Michelle Vossen

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A hidden dialogue that takes place on fabric

This is a visual poetry project: a study about hiding messages, secrets and poems. It’s a project about taking time to discover a garment, a fabric, a person; a layered narrative. Methods I’m looking into are steganography and visual cryptography: using encryption and concealment. It gives a kind of tension to wear secret thoughts and frustrations on your skin; people have to make an effort to decipher those messages and that gives you a sense of vulnerable security.

One way of looking at this is as a project about communication between two people who know each other very well and how that communication can then be partially deciphered by others. It is about the contrast between personal communication - inside jokes, a shared symbol language - and external communication - how you present yourself, how you come across, but also what you choose to reveal about yourself. Another way is as wearing your own secrets on your sleeve, veiled one-way communication of messages that mean nothing at first glance.

Possibilities: technique overview

  • hiding messages and images/prints/symbols in a weave that only become visible once loose floating threads are removed/cut away
  • making use of elastic in jacquard knits to hide text > the elastic turns the fabric into a smocked fabric but when you stretch the fabric the message becomes legible / image becomes visible
  • making two embroidered lace fabrics that when positioned correctly on top of each other, reveal an image or text (visual cryptography)
  • this would also be possible with transparent fabrics and silk printing
  • creating pleated fabric that reveal a different message or image when the pleats are moved in different directions
  • using the concept of a grille (used in cryptography) to reveal multiple different messages when the grille is rotated (these could look like big sequins with holes in them, attached to the underlying fabric in the middle)
  • big sequins that reveal a message when stroked the other way
  • layering of monochrome images that al blend together into a different image but are all separate images themselves too > using color filters to look at the messages (steganography)
  • splitting one image into two or more parts, only visible when placed correctly on top of each other (visual cryptography; if this is possible with color images that would be even better)
  • two outfits that are each others key; creating dynamic garments hiding messages
  • two images in one folded panels > 1 message on 1 side, 1 on the other
  • grille can be used in a piece of clothing like a simple skirt on top of another skirt/trousers, you have to move around the upper skirt to decode the message; there could be multiple messages hidden.
  • looking at the piece via filters to see various meanings (RGB filters or pattern filters, think about those coins that you can flip like physical gifs > that would also be really cool to make)

Translation into concept

input > process > output

It’s about slowing down, not just posting stuff for a millisecond of anyone’s attention and a like based on an extremely fast impression and judgement. Every detail has a meaning and if you look for it you may actually find it. A garment or fragment of a garment is hyperpersonalized, catered towards the wearer.


The symbols are empty vessels, blank canvases that can be assigned a desired meaning. The symbols can be the key to decipher encrypted texts.

  • Visual cryptography for symbols and images
  • Steganography for hidden thoughts
  • Encryption for secrets