousers, converting sunlight into energy that can power all handheld devices. It's a great way to get rid of disposable batteries and always have a charged cell phone.

Cleaning a problem
The biggest drawback is that solar clothing market doesn't have any high profile designers so the clothing is well, a bit dowdy. It also can't be washed since solar cells don't like all that agitating, soap and water. You also need a good, steady supply of sunlight, which is why the Triumph bra and panty isn't going to be a big seller -- you can't wear any clothing overtop.

For the beach
Solar swimwear looks promising. The now famous Solar Bikini, first created by Andrew Schneider, is become the signature piece in the iDrink swimwear line. The bathing suit has photovoltaic film strips sewn and is designed to power an iPod. Schneider is also developing solar swimming trunks that will cool a single beer via solar energy. There are no plans yet to sell the line in any retail stores.

Practical offering
The most promising of the solar clothing currently available is the Solar Scottevest Finetex (SeV) jacket. Scottevest is already on the trendy list for chic travellers but is can now be turned solar via the removable back panel with solar cells about the size of a deck of cards. It's capable of powering most portable devices while you wear the jacket or you can take out the solar panel and use it separately. There are several different styles for both men and women or you can buy the solar panel separately in case you want to upgrade your jacket later on. Of all the solar clothing this is the most stylish offering so far.

Head gear not to impress
There are some solar powered hats and caps available as well -- most are seriously geeky looking. The best of the bunch is the 2C Solar Light Cap. This classic baseball cap has built in solar panels in the brim powering LED bulbs that shine about two metres ahead of you when it's dark outside. It's actually won a few design awards. Since the company is based in New Zealand, distribution is limited but they do sell the caps online.

Solarworks has its Solar Power Cool Cap with a built in fan. It's not going to win any design awards. Its Safari Hat is a bit tiny bit more stylish but could hardly be considered chic. Both hats have lightweight solar panel is on the top that powers the fan at the front of the hat. At least there is an on/off switch and the fan is silent.

Equally unfashionable are the baseball caps and bamboo garden hat from Select Solar. Its baseball cap comes in several bright primary colours as if it didn't already stand out enough. The ladies hat does have its fan offset by some fake flowers. You would have suffer from a seriously hot head to wear one of these. On the up side, the hotter your head, the faster the fan blows.

Maybe someone will upgrade the technology into something practical and fashionable. Let's see what 2009 brings.

Anne Colvey