Taking the subway during rush hour can be a harrowing experience. Confronted by a lack of personal space, Hong Kong-based artist Kathleen McDermott has crafted a mechanical dress that aims to artificially create a little breathing room for its wearer. The Personal Space Dress is an electronic garment that utilizes proximity sensors to detect when a fellow citizen stands too close. Upon identifying a nearby individual, the dress expands its hem using a repurposed umbrella mechanism, creating a barrier between its wearer and the personal space invader.

McDermott's creation is more of a statement than a product. It's part of a series of wearables called Urban Armor that explores ways women can take ownership over their personal space in public. Urban Armor seeks to challenge "the persistence of ideologies asserted at women in public space through advertising, architecture and socially normative behavior." So far, the series includes the Personal Space Dress, a scarf that automatically covers its wearer's face in response to pollution data, and a hat that shields its owner's identity from CCTV cameras. All three projects are open source and instructions on how to build your own are available from McDermott's website.