Programmable Light Up Matrix Dress

4,821

30

14

Introduction: Programmable Light Up Matrix Dress

About: I love making inventions with electronics, like light up dresses and automated vertical gardens

Ever wanted a light up dress, I certainly have!

This skirt consists of a light up underskirt, with power banks velcroed to your legs, and a regular dress over the top.

After searching all over the internet for a tutorial, I realised there wasn't much on light up dresses. So here is my attempt at making one :)

Despite being terrible at sewing, I had so much fun making this project and wear it to all kinds of things, whether it is tech events, awards, or when I am teaching kids about electronics.

There is a lot of potential to integrate sensors, utalise the matrix to print pictures/words, or chose patterns from an app on your phone.

I am currently working on the second version of the dress using Bluetooth and a phone app.

Teacher Notes

Teachers! Did you use this instructable in your classroom?
Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.

Step 1: Materials

I chose to cut up my RGB strip into separate LEDs and solder them together with wire so I could space them out further and use less LEDs. However this was quite problematic because the wires kept snapping off some of the LEDs when I sat down and I had heaps of issues with the data wire connection, so it will be easier to use a heap of vertical strips and wire the ends together (which I will be doing for my second version of the dress.

I'd also recommend using the silicon covered strips to limit bending of the strips because this can easily break the series circuit.

You will need:

- addressable LED strip (if not chopping up the LEDs then silicon covered are ideal)

- wire (lots of it if you are choosing to cut up the LEDs)

- solder and soldering iron

- mesh fabric used for structure in tutus

- thread (For sewing LEDs onto skirt)

- stretchy elastic fabric (for the waist band of the under skirt)

- Arduino Uno (or some sort of arduino microcontroller with digital pins, 5V and ground)

- 2 power banks

- 2 USB cables (will be cut up)

- belt (that fits tightly around your waist)

- Fabric (to make battery holders)

- Velcro

And a flowy dress!

I chose to make one out of a satin material because I thought it dispersed the light of the LEDs well. I just took a small LED strip to the fabric store and held it under different fabrics with the mesh underneath. Honestly would have been easier to buy one, a flowy skirt is a must if you want to fit the light up underskirt underneath.

Step 2: Electrical Layout of Underskirt

I've done a rough diagram of the electrical layout of the skirt, and how it is split into 2 halves with the power packs. Notice I have one continuous data wire, but split the power between 2 battery packs.

From what I researched, it appeared that the max current able to be drawn from an arduino uno 5V pin is around 1A. I used 120 LEDS, and only 30 LEDS on full white drew a current of 0.96 A, so this clearly cannot be powered directly from the board, and we need external power supplies

If using a regulated 5V power supply (like I think the battery packs I am using are) then you can supply power to the board and the strips by connecting the 5V and ground to both the arduino and the strips. Connecting it via USB to the battery pack will provide 5V, which is shown in the second picture where I cut a USB cable to access the ground and 5V wires from the battery (the orange wires being 5V, and the yellow wires being ground). As long as my current output didn't exceed the current output of the battery pack, I think it was ok.

To connect the separate strips together I'd recommend connecting halved jumper wires to make it easy to interchange broken LEDS and for easy soldering

Note:

Please consult someone who specialises in power before starting this project, as I am not confident in my knowledge on power supplies. Whatever I am doing worked, because nothing went wrong, but please don't take that risk.

Step 3: Test First Half of Skirt

I decided to set up the first half of my LEDS (60 LEDS, one battery pack).

I created a underskirt using a stiff mesh fabric (to give the dress a bit of structure) and sewed the LEDS to it. Again, would really recommend using strips instead of cutting all of them up.

I'd recommend only download new programs with all the batteries unplugged. I connected the data pin of the 120 LED strip to Digital pin 6.

The first line of actual code is:

Adafruit_NeoPixel strip = Adafruit_NeoPixel(120, 6, NEO_GRB + NEO_KHZ800);

Which can be explained as:

Adafruit_NeoPixel strip = Adafruit_NeoPixel(numberOfLED, DataPin, NEO_GRB + NEO_KHZ800);

If you want to use only 60 LEDS, change the numberOfLED to 60 (instead of 120), and if using a different data pin, change DataPin to whatever pin you are using.

I've adapted the code from some Adafruit tutorials I was following a couple years ago, so experiement with some different patterns and colours!

Step 4: Set Up Whole Skirt

Connect the second battery back to the other half of LEDS, also grounding the power source to the arduino.

You can then adjust the program to do all the LEDS, and experiment around!

Step 5: Battery Pack Straps

This was the most problematic part of the whole dress.

I decided to create some battery holster packs to strap to my legs with velcro.

The first time the straps kept sliding down my legs, so I added a belt around my waist with straps to the battery packs to hold them up.

People found this the most amusing part of the dress :)

I then duct taped the arduino to one of the battery packs, adding extra duct tape on the pin connections to stop the wires coming out. Sometimes I put it in a zip lock to maybe protect the arduino from static but I really am not sure if that helps.

Step 6: Try on the Whole Dress!

And here we have the finished product! Faulty, but it still works :)

I am currently working on a second version that will be a lot less problematic and more sturdy - using a hoop skirt! I will also document the process a lot more along the way.

I am incorporating bluetooth, so I can control it from my phone via an app I am making, and respond to changes in the sensors on board the phone.

Please leave me some feedback so I can figure out how I can improve my future instructables!

