How to stone a costume
Adding rhinestones to a costume (known to dance moms everywhere as “stoning costumes”) can be very easy or very difficult. For most dance costumes, and especially for “showgirl” costumes, adding stones to the costume will make for a much nicer look. The key to easy stoning lies in following a few techniques. Here are some tricks I’ve learned over the years.
Stoning costumes with hot fix stones
First of all, I would skip using hot fix rhinestones. Using these requires a special hot iron that can be purchased for around $15 on Amazon. Applying stones using this method is very easy, but the glue is often weak. This means that some stones will likely fall off as the costumes are worn. This usually doesn’t distract much from the way the costumes look. But it can be very important if you are costuming competition troops that have a “clear stage” rule at the end of the performance. For example, the Georgia One Act Play competition rules say that the stage must be completely clear at the end of each performance. If any stones drop from costumes during the performance, and are left on stage after the “all clear” is given, the competition troop can be disqualified.
An additional drawback to using hot fix stones is that many costuming fabrics can’t stand up to the heat of the application iron. For example, if you try to iron hot fix stones onto tulle, the tulle will melt and leave a hole wherever the iron touches. Velvet and silk are also easily burned with an iron.
Stoning costumes with glue-on stones
The easiest and most secure way to stone a costume is to glue the stones to the fabric. Gluing takes a bit of practice, but can become very easy once you develop a technique.
Rhinestones are available from many different sources, and can vary in quality and price. Some costume makers think that Swarovski crystals are the best, but they are very expensive. Heavily stoned costumes can end up being very costly using Swarovski. Swarovski crystals have also become alomst impossible to find at retail. Swarovski has discontinued most retail sales of their stones as of October 1, 2021. For a slightly lower-priced stone that is readily available at retail, Dreamtime Creations carries Preciosa stones and Dreamtime Crystal stones in a variety of colors and sizes. I have honestly never been able to tell the difference in Swarovski and and the cheaper Dreamtime stones, especially from the audience.
There is another option if you want to get decent-looking, really cheap stones, and you have time to wait for the delivery (usually about 3-6 weeks). You can order pretty nice stones from China on Ebay. You can find an example of one of these sellers here. I purchase these stones in bulk from one of the Chinese stores, and keep them on hand. I can usually buy several gross clear AB 20mm Chinese stones for about the same price as a handful of Swarovski stones. It does take quite a while for the stones to arrive in the US, so if you’re in a hurry, this will not be a good option.
Choose a stone color
While it may be tempting to match the color of your stone to your fabric, you will likely find the matching stone will not be visible on the costume. Don’t waste time and money on stones you can’t see. Select a coordinated but slightly contrasting color to make the stones visible. Most rhinestone suppliers offer a color test card of all available colors for around $20. This card can be invaluable when deciding on stone color. Also, if in doubt, Clear AB stones in a 20 – 22 size will work in most situations.
Choose a glue for stoning
The best (I think only) glue to use for stoning is E6000. This glue is flexible rubber cement, which means that you can apply stones to stretch fabric. The glue moves along with the fabric, allowing the stone to stay secure. You can find this glue on Amazon, or in your local fabric, craft, or hardware stores. E6000 comes in several colors, so be sure the version you buy is marked “clear”.
Glue the stones
- Use a pillow or other soft form to stuff the costume piece. If possible, select a stuffer that is large enough to slightly stretch the costume fabric.
- Place a handful of stones on a paper plate. Lightly thump the plate on a table top until most of the stones are back-side-up.
- Squeeze a dime-sized dollop of glue unto the paper plate. The glue should be positioned between you and the stones.
- With a toothpick, pick up a very small dot of glue on the tip, then touch the toothpick to the back of the nearest stone. It is important to use a minute bit of glue. Too much glue will cause a gooey mess.
- The toothpick should stick to the back of the stone, allowing you to pick up the stone with the toothpick.
- Using the toothpick, turn the stone right-side-up and slide the stone from the toothpick to the costume.
- With your other hand, lightly press down on the stone while sliding the toothpick out.
Although the stone should stay put, it will take about 3 to 5 minutes (depending on the temperature and humidity of the room where you’re working) for the stone to set permanently. During that time, you can use the clean end of the toothpick to nudge the stone into a better spot if needed.
If you get extra glue on the costume, or glue remains when you move a stone, wait for the glue to dry. Then grab a corner of the glue with tweezers and peel off the dried glue. Avoid touching the extra glue before it is dry. Trying to remove wet glue will rub the glue into the fabric, making it much more difficult to remove.
Placement for costume stoning
If you’re not sure where you want to place stones on a costume, here are several guidelines that should help:
- Use stones to frame the face, placing more stones close to the neckline, and tapering off as you move down the costume.
- If the costume includes boning (such as on a corset), outline the boning in stones.
- Emphasize the best part of the costume/actor. For example, if the actor has a tiny waist, stone more heavily around the waistline. If there are special details on the costume that you want to emphasize, concentrate the stoning around these areas.
- Use stoning to differentiate and add visual interest to sets of costumes that are too similar, especially for duet, trio, and small group costumes.