Introduction: Fire Skirt!

Picture of Fire Skirt!

Wear your own special effects! Learn a glow-in-the-dark clothing technique that mimics the look of fire, using electroluminescent (EL) wire and a combination of reflective and transparent fabrics.

The main function of this dress is for safety and visibility in dark environments, but also it is functional if you love fire and want to look like it. The fire skirt design functionality was inspired by the chaotic, beautiful, intense environment found at outdoor-night-time events: while wearing this skirt, my friends can find me, no one will run into me with a bike or art-vehicle, and it illuminates nearby objects as I walk, making it easy to avoid tent stakes, cacti, or who-knows-what. The dress is visible from all sides, the pattern affords the freedom of movement necessary for walking and dancing, and it has a fiery look that contributes to the party deco.

This demo is based on a presentation about the dress pattern and process from Maker Faire 2007. The presentation was recorded and posted by ArtFuture on the ArtFuture YouTube Group, in 9 segments: here are the videos, with notes, pictures and links... thanks to instructables for providing a good venue for making the presentation & videos complete.

Featured in ELLE Argentina - Agosto 2007,
and Elle Decor Italia - Novembre 2008.

Available through

Step 1: Part 1: Overview and Materials:

Picture of Part 1: Overview and Materials:
Materials: (approx. $70-80 cost... get the good fabric!)
2.5 yards satin fabric (gold)
2.5 yards chiffon fabric (maroon or wine-color)
20 feet electroluminescent wire (aka "EL wire" or "LYTEC")
EL wire power supply & driver
~12" x 1" Elastic
Electrical tape or heat shrink tubing
Soldering supplies

The dress is based on an A-line skirt pattern; a cone-shaped skirt that bunches with gravity and creates organic-looking folds. It has 2 layers: a shiny satin layer underneath, and a translucent chiffon layer on top. The shiny satin layer is adorned with decorative flames shaped in electroluminescent wire: a battery-powered, plastic-coated wire that emits light for a glow-in-the-dark effect.

The pattern and materials work together to soften the hard lines of the EL wire, and to create a fiery animated effect when the dress is "walked": the gold satin reflects the electroluminescence, and the contrasting maroon chiffon overlay creates a range of light intensity as it floats closer and further away from the satin and EL wire.

This A-line skirt pattern is very simple: a cone-shaped floor-length skirt that flares out from the waist at about a 25-30 degree angle. For this dress, I make two layers with the same pattern. The inner satin layer is floor-length, and the outer chiffon layer is about 5" above the floor.
(* i make my own pattern, according to my measurements - the top of this pattern is an empire-waisted halter, but any top can work - it's the skirt shape that is important).

Here are a couple of patterns that could work:
(lengthen inner layer to floor length. heels not recommended.)
Vogue V7857
Simplicity 4087

see larger video

Step 2: Shaping the Wire

Picture of Shaping the Wire
Make sure the wire is not on any areas of the garment that will receive a lot of friction or action, such as the seat or joints.

The wire cannot be bent at sharp angles, so your design needs to be based on curves and loops.
The smallest curve it affords is that of a pencil circumference.

For this design, I used small loops for the "points" of the flames.

see larger video

Step 3: Sewing the Wire to the Fabric

Picture of Sewing the Wire to the Fabric
Place the wire on the shiny satin fabric, and tape it down with masking tape into the shape that you want. Stitch the wire to the satin loosely, leaving about a centimeter in between each stitch. The loose stitching will protect the wire as you move around, leaving some room so the wire doesn't get forced into any sharp angles.

see larger video

Step 4: Supporting the Power Supply, Making Electrical Connections

Picture of Supporting the Power Supply, Making Electrical Connections
The power supply is attached to an elastic garter that is worn below the knee, allowing for freedom of movement and support for the power supply and batteries. Make sure to leave a short length of cord between the garter and the skirt so that it won't pull the wire when you walk.

Strip away the plastic coating at the end of the EL wire, and you will see one main thick wire that runs down the center, and two very thin wires that stick out around the side. The thin wires are fragile, so it is recommended to anchor them to a small piece of copper tape wrapped around the coated part of the wire.