Wearables Contest

Second Prize in the
Wearables Contest

Be the First to Share

    Recommendations

    • Tiny Speed Challenge

      Tiny Speed Challenge
    • Clocks Contest

      Clocks Contest
    • PCB Design Challenge

      PCB Design Challenge

    14 Discussions

    0
    Alex in NZ
    Alex in NZ

    18 days ago

    Congratulations on a beautiful result! Well done, and thank you for sharing your work :-)

    0
    MithilR
    MithilR

    21 days ago

    This is a fire hazard, proceed with caution.

    0
    Jaychouu
    Jaychouu

    22 days ago

    Beautiful! I want it.

    0
    valenciarobotics
    valenciarobotics

    23 days ago

    :) this made me feel wholesome. I respect the effort you put in! I think you have an amazing instructable here, but if you want some ideas.... you could use a tilt sensor to have the patterns change when you twirl around. you could use a heat sensor to have it change based on temperatures so like, if you are dancing it will probably be hotter, but if you go outside it might be cold, and it would automatically change on those ques... you have a great tutorial here tho kudos!

    0
    jewelsmythe
    jewelsmythe

    25 days ago

    very cool. for your next one, i'd suggest putting motion sensors on the skirt itself and have the light pattern swirl with changes in position.

    1
    CaptClaude
    CaptClaude

    4 weeks ago

    Boom.
    I think you have this figured out and are well on your way. Catching the "Everything is Better with LEDs" bug is a good thing. Well done and keep up the good work.
    Wait: One suggestion -- use an Adafruit dev board and post your project so they see it. They might just Tweet it and you will get some exposure!
    Also: I have less fear of LiIon batteries (as in "power banks") than others who have previously commented. The incidence of LiIon battery self-ignition is really vanishingly small and as long as you don't drive a nail through them, buy the absolute cheapest you can find in a market in China, or scavenge them from an off-brand hoverboard, you'll be OK. Pouches, not straps is a good idea, no need to choke off the blood to your feet for the Sake of your Art.
    I have a faux fur coat with LED underlay on the back burner and this might just inspire me to move forward with it. Search for "LED VEST - FIRE ANIMATION" and "LED VEST - GENERATIVE PLASMA" on Vimeo to see what I have in mind.
    One more thing: check out the FastLED library -- it's a) very fast; b) very well supported; and c) has a huge, highly supportive user base (there is a reddit group you should join for inspiration, as have I). You can get effects like the ones in the videos mentioned above with FastLED.

    0
    R ToddS
    R ToddS

    4 weeks ago

    Hi, very cool. I think if I had the option of wearing a skirt with lights on it, I might opt to use a pair of shorts underneath in lieu of the straps, and then as suggested, use a fanny pack or a velcro'd on pocket to put the battery pack in, just in case it needed to be ripped off quickly. If you use a skirt, the shorts and skirt could be hemmed together at the top. Now, what about making the vertical sections part of a wrap around 10 band LED bargraph and respond to sound when you're at a dance club!!!?

    0
    mikaylas123
    mikaylas123

    Reply 4 weeks ago

    I'm definitely getting onto that idea, that would be so awesome!
    I am also looking into programmes being triggered by certain values and change rates on accelerometers.

    0
    caitlinsdad
    caitlinsdad

    4 weeks ago

    That's fantastic! Welcome to the world of wearables. As you get better with programming you will see the endless possibilities of animating the lights for special effects.
    Although the "thigh-pack" batteries are amusing, not to airport security, note that LiPo battery packs can be hazardous if damaged or shorted out where they heat up and may explode. Do make a fanny pack or move it to a pocket sewn on the dress where you can easily get to it when things go wrong.
    Do browse through my list of instructables or look through the adafruit.com blog and learn tutorial section to get more ideas on what you can do with wearables, make something and share. Spread the fun and joy of wearables.
    I always recommend a fiberfill batting layer to diffuse the LED strips and you do have to really cover in hot glue or caulk the wire connections to the strips for strain relief, considering not too much heat was applied in soldering to weaken the pad on the strip...so much fun. Ask if you've got any questions. Happy to help! Good luck in the contest!

    0
    mikaylas123
    mikaylas123

    Reply 4 weeks ago

    Thank you so much for the feedback! Yes I always have been concerned about the batteries and am looking into finding a safer configuration for the next dress. I am using power banks used to charge phones, so I am hoping it does have some safety precautions, but yes the wrong circuit can make things go wrong very fast! I would really appreciate some advice as I build the second version of my dress :)

    0
    OculumForamen
    OculumForamen

    4 weeks ago

    Respect! This is a seriously cool gadget. However, I have to agree with caitlinsdad's comment about the battery. You really don't want the electronics strapped to your legs! In particular, the Lipo battery. Those things are seriously volatile and would do a catastrophic amount of damage to your thighs in no time at all, truly a matter of a second or two, and the heat is well above what a human can tolerate. Cute as it is, please relocate your electronics to a pouch or fanny pack with quick connectors that you can yank out in case of a catastrophic battery failure, and be able to move away from it without it being tethered to your body in any way. Seeing them strapped to your legs was truly amusing, but you don't want to be permanently scarred because of an electronics experiment gone bad. Keep up the good work and keep making, with every project you get better and better! Good luck in the contest!

    0
    Clitcat
    Clitcat

    4 weeks ago

    I'm a guy and I think your on to some thing there. Maybe a dress shirt/jacket?

    0
    Penolopy Bulnick
    Penolopy Bulnick

    4 weeks ago

    That is really neat! Anything that has rainbows is awesome to me!