The Andromeda Dress

The theme for my Halloween party in 2015 was “All of the lights” (inspiration song) and my interpretation took to the stars. More specifically- the Andromeda constellation!

 

Andromeda constellation

The Andromeda constellation traced out (head bottom right)

In the sky, this constellation is found near Cassiopeia (Andromeda’s mother) and Perseus (her husband/rescuer). While the story of “the chained woman” is not especially awesome from a feminist perspective, her stars are laid out in a way that pairs nicely with the human form! We also happened to have a spare “head” we were able to convert to a Medusa prop….

Supplies and tips

The final product consisted of space-themed leggings, a black dress, 15 NeoPixels sewn or soldered together (8 on a dress, 1 on head, 6 on arms), a FLORA micro-controller, and a battery pack (3 x AAA).

This costume was lots of fun to design, make, and program, but here are some tips for when you make your own:

  • Review the Adafruit tutorials for adding snaps to Flora and sewing with conductive thread.
  • Have extra snaps for extending your circuits to non-clothed areas like arms and head. These also allow for getting in and out of costume easily. (Be sure to consider how these affect your circuit paths).
  • Test for short circuits often, to prevent headaches later.
  • Get your base dress/outfit from a thrift store, it’s ok to “trash” it a little for the sake of an awesome costume, but you won’t feel as good about doing this to a brand new item. This also helps keep costs low. When finding the dress/outfit, think about how easy it will be to convert for use with electronics. Mine had a lining that was both easy to pull aside and also good for protecting all the conductive thread paths on the inside.
  • Don’t be afraid to make a pocket to stash Flora and batteries out of the way.
  • Sewing NeoPixels takes lots of time, though it is possible to speed up some steps with a sewing machine (I hand-sewed everything).
  • Flexible wire is good for arms and head…. I need to redo those sections of my dress since the wire I had on hand was a bit stiff and I ended up removing the arm sections during the party
  • Using snaps? Color code them! Ex: tie some red or black thread on the two parts of the snaps for power or ground. Especially helpful if you need a helper when connecting all the snaps.

Programming

I’ve uploaded my code to GitHub.

“Wiring” diagram (note- pins 9 and 10 are correctly switched in the code)

Could this same dress have been made with other electronics? Yes, definitely. You could get quite close with a GEMMA and LED sequins, or even just LED sequins and batteries only. Flora does give the benefits of allowing multiple “lines” of stars and taking input from sensors. My dress consisted of 3 lines of stars, for ease of sewing and programming, and to make the stars on the dress work even if the head or arms stars weren’t plugged in.

Using programmable NeoPixels also means that I could tell each individual star what color it was supposed to be. You will see in the code that I tried to follow the descriptions of the stars: some are blue/white, some are red, some are yellow, some are actually binary stars with a yellow primary and blue-green secondary, etc.

You can also have them blink in rainbows, randomly, or based on feedback from sensors or button inputs- but that’s for you do try on your own 😉

Further inspiration

Had I not been as rushed for time, I probably would have completed the outfit with a Cassiopeia hair pin a la Hello Whimsy blog’s tutorial.

Also, I don’t think there have been so many constellation dresses/outfits out there, but I did love seeing this one by Aimel! I’m guessing she used LED sequins?

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