This past summer, I4U reported on a jacket being developed by Pioneer. The arm of the jacket has an organic film electro-luminescent (translation: thin and flexible) display.
In a 2001 Taipei Times article, the fashion designer behind the jacket said, "You can't just bring together existing things like a coat and all the machines with adaptors, batteries, and so on ... You have to invent new products..." In another article she said that previous wearable-PC attempts have flopped because "computer engineers focused more on chips than hips." Wanting to move away from the connotations of wearable computers, she has coined the term "media fashion," which I actually haven't heard used anywhere else.
In her Masters thesis, Megan Galbraith from MIT makes a similar distinction between wearable computers and computational garment design. "Computational garment design concerns itself with the aesthetics of garments enhanced by technology or innovative materials with reactive properties. ... Wearable computing, on the other hand, is concerned with the functionality, robustness, and usability of the technology as it inhabits spaces on the body. ... Wearable computers tend to be considered a fashion faux pas."
It seems to me that the differences we currently perceive between engineering and fashion as they relate to wearable computing are just a byproduct of merging these two previously disparate fields. Still, will the terms by which we refer to wearable technology make a difference in the acceptance and adoption of new wearable products? Sounds like a research study in the making...
P.S. A Japanese technology professor in the Taipei Times article compared the idea of merging electronics and fashion with the shift in thinking that happened when people realized that the earth revolved around the sun. Hmmm. A little melodramatic?