Crafty Electronic Costumes at the Portsmouth Halloween Parade

Photo by Denise J. Wheeler from Portsmouth Halloween Parade on Facebook

Last weekend I celebrated Halloween by marching in the 16th Annual Portsmouth Halloween Parade. I had great time admiring all the hand made and elaborate costumes on display during the event. Here are a few of the electronic/light up costumes I saw along the way.


My boyfriend loved the robot that our friend Sean O’Connell made so much that he decided to craft one for himself to wear in the Parade. Using Sean’s process of cutting arm holes in a trash can for the body, a bucket for the head, and LED taplights for the eyes, he made a few light-up mods as well. I had some spare EL wire and random odds and ends in my studio so the robot got a blinky upgrade, an antenna, and a circuit board chest plate. While Sean’s original design had the head attached to the body, we were able to make it easily detachable by using magnetic purse snaps. There’s a great album of Sean building the original robot over on Facebook, I especially love the detail of using googly eyes to make rivets.

Magnets on the robot head.

Some gutter grating, taplights, and plastic bits for decoration

Cloud Costume

Our friend Dave made this light up cloud costume using EL wire, some portable blacklights, glow in the dark paint, and a headlamp attached to a belt for ‘lightning’. I love his solution of using blacklights to make the glow in the dark paint react at parties and during the parade. He made the cloud shape by attaching the EL wire to some cardboard and hanging around his neck with ribbon worn underneath a Tyvek suit.

Fiber Optic Fairy Wings & Mask

For my costume, I made another pair of fiber optic wings with a few modifications: I added a switch and ended up soldering together the components for durability. Instead of ribbons or elastic to hold the wings on, I used magnetic purse snaps so they blended seamlessly with the rest of my costume and didn’t move around as I walked.

With the left over bits of fiber optic strands and fabric, I made a matching mask. It has a switch and a smaller 3V battery hidden under a flower on the front of the mask. To make the standing swirls I used Mod Podge to adhere some fabric to a bit of a plastic egg carton to make them rigid. To complete the look, I reused my Lady Gaga light up cane from last year’s costume (made out of plastic beads glued onto a plastic bubble ornament with LEDs inside).

Battery holder, wiring to the LEDs/fiber optics, and a switch hidden underneath a flower decoration.

Magnets to attach the wings to my shirt

Other Costumes at the Parade

A cool light up jellyfish costume. Looks like it was made out of clear plastic sheeting or trash bags, with some lights embedded along the edges. Photo by Roger Goun.

These costumes were made through a creative use of glowsticks. Photo by Denise J. Wheeler from Portsmouth Halloween Parade on Facebook.

Check out this glowing Cheshire Cat costume, fantastic! Photo by Denise J. Wheeler from Portsmouth Halloween Parade on Facebook.

Jim Burns, the man in the Cheshire Cat tree costume provided me with info on how he made it:

Creating Chesire seemed easy in concept – get some lights, make the eyes and grin light up by themselves and in conjunction with the body. It turns out the lights were the easy part, it was getting the Cheshire to be shaped correctly that my poor artistic skills had trouble with. A friend came on the idea to print a picture of the Cheshire from the web, which with a little help from an application that allows a big image to be printed on multiple 8×11 pages was done. The rest was easy: put image onto foam board, cut out, hot glue white EL wire for eyes and grin; pink and purple EL wire for stripes on body. Each EL wire was attached to its own control box that had an low frequency on/off cycle. Ideally the pink and purple would have been on one control box, but alas, my electronic skills disallowed this. The most fun part of the EL wire was routing it like old-fashioned neon – it has to be one continuous path of wire so that it has no cuts in it.

The Alice in Wonderland group also made a light up float of the Caterpillar with EL wire. Photo by WireNH on Flickr.

More Parade pics and video:

  • Portsmouth Halloween Parade Facebook Page
  • Portsmouth Halloween Parade Flickr Group
  • Dan Freund from ShortStream TV captured some of the costumes and performers on video for theMonday Morning Show (coverage starts around 2:55).

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