Edwardian-inspired LED Dress
School is great and all but what really lights me up are personal projects. During my freshman year, which was 2020, I heard about an event that usually happens in my dorm called 'The Time Travelers Ball.' It's a dance/social but the catch is you have to dress from a different era. I, of course, got excited about it and started thinking about possible outfits.
I'm not a huge entertainment person but I love watching YouTube videos of people doing cool projects. Somewhere along the line I stumbled across a maker who had created a motion-sensing LED skirt and that got me excited. I also got into historical fashion and watched far too many videos of cool, history-inspired outfits. In the fall of 2021, those two ideas came together as I started dreaming up this outfit for the Ball.
I knew this was going to be a big project from the outset but it was a fantastic combination of many of my interests and skills: sewing, electronics, coding, design and more. Plus, it was a great way to apply some of the skills I was learning in class to something more real!
The Creation Process
I started by finding a pattern for the kind of style I liked as a starting point. I was going for a 'confused time traveler' so I decided that I wanted the shape to be Edwardian, the construction and materials modern and the LED futuristic. Using the pattern as a rough starting point, I started designing.
Then it was time to shop. I did my best to buy any materials that I could second hand. Most of the fabric was bought at art thrift stores and the base shirt, lace and buttons where also found in thrift stores.
The pattern for the jacket ended up not fitting well so I drafted a similar pattern from scratch. Most of the sewing was done over winter break. Quite refreshing after staring at screens for a semester. Then I began on the LEDs.
I used a QT Py RP2040 from adafruit as the brains of the outfit. It has a tiny footprint and was surprisingly powerful for what I needed. The code was written in micro-python using basic NEO-pixel libraries and manipulating matrices of RGB values.
What good project is ever really finished? I have already started improving the control system by building out a circuit board for the system to bundle the micro controller and 4 buttons together. Then I designed and 3D printed a case for it. There will always been more to be done with the code as the possibilities are nearly infinite for adding more patterns and improving the architecture. I would love to add some interactive elements to it with potential motion sensors or a microphone as well.