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Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D.

Girl on Fire Costume - Hunger Games

By March 24, 2012

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Apply a little science to make a Girl on Fire Costume like in Hunger Games. (Getty Images)As you might imagine, I was fascinated by The Girl on Fire in the Hunger Games movie. Who wouldn't want to be cloaked in fire or have swirling flames adorn her dress? Unfortunately, there isn't any gadget you can attach to your clothes to make three-dimensional fire. However, you can still get a fire effect. You just have to use real fire.

Now, the trick to this is two-fold:

  1. You need fire that burns with a cool enough flame that you won't get hurt.

  2. You must wear a fabric that won't ignite.
The coolest flame I know how to make, temperature-wise, is an ethanol or isopropanol flame from a mixture of alcohol and water. You can get this from high-proof rum, rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer. It's important to use one of these alcohols and not methanol, for example, because methanol is toxic and burns very hot.

Natural fabrics, such as cotton, linen and wool, are heat-resistant. When these fabrics are soaked with an alcohol/water mix, they do not burn. Synthetic fabrics, such as rayon and nylon, melt or ignite. Don't mess with fire and synthetics.

Be The Girl on Fire

You only want to do this effect, for a costume or whatever, using a highly controlled fire. Minimize the risk of injury or spreading the fire by doing one of the following. Protect your skin. Water and petroleum jelly both confer some protection against heat damage. It's a good idea to keep a barrier between flames and your skin. Don't set your clothes on fire, even using an alcohol gel, because the risk to yourself, others and property is too great! If you don't believe me, spend a few minutes cruising YouTube. You can:

Do you have Girl on Fire costume ideas (for responsible adults who know fire is not a toy)? If so, be sure to post a reply.


March 24, 2012 at 3:00 pm
(1) stephen drobnak says:

That is real cool

March 26, 2012 at 6:10 am
(2) Dr Gary Zeller says:

As a licensed pyrotechnician-explosives-ordnance expert and an Academy
award winning Special Effects director i invented “ZEL JEL” an effective
stunt gel which is used on hundreds of film-TV productions. This product
is a waterborne hydrogel which shields and protects skin from receiving
burns whenever open flame-body burn stunts are required for fire FX.

I do not recommend Petroleum Jelly AKA Vaseline as a protective barrier
as it rapidly transfers heat and is flammable.

Any form of fire on or near the body is extremely dangerous and is best
done by professionals. We rarely use polar solvents such as Alcohols for
colorful flames as these are not acceptable with fire Depts .

March 26, 2012 at 7:42 am
(3) Sheila King says:

I think it is unwise for a teacher to do a demo of this nature. I wish your site had more things that students can do and use the experimental method for. This type of activity seems like it might encourage a student to try something stupid at home. It would only take one student of one teacher out there to make this something you would regret forever.

Students want to DO! I have been searching the net for good lists of labs that involved the experimental method in chem, using safe chems and have found little. Please help with that, with your vast knowledge of chem


sheila king
newburyport, ma

April 6, 2012 at 12:17 am
(4) Candid says:

I am trying to made a display which involves setting the tips of fake acrylic nails on fire , I want the flames to last but not burn down the nail set or spread the fire , can I use this method to do that ? Please help if u have any ideas , I Need some type of method in 3 weeks

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