So, I finally managed to get the top hat sorted out using the Teensy 3.0 and the scrolling text code to display messages. A short video of it is below. The Leds in the strip are bright enough to shine through a very thin mesh that I used to hide the leds strips. Its actually a piece of material from a pair of tights. the hat has two controls at the back, one is an on off switch, and the other is a button that counts how many times it has been pressed, and works its way through a set of patterns. It pretty basic stuff, but is a working concept.
hope you like it.