Tutorials for preparing & connecting EL wire:
EL wire soldering tutorial from Cool Light West
MakeZine: Glowing Wearable Blinky-Light

see larger video

Step 5: Preparing and Connecting the Wires

Picture of Preparing and Connecting the Wires
The center wire has a phosphor coating around it; strip off the coating with wire strippers or scrape it off with a blade.

Attach the stripped center wire to one of the power supply leads (it doesn't matter which one).

Attach the other wire to the copper tape and thin wires.

Tutorials for preparing & connecting EL wire:
EL wire soldering tutorial from Cool Light West
MakeZine: Glowing Wearable Blinky-Light

see larger video

Solder the wires together, making sure that the two connections don't touch; (you can put a piece of electrical tape between the two if necessary).

Put a piece of heat-shrink tubing over it to keep the connections together and keep the wires from catching on the inside of the dress. Shrink the tubing with a heat gun, a hair dryer, or a flame.

Seal the other end of the wire too - you can use more heat-shrink tubing, or a drop of glue.

see larger video

Step 6: Questions: EL Wire Safety, Dress Seams, Other Glow Artworks

Picture of Questions: EL Wire Safety, Dress Seams, Other Glow Artworks
Safety concerns:
the wire is electrical but not strong enough to damage you if it shocks you. Keep the connections sealed and dry. This is an electrical device, so I don't recommend wearing it all the time: use common sense.

I recommend designing your garment such that the EL wire ends near a seam - seams are a natural place for transitions in garments, and don't require any special sewing. Keep the stitches loose near the seams so that the EL wire can naturally change directions.

see larger video

Step 7: Questions: More About EL Wire & Other Glow Artworks

Picture of Questions: More About EL Wire & Other Glow Artworks
Where do you get the wire?
I get my wire and power supplies from You can order any length of electroluminescent wire.

How many feet of wire will I need?
This dress is made with approximately 20 feet of wire.

If I am designing a pattern beforehand, how do I measure it?
Draw your pattern on paper "actual size" and measure it with a string - place the string along the line and then measure the string with a measuring tape or ruler.

Is the wire available in diffrerent thicknesses?
Wire is available in different gauges ranging from 1.2mm to 5mm.
ELAM: manufacturer's specs

How much power does it need? What are the electronic specifications?
You will need a different power supply for different lengths of wire.
ELAM: manufacturer's specs
CoolNeon Drivers

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What is the history of the Fire Skirt?
I started making luminous artwork in 1997, studying Neon and Glassblowing arts.
I wanted to make a neon dress, but while I love the glow of neon, its fragile glass tubes would make the dress completely non-functional, so I looked into other alternatives, and found EL wire.

What other projects have you done?
One of my art missions is to create magic-realist objects: I've noticed that people respond in a particularly fond and comfortable way to art objects that belong in everyday life = clothing, furniture, cars, and software applications don't seem to intimidate people as easily as gallery art can.

Everyone loves the artwork that glows - there is something
very poetic and inspirational about the idea of illuminating the darkness.

See below for images of my other glow artwork,
or visit my website:
or my etsy shop:

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LunaLupinTonks (author)2011-10-21

Oh wow. I couple of weeks ago I was searching for ways to make clothing simulate fire so that I could make part of my Katniss costume. I didn't find anything, so I'm doing something different that I made up, but this looks great. So a suggestion to others: stuff like this is amazing for Katniss, the girl on fire :)

la (author)LunaLupinTonks2011-10-22

thanks for the note!
now i'm curious about this katniss...
i'm adding "the hunger games" to my reading list! :)

LunaLupinTonks (author)la2011-10-22

yesss! glad to inspire someone to read such a good book series :)

hunger games sucked. i didnt like it. the movie was dreadful and i couldnt even bare to rad the books.

dreadyjazz (author)2011-10-17

I'm sorry I think I accidently flagged this.... I meant to put it in my favorites but I didn't answer it why so hopefully it is incomplete. Sorry again.

