Why Rhinestone?

My daughter's tap costume. It almost doubled the weight due to all the rhinestones, but made it look so much better! :-)

My daughter’s tap costume. It almost doubled the weight due to all the rhinestones, but it makes a difference! ūüôā

I have had many people ask why we bother rhinestoning our dancer’s costumes. I’ve heard comments such as, “It’s not like the judges are going to dock points for not having enough rhinestones on!” While this is true, costumes and showmanship ARE part of what they are scored on at many competitions.


I decided to look at the rules of some competitions to see how “costuming” plays a role in scores. While many competitions limit who is able to view their rules/regulations to only studio owners,¬†Legacy Dance Competition¬†does¬†have their rules online. They judge dances as follows (according to their website):

“The judges will base their score on the following criteria:

50% – Technique
25% – Execution/Musicality
15% – Choreography/Showmanship
10% – Overall Appearance”

Hall of Fame also publishes their rules on their website, which states: “Judging:¬†Will take into consideration choreography, technique, showmanship, and precision. ”

If you look up “showmanship” online, the first thing that comes up is the Wikipedia definition: ”¬†Showmanship, concerning artistic performing such as in¬†Theatre, is the skill of performing in such a manner that will appeal to an audience or aid in conveying the performance’s essential theme or message.”


Here is my daughter's vest for a tap costume as it originally came.

Here is my daughter’s vest for a tap costume as it originally came.

Ideally, a costume enhances the theme or message of the piece. On occasion, when a costume doesn’t seem to match the dance or the idea being presented, it can be almost uncomfortable to watch. On the other hand, a costume that fits a¬†piece perfectly, makes it a more enjoyable experience. If you don’t think the shimmer of the rhinestones (or sequins, or glitter) adds to the appeal and pizzazz of a costume, you need to take another look. The impact can be quite noticeable!

Let’s take a look at my daughter’s small group costume. Originally, it was a black vest with hot pink jeggings. On its own, it is very¬†cute! It almost looks like something my daughter would wear hanging out with her friends. However, I knew that Miss Maria, owner of Lake Area Dance Center, would find a way to rhinestone it that would make it really pop onstage. I always look forward to seeing what she comes up with. As usual, she didn’t disappoint!

The second picture¬†shows how the rhinestones make a difference on the vest. The pink rhinestones on the buttons really make them “pop.” Without them, it might be difficult to see the buttons from a distance.

While it may not be the best picture, you can see how the rhinestones enhance the overall look of the vest!

While it may not be the best picture, you can see how the rhinestones enhance the overall look of the vest!

In the past, I was skeptical about the purpose of black rhinestones. I have since realized how even the black ones can really catch the light, which adds to the overall effect of the costume.

The picture also shows the pink rhinestones down the seam of the jeggings. That also makes a subtle difference in the costume. It makes the lines more noticeable as they are turning in unison, or opposite each other. The smallest details make the differences that people don’t necessarily recognize, but know are there.

026Recently, my daughter’s small group performed in a local show with this costume. With the stage lighting on, it looked fantastic. Of course, the dance itself is very fun, and they did a great job performing it, but the costumes looked great too!¬†There’s something to be said for¬†stage lighting, and how it shows off both the dancers’ moves and their costumes. Even when they turned on the black lights, you could see the dancers because of the way the rhinestones reflected the light.

While it’s not always easy to articulate why rhinestones are important¬†on costumes, most people would probably notice a difference if they saw the same dance done with and without any kind of sparkle added to the costume. My guess, is that most people would enjoy watching the dances¬†with rhinestones, etc.¬†just a little bit more (even if they can’t put their finger on why).

The showmanship and enhanced costume is the little difference that could make a dance stand out. When you are being judged, standing out can be really important (especially if 10% of your score is based on your overall appearance)!




Learn From my Rhinestoning Mistakes

As I was sitting here, replacing missing rhinestones on my daughter’s dance jacket, I remembered something I wanted to share. I made some huge mistakes my first couple years rhinestoning. I have occasionally made the same mistake, but am getting better. What is this mistake you ask? Using too much glue!!

