Introduction: Flame Effect Costume/Girl on Fire Dress

About: Costumer, crafter, all around geek learning from others and sharing what I can.

There are a lot of examples of fire effects out there, but none I found that were both A) realistic enough and B) appropriate for a mobile costume. So after a lot of research, I came up with this method.

If you're not familiar with Arduino or the Flora, please check out as many tutorials as you need to understand the process. This Ible won't go over every detail. Here are some great guides to get you started. I taught myself, so I know you can too!:

I used this project as a base and modified it to be wearable (mad props to the creator!):

I also used this one as inspiration:


Adafruit Industries NeoPixel Strip - 60 LED density
Adafruit Industries FLORA board
Wire and soldering tools
6mm craft foam
Sewing tools
Cotton or polyester batting - loose, not in sheet form
Hot glue or other adhesive
Lithium polymer battery or 3xAA battery pack with JST connector

Step 1: Prep the Materials

I made my project with a meter of lights, cut into 3 strips. The copper pads are tiny, so I cut them slightly off center to give me more room to solder. (Actually my friend Sidley did the soldering, because I'm terrible at it. :P)

You will also need a sheet of 6mm foam to mount everything to, if you don't want the lights to bend either on the horizontal or vertical plane. Think about your costume and where you'll place the lights. You might be okay mounting everything to sturdy fabric and letting the strips swing about. It's your choice!

You can also choose your battery and switch. I went with easy to find AAs, NOT rechargeable ones. 3 of them should give you 4.5v of power and at least an hour of time, probably more, but I didn't turn it on any longer than that. 3 AAAs will work too, but give you a lot less time. When my batteries went low, the animation would freeze and the lights all stayed on, so that is your indication you need to change them out.

If you have more lights than I did, you might want to go with something else entirely, which is discussed in the guides I posted in the intro, but anything under 5v with a JST connector should theoretically work, if you take into consideration the caveats in the guides.

I used the switch on my battery pack to turn the lights on and off, but you can use capacitive touch buttons, motion sensors to light it up when you twirl, etc. Arduino is cool!

Step 2: Assemble Your Materials

Everything should be designed so that the board is accessible, the battery pack is accessible, and things can be taken apart if need be (say, if a wire comes loose and needs resoldered, or you want to wash the costume).

Attach your wires to the pads on the board and the lights, using the guides in the intro and especially in the painting project I linked. Your project will probably be different from mine but I followed the painting wiring diagram closely, except I didn't use a diode or capacitive touch button.

Upload the code here: You will need to modify it for your number of lights. You can also change the color scheme to whatever you want for blue fire, green, etc.! I'm not a programmer so I may not have done the best job modifying it from the original, but it works. TEST TEST TEST your code works properly before moving on!

I sewed the strips right to the foam using a sturdy needle. I set the board inside the bag it came in and velcro'd that down to the foam. Then I hotglued down clumps of the batting over the strips. You can use other materials to diffuse the lights, like white faux fur, but that didn't work as well for me as the batting did. The batting creates more bulk, but I had enough room to accommodate it. The further you can get your final fabric away from the lights, the more diffused and realistic it will be. Finally, I hand sewed the foam to the skirt fabric, and velcro'd the front hem of the skirt to the back hem, so I could open it to access things easily.

Step 3: Get Creative!

I ended up taking the whole foam piece out of the skirt (remember what I said about things not being permanent?) and putting it in the stomach of a dress for a demon baby bride...thing. Luckily this Melisandre was available to light things up. What else can you do with it? I'd love to see!

Halloween Contest 2019

Participated in the
Halloween Contest 2019