AngelInTheNight (author)2010-11-14

How much do you think all of this will cost? I want to make one but I can't spend too much money right now. I love this skirt and I think you did a wonderful job!

la (author)AngelInTheNight2010-11-16

this project cost about $70.

much of the cost is the fabric - this design uses 3 yards each of satin and chiffon, and if you get the good stuff, it can be anywhere from $6-12 per yard.

you could likely cut down the cost by finding a used dress at a thrift shop, and adding the EL wire to it. I've noticed at thrift shops there always seems to be a huge selection of unloved bridesmaid dresses and cast-aside prom dresses, just waiting to be transformed into something more interesting... :)

AngelInTheNight (author)la2010-11-20

Thank you very much! I'm planning on doing this on the bottom of the prom dress. I think lights on clothes are amazing and if you have any more pictures of something like this please let me know!

hardhat444 (author)2009-07-19

did not give enough information

fade400 (author)2007-12-03

that necklace is AWSOME

vikk (author)fade4002009-04-30

it is... i wish there was an instructable for it. If anyone finds one message me pls

la (author)vikk2009-04-30

Thanks for the request, Im glad you like the neckclace!

I don't have the photos and steps for that necklace at this time,
however, I do have a Glow Beadwork Kit available at the Maker Shed:

It incorporates LEDs, beadwork, and fabric; and it could be sewn into a choker-style necklace... (or sewn onto whatever you want)...

susantabeura (author)2009-03-13

Any link for EL wire or where to get all these stuffs in India?

master-of-chaos (author)2007-10-15

even as a guy i think thats cool... it may have something to do with the ADOS (attention defecate... OOOH SHINY)

Deficit, dude. deficit.

he was too busy finding Shinies to see how it was spelled.

The spelling mistake makes it all the more hilarious...

la (author)incorrigible packrat2008-02-04

i like all the amusement a quirky typo can generate !!!

... (( i actually like the idea of "attention defecate disorder" - it implies that the attention is not simply absent, but that it is being expelled from the body and flushed away somewhere ))...

hmmm... could it work as a submission to Washington Post?
Washington Post "New Word Definitions"

n8man (author)la2008-06-22

ADD is where the person wants to be the center of attention, I think. I might be thinking off ADHD (Attention Deficite Hyperactive Disorder) but I think they close to the same thing. I know ADHD is where the person wants to be the center of attention.

reivahn (author)n8man2009-01-04

imho, ADD is when a person is having problems paying attention.. He shifts from one interest to another so quickly. ADHD is when a person cant pay attention and is hyperactive at the same time and most of the time his hyperactivity being the reason for his problem in paying attention.. =)

but i have "ADOS" attention deficit.. ooh shiny.. i love shiny objects.. LOL

master-of-chaos (author)n8man2008-06-22

No, it was a joke, ADD is where your attention doesn't stay on the same thing very well, I know, I usually do not want to be the center of attention, you are interpreting the words wrong

n8man (author)master-of-chaos2008-06-22

So I guess I was thinking of ADHD. I did get the joke though, I just felt like telling you guys that because I was bored.

master-of-chaos (author)n8man2008-06-22

ADHD is not like that either, ADHD is the same thing but the person also has a hyperactivity problem

n8man (author)n8man2008-06-22

I looked it up and I am right about them being close to the same thing and I gave a simplified definion.

fwjs28 (author)la2008-05-26

lol that would be so embarrising

incorrigible packrat (author)la2008-02-05

I thought it was phrased as an "ordure" , and a description of the results.

JellyWoo (author)2008-08-20

how do you wash this?

Neodudeman (author)2007-07-23

I just realized: How do you wash it?

la (author)Neodudeman2007-07-24




James (pseudo-geek) (author)la2007-09-02

OR take battery out, wash, dry, put battery back in.water doesnt hurt electronics if theres no power to it. (with the small exception of if it contains a capacitor)

but the thing is, the electroluminescent wire is very delicate. That's why she never bent it and only twisted, because the wire would break.

oooooo ok. but as far as electronics being sensetive to water, its mainly a myth; they are only damaged if they can rust or if the device has power to it.(and even with power to it, it has a chance of surviving)

Except sea water, right?

theres about as much danger of it ruining a gun. the only thing it can do it rust it and the salt can degrade it. the reason people panic is because theres a common myth that people think is law: water always ruins electronics. this is not always true. however, there is quite the risk of it ruining something that has power to it.

yah a common part of rc car motor break-in involves rnning it while it is submerged in water

thats a good test. most people think water ruins everything lol. really, most things we deem as "sensitive" wont be harmed by water at all.

