Thursday, May 12, 2016

Black & Light Ball 2017: Guide to all things glowing

Black and Light Ball is Kostume Kult's annual UV reactive "formal" where we get fancy and glowing all in one fabulous night! All forms of light up, UV reactive and glow in the dark costumes are encouraged and the decor gets positively trip.
Hope fully you already have your tickets. If not ACT FAST and get them now!!

Below you will find my guide to finding the things that GLOW under black light.

Lets start in the garment/trim district in Manhattan (Broadway to 7th Ave on 38th Street).
Don't forget your keychain black light or here's a tutorial on how to turn your phones flashlight into a blacklight!

Joyce Trimming Inc. (38th btw 6th / Broadway)
Lots of ribbon! They have the best prices on wide satin day glow ribbon. This ribbon makes great ruffle trim if you run it through your sewing machine on the edge of a skirt or sleeve. Its only $1.50/yard.

Fringe Colors at B&Q Trim
B&Q Trim (38th btw 6th / Broadway)
This store is a favorite among my costume friends. They have a wide variety of feathers, gems, trims, fringe, studs, etc. The fringe and feathers were particularly good for black light here. I tested the fringe in pink, yellow and green cause they nicely gave me swatches and it glows excellently!  The pricing on fringe is determined by length.
6" Fringe = $6/yard
8" Fringe = $8/yard
and so on... the longest length they have is 18" but it is only in limited colors.
The feathers they had in bunches LOOKED UV reactive but it would be best to bring your portable black light along with you to test for sure. They were $4 a bunch in yellow, lime and orange. This seemed to be the place with the largest variety of neon colors for fringe and acrylic gems.

East Coast Trimming Corp.

Focusing more on the bridal trim, however but they do have tubular cyber lock materials which are these cool synthetic tubes that stretch and you can run LED lights on a wire through. 
Small $1.50/yard
Medium $3.00/yard
Large $4.00/yard
They had interesting reflective trim which was about 1" wide and came in white and a few neon colors. It was like the strips you see on road workers vest. Extremely reflective!

They also had a sale rack of ribbon with lots of neon colors, worth a peek. 

$22/yard neon spike trim with rhinestones.
Lots of gems and appliqu├ęs. Vast color assortment of ostrich plumes too however I found there are only a few colors of those that will glow. The coolest things I found at this place was a pricey but very bad ass trim with spikes and rhinestone. It was $22/yard but depending on the project may be the perfect finishing piece for a look. Also I loved the small and large rhinestone neon pieces. I did NOT test them since I had forgotten my black light flashlight at home.

Hardware stores are great for finding unexpected glow materials. For example Zip Ties! They are cool to craft with and glow very well. Home Depot sells a bag of 100 zip ties in various colors for $4.50. The only color that doesn't glow so well is the blue. :(
Also gaff tape. It is a little pricy but glows super well and comes in various widths.

Don't forget the Dollar Store when looking for UV reactive stuff. I know that Dollar Tree carries poster board in neon colors for a dollar a sheet. Its 22x28 and glows very very brightly. Why not make a head piece out of it!
$1 Neon Poster Boar at Dollar Tree
Lastly I am going to talk a little about UV makeup. Ricky's or Romeo's (discount version of Rickys) sells Krylon makeup in UV colors. I just bought the yellow lipstick pictured at Romeo's (5th Ave btw 35th / 36th) for $5.99. As you can see it is tested and APPROVED!
UV testing Yellow Lipstick
Paint Glow UV lipstick

EL Wire:
I myself have not had good luck with EL wire but my friend Jennifer of Costumegasm makes some brilliant corsets and fashion pieces with it. Here's her pro tip that I think is particularly genius. Cut a length of yarn the exact length of your EL wire you are working with. Then you can map out where the wire will go with the yarn first and tape it to the garment and then sew with clear thread the El wire where the yarn was! Love it!

I could write for days about what glows but I will leave you with tips from my friend Brite Lite who as his name suggests is a mastermind of light up costumes and accessories.

1) Shop with a pocket black light. You can get them for $10-$15 and it will help you for many years of great costumes.
2) Wear paper. The best neon paper glows brighter than fabric. Also, you can buy great $10 blacklight posters at and cut out blacklight badges. I've glued both card stock and paper badges on leather & vinyl outfits.
3) Most neon paper sucks. Don't buy at office supply stores. Some dollar stores have terrific neon card stock. Gotta bring a blacklight.
4) Only use Krylon-brand fluorescent spray paint.
5) You can find good stuff at some hardware stores such as neon zip ties and masonry twine. Although quite thin, its really bright. I've never found parachute cord that glows bright enough.

B&Q Trim (38th btw 6th / Broadway)

Hai's Trimming Inc. 38th btw 7th / 8th Ave

Hai's Trimming Inc. 38th btw 7th / 8th Ave

Ricky's NYC 
Hai's Trimming Inc. 38th btw 7th / 8th Ave

6) Spandex House, of course. If you don't have sewing skills, stick with the suggestions above. One of the easiest projects with a sewing machine is cutting a perfect pattern from old jeans, and using that to make tight spandex pants. Flare the bottoms and sew on a tight "tube" as belt.


