Picture of how to add EL wire to a coat or other garment
As a lighted costume designer, I get a lot of questions from people who want to know how to make their own EL wire costumes. I don't have time to help everyone individually, so I thought I'd consolidate my advice into one instructable. Hopefully this will help you understand the steps involved in this labor-intensive process, and get you started with your own lighted clothing projects.

Rather than describe how to make a single specific design, I am trying to make these instructions fairly general so you can create your own EL wire layout for almost any type of clothing, although many of my example photos refer to lighted coats. Also, since EL wire is very fragile in situations where it is flexed repeatedly, a lot of these tips will focus on methods for improving durability and getting the longest possible life out of the garment.

UPDATE: I never intended this to be a tutorial for copying other people's work, but it seems that some clarification might be useful. It's great to be inspired, but I'd like to encourage this community to take things a step further and use these techniques to create their own original designs.
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Step 1: List of materials

Picture of list of materials
piece of clothing to light up (see guidelines in that step)

sewing supplies:
needle, clear thread, scissors

EL wire (can be a single color or a mix of colors)
EL wire driver/inverter matched to the total length of glowing wire used in the design
battery holder and switch (if not included with driver)

If you are soldering:
soldering iron
wire strippers
wire cutters
heat-shrink tubing, heat gun

glue, pins, clamps
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AdricT18 days ago

When you plan on using multiple wires, is it better to connect them in series or in parallel? More specifically if you connect too many wires in parallel, would "bad" things happen?

davidbarcomb4 months ago

Nice work.

KateM34 months ago

Cosplay is a HUGE hobby that takes a lot of work, so you have to expect that people would be looking up this tutorial for it. And here, it kind of feels like you're attacking it.

ClarinetChick4 months ago

You say not to use thin material, but could I use these with Lame? And with the fabric being pleated and moving very flowingly.


OliverG5 months ago
VegetarianD5 months ago


how much does eL wire cost, or the whole project?

EL wire is $2.95 for one meter and a 3V driver circuit on Ebay.

it's free shipping but will take two to three weeks to arrive.

Hope this helps! :)

Gdurkan6 months ago

how did you attach the wires to the bike helmet?

alanm101 year ago

Inside the jacket did you leave the EL wire until the next arrangement outside the jacket, or did you use another wire to save EL? and if so how did you solder those wires?

meowsugar2 years ago
I'm making a dance costume. The lights will not be out. It will be bright. We need words on the costume to "glow". I have had no experience with this process. Your comments have been very helpful. One question, will these lights show up under regular lighting? Any advice will be helpful. Thanks


We also use elwire in our dance costumes. Consider using a black light on stage.

Greggb8533 made it!1 year ago

Best instructable, I made it and it looks awesome. I spent $10 on sweatshirt, $20 for wire and $10 for the converter, both at Radioshack,. $5 on thread and needles. $5 on batteries. Totaling $50 in all.

criggs-14 years ago
This is really cool, but how do you connect the wires to the battery pack? And where would a good place to find a cheap one be?

Any help would be much appreciated :)
The battery pack has a female connection to it and the wires usually have a male clip which makes it super easy to work with.
And IDK if this is cheap for you but check out they have everything
gomas2112 years ago
Please answer fast!.........

i want to create some costumes but do i need some sort of battery or charger or can you wash the cloth please answer fast
You need an inverter which runs a specific amount of EL wire. Although to wash it I think you may need to take the whole light out.

I found that these people helped me when I was making my costume
lworrall2 years ago
How loud is the high pitch noise you mention please?
noctividus2 years ago
Just curious...who exactly owns the patent for what?
sheldon59922 years ago
though this is really cool. you cant sell it with out aquiring a licesnce from the patent holder or you are liable to get suied. trust me just got in a lot of troble recently. DO NOT PLAN TO SELL THIS CLOTHING!
and trust me to that it is highly expesnsive court cost then all the other crap thats involved. got forced into a stick licensing agreement and royalties are high.
CodySteed2 years ago
This is a Great tutorial. I use clear thread in my sewing machine and use a wide zig-zag stitch on top of the el-wire to hold it down. This works AWESOME!

