Thursday, November 28, 2013

LED Dress

About six months ago my Sister told me that she was going to a Taylor Swift concert and that she would love me to make her an LED enhanced outfit to wear. Taylor specifically asks her fans to get out their glowwy things such as cellphones so I took this as an opportunity shine... Ahem.

A quick check of the conditions of entry didn't say anything against going to concerts covered in red LEDs.

Skip to the middle if you just want to see the final result.
What could possibly go wrong?

Having done this kinda thing in the past I was only too keen to do something similar. As she is sometimes wheelchair bound due to having dysautonomia I decided that her wheelchair had to feature in the outfit too.

She had a red cocktail dress that was to be the basis of the creation. We ordered some cheap waterproof red LED strips, and LED controllers from eBay along with a rather chunky LiFePo4 RC flight battery from Hobbyking.

Battery, Power
electronics and controller.

The battery is 19.8V and 4.5A/h and I use a switchmode buck converter to supply a constant 12V dc to the LED controller.

LED Controller: $4.80 from eBay, Bargain.

Sudden realisation as to
how much of my hair
has fallen out recently.
At the end of my most recent contract with VUW I organised to make a trip up to my sister's place and begin creating...

 I measured out the the strips to fit the bodice and the skirt. Mum then stitched the strips on with invisible thread.

Ready for wiring.
I then began the rather painstaking task of stripping and soldering some 22 joints to each of the LED strips. The strips are just paralleled LEDs, that is they all glow at the same brightness.

Due to using hot glue to reinforce all of the joints, I made doubly sure to test every joint and avoid nasty dark strip surprises later. The dress is impressively bright with all the strips running on 12V (about 25W)

With the strips all wired it was time to test...

25% power.
100% power.

It would be rude to not do any light painting with a creation capable of such ludicrous luminous flux, the results are rather breathtaking.

Battery Belt:
Sketch of the net for the pouch.
Needing a place for the rather large battery and the electronics to live I set about measuring everything up and devising a "net" or pattern for the battery pouch. The design is a basic "cereal box" with a lid that's held down by velcro. The sketch roughly shows the dimensions with a 10mm seam allowance around the edges.
Not everyone uses vernier calipers for sewing projects.

I then transferred the sketch to the fabric stiffened with iron on interfacing. Then cut out all the notches which give the corners clearance.

It's red on the other side.

After a bit of fun with the sewing machine the pouch was done. I made a velcro belt from the same fabric.

Battery pouch with electronics hidden inside.

Update Friday 29th November: I have received an email from the touring company and they are going to allow the dress at the concert! Thank you Frontier Touring!
Update Monday 2nd of December: My sister got into the concert with no trouble at all and had a great time :D

Patiently waiting for the doors to open.


  1. Patrick Herd - my son and my HERO!

  2. that was an awesome thing to do for your sister

  3. Woah dude, cool dress, am not usually one for women fashion (as am a guy, and all) but that is pretty sweet. I especially like the second picture where she's in the dark, really adds to the effect :)

    Also like the way you hid the of circuitry of the project, very smart.

  4. why would they won't allow a glowing dress in the concert ?

  5. Does your sister change wheel chair color according to the dress she wear? Just joking:) Great job!

    1. If such a time comes I will fit the chair with RGB LEDs :)