You can tell which rhinestones are the old  ones, because they are cloudy and flatter. The more conical shaped ones are the new stones that I'm replacing old ones with.

You can tell which rhinestones are the old ones, because they are cloudy and flatter. The more conical shaped ones are the new stones that I’m replacing old ones with.

Not only is using too much glue a problem, but so is letting it ooze out the sides of the stone, and not scraping off the extra!

Back story:

About a year and a half ago, I wrote a blog post on comparing E-6000 glue and Gem Tac. I was still fairly new to rhinestoning, but had learned a few things along the way. I have been continually amazed at the response that post has gotten. Thank you to those of you who have read and/or commented on it!

I feel I need to give a quick update to that post. Grace’s jacket is going on two years old now. The old, apparently “foil back” rhinestones are falling off with almost every washing now. The commenters who said E-6000 ate their rhinestones, I have an idea of what you mean! It took about a year and a half, and LOTS of washings (I think Grace would wear it every day if I let her), but they are, one by one, clouding up and falling off. I have been replacing them as they come off with the Flat Back Swarovski stones that I can get through our dance studio. Those have not had any issues so far.

I think she was only missing 1-2 rhinestones when she left for Iowa. This is what it looked like when she came back!

I think she was only missing 1-2 rhinestones when she left for Iowa. This is what it looked like when she came back!

This summer, Grace went to her first dance intensive at the Iowa Ballet Academy. It was a long, grueling week, with about 7 hour days of dancing. While it was probably the most intense week of her life, she loved it, and wants to go back.

While she was there, she apparently beat the crap out of her dance jacket. She came back missing about half of the old rhinestones that were left, and even a few of the newer ones. I asked her if she was picking at the rhinestones. Her response? “No, I was just picking at the glue.” Sigh… if I’d have just scraped the extra glue off the outsides of each stone, there wouldn’t have been glue for her to pick at. ūüė¶

Back to my point:

Learn from my mistakes, PLEASE!

Mistake #1 – using cheap rhinestones. I didn’t know any better. Now I do!

Mistake #2 – using too much glue. It’s a fine line between not quite enough, and too much. There’s also an amount of time that is too long to let the glue dry before using it. I end up throwing away globs of glue because I started with too much, and it dried to quickly. Letting it get a little tacky is a good thing, letting it get rubbery is not. A little practice, and you will figure out just where those fine lines exist.

You can really see the rings around the old stones where the glue came out and trapped dirt over the 2 years. :-(

You can really see the rings around the old stones where the glue came out and trapped dirt over the 2 years. ūüė¶

Mistake #3 – leaving the glue that oozed out the side of the rhinestone alone. While both Gem Tac and E-6000 will dry clear, they are still glue. When they get wet (for example, in the wash), the glue that is exposed will become a bit tacky again. This will trap all sorts of dirt and other particles that are coming off your other clothes, and floating around in the wash machine. After a while, each little circle of glue around each rhinestone starts to look pretty gross! If you have rhinestones that are falling off, like Grace does, it isn’t pretty! ¬†In the second picture above, you can see the dark circles around areas where rhinestones used to be. YUCK!

A simple cure for Mistake #3, take the second wax stick in your pack, and use the edge to scrape off the extra glue that may have oozed out the sides. You will also want to make sure you don’t push down on the rhinestones too hard, and all the glue oozes out. I have done that too. I have later had to go back and reglue those, since they were then barely stuck on.

On dark or shinier fabrics (like those on our dance jackets), the glue sometimes dries with an almost whitish appearance. It may also  look whitish even when scraping off the excess glue.  I have not yet figured out the best way to get this off. Just be careful not to get too much on in the first place!

If you have a trick to remove the glue residue sometimes left behind, I’d love to hear about it. Please comment below!

Step by Step – Rhinestoning Our Recital Shirts

My kids’ dance recital was at the end of May. Since my daughter was wearing her recital shirt in the Opening Number, we decided to rhinestone it. It seems to be a “suggested,” but not required practice. Since I like rhinestoning anyway, I did hers and mine.