You have to go a little slowly until you get the hang of it. I use a foot for my singer which is designed for "Piping" so it has a thin side (for the el-wire) and a wide side to hold the material down. I have done dozens of garments this way, and it is really great!

Thanks Janet. Great stuff. Exciting to see how many performers wear your creations.

Let me add my $0.05 worth:

Most vendors sell a small elwire inverter that drives up to 30 ft. of wire. It has a 9 volt battery inside its enclosure. In my opinion, this is by far the best inverter for costumes.

Unless you enjoy doing it, I recommend you have the vendor solder your elwire for you. I believe it costs like $2.50 or $5 per wire. Two vendors who do this are and They provide good telephone customer support.

This instructable mentions wire management and battery pockets AFTER attaching the wire. I recommend STARTING with finding a home for the inverter & battery, and laying out your elwire from there. At this point I cut some yarn the length of the elwire, and lay out some drafts to figure out my design. I keep the yarn in place with masking tape - thats the blue stuff for painting.

This instructable shows a whip stitch is used to attach elwire to clothing. In my experience, a blanket stitch ties elwire tighter to the garment. That is more secure and makes the elwire less vulnerable. What I'm saying is loop back around each stitch to really tie down. This demonstrates a blanket stitch: Also, for a light weight garment, invisible thread is strong enough.

It can be hard to tie down elwire's slippery end. If you secure it by its heat shrink or vinyl cap, it may pop out. Also, you may not want to poke a hole in the garment for the elwire end. I have solved this by glueing on a jewelry "finding". I get these from the Toho Shoji bead store in New York City's Garment District. Its a bit tricky because you have to avoid an electrical "short" with the metal finding. Super glue is strong enough in a few minutes, but not waterproof. E6000 is best but has to dry overnight. Hot glue, fabric glue and epoxy don't adhere well enough to elwire's vinyl jacket. They may work on a solid object, but not a flexing costume, or keep the wire in a finding.
moh32 years ago
do u have a video to follow of making the motorcycle jacket with el wire

Where would you suggest to put the inverter on a bra?
This instructable is very helpful, thank you for posting it! One question, how do you clean garments with EL installed, or do you just remove the wire for washing?
enlighted (author)  MadScientistK5 years ago
I typically recommend spot cleaning only for garments with permanently installed EL wire. If you disconnect the batteries, and the ends of the wire are very well sealed, you may be able to submerge it briefly to hand wash it. When water leaks into the internal portion of the wire it will damage the phosphor and it won't glow anymore. I've heard stories of people throwing it in the washing machine, and having it work afterwards, but you risk mechanical damage from the tumbling, too.
What about dry cleaning?
Thank you so much! I thought that would be the case.
where can you get EL wire for around $.50 per foot or cheaper?
please send links thx.

9.8 Feet for 5 bucks (60cent shipping) assorted colors, best deal I've seen around yet--------------------------->
ZeshanAli6 years ago
I'm trying to make a jacket with around 200 ft of 3 different colors of el wire and I was wondering what kind of driver or sequencer you used on your leather motorcycle jacket with el wires? I'm trying to make the wires on the jacket have a similar chasing effect as yours did. And would it be possible to find a sound activated driver for around that that length as well? Thanks =]
enlighted (author)  ZeshanAli6 years ago
I used my own custom sequencer for that pattern. I don't sell my sequencers or other EL supplies - it would be best to direct these questions to an EL dealer (there are many listed in the comments on this site).
I find it very interesting and I like to make the costumes but not to buy the cable EL, can you tell me where I can get the materials? or some other name to be known?
zozoyencken3 years ago
What happens when it rains?
Should be fine as long as connections are sound and protected as wire is coated with coloured plastic to give the colour to the light.
glowgobear3 years ago
Eddy Dean3 years ago
Looks great, BUT, can this be washed?
jfarron3 years ago
I want to do a "daft bodies" thing for a school function...would it be possible to use EL wire to write words on different places on the jacket and pants? Thank you for your time!
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