  1. Eliza, great stuff. I see that the Kostume Kult Wiki is no longer on the web.

    These are my recommendations for getting started with elwire. This guide is in two separate sections, Buying and Attaching:

    Resource Guide For Elwire Costumes
    britelite, Kostume Kult, April 2016

    Where To Shop
    Elwire is not sold retail. I buy elwire from two places: CoolNeon (Oakland, CA), and Coolight (FL). Both companies are run by Burners. They both charge $1.20/foot for standard elwire. At this time, Coolight has the best driver for use with costumes. Unlike Coolneon, Coolight also sells the Buttoneer, a very useful gizmo for attaching elwire to sturdy clothing. More details follow below.

    Elwire requires a driver (or “inverter”). Longer elwire requires a stronger driver.
    The best driver for costumes is:
    It is nice and small, and can light up to 30 feet of elwire. Costumes always look better with more elwire.
    If the elwire is less than 16 feet long, this is a good one:
    CoolNeon currently has this smaller driver, but not the larger one, which is the most useful one.

    It is common to put a connecter between the driver and elwire. The driver can then be disconnected and used for another wire.

    Don’t bother with soldering. I recommend you have the vendor solder connectors to the elwire for you. The vendors discuss their soldering services on their websites. To get a better estimate of how much elwire you’ll need, try-out your design on your costume with wool yarn. If you want to do your own soldering, you can buy one of the vendor’s soldering kits. The soldering kit already includes one good, small driver. It’s 10 times easier to have someone demonstrate elwire soldering for you, though. There are some good tutorials on YouTube.

    Just buy the elwire colors you think you like. Color charts are not very helpful. You need to see - and try combinations with - the real thing.. “Aqua” blue is elwire’s “base” color. Get aqua instead of regular blue. Also, get lime green instead of green. Purple is pretty, but not very bright. At different thickness (e.g. angel hair) the same color may be very different. I feel that elwire usually looks better on dark than on light backgrounds. Orange elwire on white is nice, though.

  2. Attaching Elwire To Your Costume

    Attaching elwire to your costume is not trivial. Elwire is unwieldy as it is not very flexible. Glue doesn’t adhere well to elwire’s PVC jacket. Always start attaching the wire on the driver end. That way, you control where the driver is located.

    Most people attach elwire to their costumes by sewing it to the fabric. Single, tied off loops looks and works the best. Because of its strength and clarity, I use very thin Nylon fishing line (10 lbs. test). I bought my reel at 32 West 37th Street.

    The Buttoneer is a convenient tool to attach standard-thickness elwire to fabric. All the New York retailers that used to carry the Buttoneer no longer do. You can still buy them from Coolight:
    You will need lots of refills, and they're not cheap. When you start working with a Buttoneer for the first time, it is awkward. One you get the hang of it, you can attach elwire to clothing very quickly. Kostume Kultist Christopher Hardwick is a big Buttoneer user and buys at CooLight. Tip: The Buttoneer only works on sturdy materials. For thin fabrics, hold some trim between your fingers to back up the thin fabric. “Buttoneer” the wire and both fabrics together. Cut the trim and leave some backing material behind..

    Attaching Elwire to non-fabric surfaces has been quite a struggle for me. I’m getting surprisingly good results with Scotch clear, tear-by-hand packing tape. This tape is also great on the Playa for last minute elwiring, or for elwire re-attachment. You don’t even need scissors or your teeth. Buy this tape at the crafting stores like Michael’s, Blick, etc.

    You really want to be able to glue elwire to anything. Problem is, few glues adhere to the PVC elwire. Hot glue and fabric glue are quick and convenient. The results, however, are poor. It really sucks if after all your hard work and considerable expense, your elwire doesn’t stay put. I have tried a lot of glues. The best one I found so far is E-6000 . It’s an industrial adhesive that has been adopted by the crafts community. It’s not in hardware stores, you have to buy it in a craft store or in the Garment District.

    E-6000 isn’t perfect. It dries slowly – it doesn’t reach full strength until the next day. But then it really holds the elwire. And stays flexible and clear. Also, find a ventilated place to dry your E-6000 project overnight. In a City apartment, this may be your bathroom with the door closed. PERC, the solvent, is not healthy. Incidental exposure is no big deal, though, and you can easily avoid making it an all night affair.

    E-6000 comes out of the tube as a viscous blob. Viscous is good. But it’s a big blob. For small projects, I use a cable tie as spatula. When I’m gluing a sizeable stretch of elwire, I fill a syringe with E-6000. You can get syringes at the polyester repair section of 32 West 37th Street. Be generous with the glue. You really want to embed half the wire. Seeing some (clear) glue is not as bad as having the elwire come off. Unfortunately, E-6000 dries slowly (overnight). Use masking tape to keep everything in place. Masking tape is the blue stuff you use when painting. E-6000 doesn’t stick to it that much. For intricate curves, I put fishing line stitches into the costume, and insert a glue bead before tying down.

  3. Here's another suggestion for fluorescent decoration for costumes. Probably the easiest one of all: *** Fluorescent duct tape ***.

    Actually most fluorescent tape is gaffers tape, which is much better because it doesn't leave a sticky mess. Gaffers tape is more expensive than duct tape and worth every penny.

    I don't know where to buy neon tape because I still have Pearl Paint rolls. I would try Blick first. I know Michael's doesn't have it.

    You just put on your undecorated outfit -- maybe even jeans. Then have one of your friends decorate your body with tape. Word of caution: This tape really sticks in your hair. I'm sure that cute girl still hates me ....

  4. You can buy all the color of gaffers tape at The Set Shop on 20th street. Also Barbizon Electric on 55th street, and probably B&H photo.