My 12 year old really wanted to do her own shirt this year. I’m not ready to have her using the sometimes stringy E-6000 on her own yet. Though Gem-Tac would be much easier for her to use, I wasn’t confident the stones would stay on her shirt through the multiple washings, and wearing it for a longer Opening Number several times in those few days. We compromised by her choosing how she wanted the stones on her shirt, but I glued them on. I thought this would be the perfect time to create a step-by-step visual post on applying rhinestones.

Here’s how we did her shirt:


Last year, it was recommended to me that if you are going to rhinestone something that has been screenprinted (like a recital shirt), you should wash it once before rhinestoning. I was told that you would lose far less stones that way. I forgot to do that this year, and have had to replace a couple of stones. I’m not sure if it was because I didn’t wash them first, or if it’s because I was using the remains of an old tube of glue. We still have not had to replace a single stone on either of our shirts from the 2012 recital, and those had a lot more stones on them! Next year, I will be sure to wash the shirts first, just in case that really did make the difference!

Step 1: Lay out the rhinestones


I spread Grace’s shirt out on my desk, along with a pile of black, red, and clear rhinestones. I let her lay them on the shirt however she wanted. I made a critical mistake here – I forgot to put the newspaper in between the layers of the shirt before she laid out the stones. When I tried to slide it in after the fact, rhinestones went flying. If you are going to put something in between the layers to protect the back of the shirt, DON’T forget to do it BEFORE laying out your stones!!

In theory, laying out your stones before gluing them, makes the job easier. I often just eyeball it, but in this case, they were laid out first. Also, it helps to take a picture once you have the stones positioned how you want them. This was a lifesaver after my mistake of not having the “in between” layer in first. Also, if you accidentally bump whatever you are rhinestoning, and aren’t sure of the exact placement you wanted, this can help.

Step 2: Prepare your materials


You don’t want to do this step until you are actually ready to start gluing. The glue starts to dry pretty quickly. You also don’t want to use too much at a time for the same reason. The more time that passes, the stringier it will be.

What isn’t pictured here are the wax sticks I use to put the glue onto the back of the rhinestone. You will want to use two. One for putting the glue on, one for scraping off the excess from the material you are putting the rhinestones on to. Leaving too much glue sticking out from under the rhinestone will accumulate dirt. Even when the glue is dry. I will be writing another post on this in the future. That was a lesson learned the hard way on white lettering on a dance jacket. ūüė¶ ¬† Just trust me, you will want to get the extra glue off!

Step 3: Apply glue to stone, and stone to material


Some people prefer to put the glue on the fabric, and attach the rhinestone to it. There are many different ways to accomplish this step. Figure out what works best for you. Putting the glue directly on the rhinestone has been the easiest way for me to control where the glue goes.


Squeeze the rhinestone to the fabric, to get extra glue to come out the sides. Depending on the fabric, you don’t want to squeeze so hard ALL the glue comes out. If you squeeze out too much, there won’t be enough left to adhere them together. Sometimes, it’s good to leave a little “bubble” between the stone and fabric. Just not too much… it’s a fine line, and one you will learn with practice.


Use the end of your second stick to scrape off the extra glue.

Step 4: Let the item dry

Before you let it dry, I would recommend lifting up whatever it is you are rhinestoning, and gently shaking it to make sure all the stones are adhered. Sometimes, you might have missed one, or for some reason, there wasn’t enough glue… you don’t want to pick it up to put it on, and then find out that a stone fell off. Wet glue against the body is cold, and sticky. Grace found that out the hard way last year!

Let it dry by hanging (in a place where it can breathe), or laying it out somewhere. Let it dry for 24-48 hours before wearing or washing.

Enjoy your blinged out, newly sparkled shirt! ūüôā

Different Rhinestoning Techniques

One of the fun parts of being a Dancem0m, is rhinestoning costumes. I used to be afraid of it, but I really enjoy it, especially now that I know what I’m doing. Every year, I seem to learn a little bit more about glues, designs/styles, technique, etc. Rhinestoning for this year’s costumes is done, but I thought I’d share a couple things I’ve noticed about technique.

Prepping the costume or clothing:

When you are applying rhinestones to any type of fabric, the glue is likely going to bleed through a little bit. You will want to do a little prep-work to spare yourself from ruining your work surface, as I did the very first year that rhinestoning anything. My name is still forever printed with dried glue on my folding tray that was my work surface.

