So you've got a great idea for a lighted costume! Now the big decision is, EL Wire or LED Strips?
EL wire and LEDs are both very different and have unique characteristics. Choosing the correct option for your project can make or break your design. In this article we are going to examine the main differences in the two alternatives and give you a good foundation for making the correct choice.

What is EL wire and what are LED Strips?
EL wire is a flexible cable of smooth light. EL wire is a florescent phosphate that glows when driven by a high voltage alternating current (AC). For a lighted costume a battery (For example 12v) is connected to an inverter that connects to the EL wire. LEDs on the other hand are individual sharp points of light that can be added together to create LED strips. LEDs run on low voltage direct current (DC) such as 9v batteries or 12v batteries.

Power Source
The first difference between the two options are the way that they are powered. LEDs are the winner here because they run on Direct Current. With a 9v battery you can connect an LED strip and BAM you have light. EL wire on the other hand needs to be a specific high frequency alternating current so you can't just plug a battery into your EL wire and expect anything to happen. In a lighted costume EL wire is powered by a battery that is connected to an Inverter that converts the Direct Current from the battery into Alternating Current that can make the EL wire phosphorus glow. Also, because EL wire runs on a High Voltage alternating current it WILL shock you if you touch an exposed end.

 EL wire can be bought in any color of the rainbow and in any diameter (If you look closely at the banner heading this article you will notice that the shoulders are a smaller diameter and different shade of EL wire than the rest of the costume). LED strips however can come in any color and even in RGB combinations. With an RGB LED strip connected to a controller you can create ANY color of light from a single strip. EL wire has no RGB equivalent so if you build a green suit it's going to be green forever. Also LED strips come in options of Waterproof, Water Resistant, and Water Vulnerable. All EL wire is Water Resistant and will be Water proof if the ends are sealed before immersion.

LED Strips are far brighter than EL wire. If sheer brightness is what you are looking for go straight to LEDs.

LED Strips are much easier to work with than EL wire. When soldering LED strips to your connectors LED strips will have ready to go marked spots where you can solder in a cable. EL wire on the other hands required you to learn the tricky skill that is EL wire soldering. EL wire soldering requires many steps and demands much more time. A single color LED strip could take me a minute to solder where a single EL wire connection could take 5 minutes. On the other hand EL wire is much more flexible than an LED strip and illuminates in all directions where LED strips do not.

LED strips are much more durable than EL wire. When working with EL wire one must treat EL wire as fragile. Avoid adding EL wire to places that are going to frequently pivot such as knee or armpit areas to a costume. When bent back and forth the phosphorus within the EL wire will deteriorate and create a short in your costume. LED strips do not fray this easily and will take more wear.

A single color LED strip has a similar cost to a standard EL wire. When purchasing EL wire you will also need to purchase a driver to power your costume. This will add cost to your design.

When it comes to ease of use, durability, workability and brightness LED strips win without a doubt. When it comes to unique looks and much more detailed design the look of EL wire can't be beat.