By Royal Approval…

by Wendy Sadler

An invite to Buckingham Palace doesn’t come along every day – but when it does, what’s a science communicator to wear?

I was humbled and excited to be honoured with an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday honours in June 2017 and on 1st February I will go and receive the medal at the palace. Apparently the dress code is “Day Dress (preferably with hat or fascinator), smart trouser suit or National Dress”.

Ruling out the Welsh National Dress on this occasion, I decided I should really try and come up with a unique outfit for this once in a lifetime day, and I started thinking about how I could design a science dress for the occasion. Googling ‘science dresses‘ brings up a surprising amount of options, but mostly around astronomy themes or dense with maths equations. My background and passion is the science of music so I really wanted something that would reflect that.

After ruling out the designers of the Katy Perry dress made of LED technology (slightly over budget) I was recommended to the online fabric site Spoonflower where you can create your own designs.

Oakley (8) and Maya (6) recording the sound wave for the dress fabric

The fabric of science

Now all I needed was a way to create something suitable for the fabric. I looked around for a programme that would turn sound waves into graphics and found the brilliant site which was so easy to play with and had options to customise the wave colour and background in any combination you wanted. Enlisting the loudest people I know (my two kids) I set about capturing the sound for the dress fabric. We experimented with shouting various things to see what the shapes looked like but settled on ‘science made simple‘ as the final phrase which looked pretty good.


The final link in the chain was the wonderful Debbie Syrop from SMS – an engineer with a talent for dress design. Debbie whipped up a dress to my required pattern in brilliantly fast time, and just 10 days later I arrived back in my office to find the amazing end result hanging from my door.

I don’t know that the Queen will notice the science theme of the dress, but it’s great to know no-one else can possibly turn up in the same dress! Watch this space for pics from the palace…

sms group shot with props smallWe are science made simple, a social enterprise who perform science, maths and engineering shows to schools, festivals and public audiences.

You can find out more about what we do, check out our exciting range of shows, or sign up to our newsletter to keep updated on what we are up to!

Posted in News, Science Communication
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