- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 29, 2001

A shirt that irons itself and rolls up its own sleeves in hot weather has been developed by an Italian fashion house described in a science journal as being "tech-savvy."
"The sleeve fabric is programmed to shorten as soon as the room temperature becomes a few degrees hotter," Susan Clowes, spokeswoman for Corpo Nove, the shirt's developer, said in a report published in the journal New Scientist. Corpo Nove is based in Florence, Italy.
The secret is the shirt's fabric, which boasts "shape memory." This allows the garment to recall a shape to return to when heated to a pre-set temperature.
Besides converting a long-sleeved shirt into a short-sleeved version when the mercury rises, a blast of heat from a hairdryer or a hot-air vent also instantly changes the shirt from wrinkled to neatly pressed.
The shirt "pops back to its former shape even if the fabric is screwed up into a ball, pleated and creased," Miss Clowes said in New Scientist, a London-based weekly publication.
Corpo Nove's shirt is woven from nylon and fibers of an alloy known as nitinol. It's that alloy that gives the shirt's fabric its "shape memory."
Officials of Corpo Nove could not be reached for comment. But, in an interview Wednesday with the Times of London, Mauro Taliani, 43, of Milan, the shirt's designer, said he was spurred to produce it because his wife was fed up with doing his laundry.
"I started out wanting to do something great for humanity. But, of course, ironing is a nightmare in general, and wives always complain about men's shirts," Mr. Taliani told the newspaper.
Miss Clowes said the "memory metal shirt," which comes in only one color — metallic gray — can be ironed as it's being worn.
"It's a traveler's dream," she added.
However, the shirt is expensive. Corpo Nove says its prototype vestment cost around 2,500 pounds to produce. That's $3,570.78 in U.S. currency.
Mark Metzger, president of Highcliffe Clothiers Ltd., a custom shirt maker in Northwest Washington, said that, in 20 years, he's sold only one shirt that pricey.
"That was a cashmere shirt for $4,000," said Mr. Metzger, who described his company as "Washington's premier shirt maker." He said Highcliffe's cotton shirts range in price from $85 to $400.
Asked if he sees a market for the metal memory shirt, Mr. Metzger said not at his store. "It's a novelty, like an automatic sunroof," he said in an interview.
"My mainstay client isn't going to spend $3,500 for a shirt whose sleeves roll themselves up. In fact, in 20 years, no one has asked for a shirt with sleeves that roll themselves up," he added.
Mr. Metzger also makes it clear he's not particularly impressed by the claims that this shirt irons itself. "In theory, there are 'no-iron' shirts already on the market," he said.
"But your well-dressed man doesn't wear a shirt that doesn't need ironing. He thinks more elegantly. He doesn't have time for fads," Mr. Metzger said.
He also questioned the wisdom of limiting the shirt to one color: gray. "There's certainly a market for gray shirts. But gun-metal gray enhances city pallor. For people who work under fluorescent lights all day, gray makes them look pale."
In contrast, Mr. Metzger said, "A white shirt can reflect color" and tends to brighten up one's appearance.
In the New Scientist article, Miss Clowes points out the gray shirt "looks distinctly bronze-colored in some lights."
While certain he won't be stocking the metal memory shirt and recognizing most men can't afford it, Mr. Metzger does see one big opportunity for the space-age clothing item.
"As I said, it's a novel idea. Perhaps, Neiman Marcus will have the shirt in its Christmas catalog. It could promote it as the 'ultimate shirt that has sleeves that roll themselves up,'" he said.

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