Actually, Its minerals in the water that causes the problems. Even minute amounts can cause a short circuit. If you get it wet, make sure that its comletely dry, Ur best option would be to put the power supply on a connector so u can disconnect it. But keep in mind, soap can be Conductive, so can fabric softener. Its better to heed her advice and Spot clean, and not machine wash this apparatus.

Neodudeman (author)la2007-07-25

Cool Cool, ty ty.

Jeff Carr (author)2007-07-30

This is amazing! I'm building a couple of outfits from ideas you inspired with this. Just one question though. What diameter el wire did you use? I'm about to order, and I'm hoping that I'll be able to get away with 2.3 mm so I can use a buttoneer for attaching it to my outfit, as I'm not very skilled at sewing yet. (hopefully it will hold up to 40+ hours of dancing...)

la (author)Jeff Carr2007-07-30

This dress uses the standard gauge 2.3mm wire. I've noticed that the thicker wire is less flexible, so this gauge is good for something that is designed to move around. I think the buttoneer should work fine - (just be careful and remember that the wire shouldn't be bent at sharp angles) - let me know how it goes!

Jeff Carr (author)la2007-07-30

I will for sure. I'm putting together a couple instructables from my experiences. I'll have them up shortly after I'm finished. Thanks for the quick response, that really helps with my ordering material.

Aestheticxtattoos (author)2007-06-27

creative AND attractive!?...........Marry me? oh and sweet instructable, I assume its possible to make a "neon"-like sign right?

la (author)Aestheticxtattoos2007-06-29

no, but thanks for asking... creativity is a very attractive force. i wish you good luck finding a hot Etsy girl! to make a "neon-like" sign, I suggest attaching the EL wire to a shiny surface (mirrored plexiglas? wood spraypainted silver?) Reflective surfaces really intensify the light (whereas a dark surface will absorb the light...)

Aestheticxtattoos (author)la2007-07-25


Neodudeman (author)2007-07-22

omg. those poor jelly fish on pg7. =(

could this process be applied to jeans? I would like to sew some EL wire to the calf area of the jeans so that it would look cool while I break danced.

Would that be plausible?

la (author)Neodudeman2007-07-23

I think it would work fine for breakdancing. Because it will need to work upside-down and sideways, I recommend using a thicker, tailored strap around your leg to make sure the power supply doesn't move around. ps. don't worry, most of the jellyfish have found good homes. ;)

Neodudeman (author)la2007-07-23

Awesome! Thanks for the tip!

And it's good to hear about the jellyfish. =D

one_wolf (author)2007-07-04

For the sharp points, I was thinking you could cut the wire where you want the point, strip a small length off of each end, draw the stripped ends parallel, twist and then solder. A piece of heat shrink tubing over the bare ends would complete the point. You could also "chain" different colors this way, such as yellow for the bottom of the flame and red for the top. Another idea I had was to use "micro plugs" like those used on computer fans to connect the power supply to the EL wire. That way one power supply could be used for a number of different garments, as long as the wire lengths were similar. One last thing - you inspired me when you said that the EL wire was like a "gummi bracelet". I made two bracelets out of the wire each a different color for a friend. Then I got some long exposure photos of her dancing at the club. Very cool! Thanks for the idea!

la (author)one_wolf2007-07-04

definitely worth a try - it might make the dress more fragile - the wires are very fine and connections might get stressed with motion. (i dance a lot, so i tried to make it as tough as possible.) the multicolor pointy flames would work great on a surface that doesn't move around: a sign, a car, nunchaku....! The gummi bracelet sounds great - let me know when you have an instructable for it...!

one_wolf (author)la2007-07-12

I've made some points with the wire and tested it out. The soldered connection actually appears to be very strong. You have to put a stitch over the soldered connection and on each wire just below the joint. The same is true with the multi-colored wire. However, I can't get the joint small enough so there is a visible gap between the two colors. I've found some "frosted" shrink tube though, and I'm hoping that will diffuse the light enough to blend the two colors together. I'll let you know when I get it.

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