I have seen different people prep costumes for stoning in different ways. Some people cut a piece of cardboard and slide it inside their costume. I have heard this technique is also a good one to use when you are working with a stretchy fabric. You need to be aware of the type of fabric you are working with, or you will end up with a look that you don’t want when it dries. If you are stoning a design, such as a star, you want to make sure the material is stretched when you apply the design. If you don’t, it might end up bunched up or pulling around the glue; or the design might end up stretched out, ruining the look you are going for.

Some people put a layer of wax paper or parchment paper between the fabric layers (or between the fabric and working surface). This works well for fabrics such as t-shirts, jackets, etc. I have also just taken paper that I was going to recycle (such as junk mail, or a flyer from school) and put it in between the layers.

Last year, we had to randomly put 200 or so rhinestones all over a tulle skirt for my daughter’s tap costume. I kept the dress hanging on the hanger, and just put my hand between the layers as I stuck the rhinestones on. E-6000 dries fast enough, and the layers were loose enough, that I didn’t have any issues with the tulle sticking to anything else. I also used the “hand as a backing” technique for ¬†doing around the neckline of my daughter’s lyrical costume, and for the body of her tap costume. Using your hand allows you to gently stretch the material to avoid the bunching or pulling I talked about earlier. I have not had issues with bleed through, but have hung it to dry, or placed wax paper in between while the costumes dried.


1. The way I usually apply rhinestones, is to put a dime-sized glob of E-6000 on a piece of cardboard, wax paper, or scratch paper (a small stack might be best, in case it bleeds through a bit). I then use the end of my wax stick (the side without wax),  dip it in the glue, twirl or wipe off the stringy end, and cover the back of the rhinestone with it. I then use my fingers to place the rhinestone on the fabric. I press down gently on the rhinestone to make sure it is completely affixed to the fabric. I use the end of the 2nd wax stick from the package to scrape off any glue that has seeped out from under the rhinestone.

Some people use the wax side of the 2nd wax stick to hold the stone, and eliminate some of the mess. In my experience, a ¬†rhinestone with glue on it, at the end of a wax stick, tends to fall off more easily. Though, I have seen other people do it successfully. I don’t mind the mess on my fingers, they wash. I mostly just use the wax side to pick up a rhinestone from a pile of them.

LADC jacket2.¬†Another dance mom ordered some really tiny rhinestones online. She added some really cool effects around the letters of our studio’s name on her daughter’s jacket. I tried to recreate it with the regular rhinestones I had, but it didn’t look the same. She shared some of her extra stones with me so I could do the same thing on my daughter’s jacket. The stones were so small, that my regular technique didn’t work. I started out with the same technique of putting E-6000 on the end of a wax stick, then made a thin line on her jacket where the stones would go. I used the wax side of the stick to place the tiny rhinestones on the glue. When the stones were all set in place, I used the end of the stick that didn’t have glue on it to scrape the extra glue off. You will want to make sure you use a very small amount of the adhesive when using this technique, or you will end up with a huge mess!

3.¬†The last technique that I have seen some moms/dancers do, but have not had much luck with myself, is to squeeze the E-6000 directly on the garment from the tube. Then take the wax stick and place the rhinestone on the glue. One dance mom said she feels as though this is the least messy, and easiest way for her. When I’ve tried, the glue keeps coming out, or I end up with way too much glue on the spot I want the rhinestone to go. I guess it’s all in the control you have over the tube. I obviously don’t have that mastered yet. The people I have watched do this make it look simple and flawless.

Drying:¬†To dry the costume, shirt, or jacket you are rhinestoning, you can hang it, drape it over something (like the back of the couch, if it’s safe), lay it out on a table, etc. How you let it dry doesn’t matter so much as long as you let it dry before it’s worn. If it’s not completely dried, the stones are not completely adhered to the fabric, and your risk for having rhinestones pop off goes up quite a bit. Most people recommend giving the garment at least 24-48 hours to dry before wearing. The same is true for washing it. Make sure it has had plenty of time to dry before washing, or all your hard work will literally be washed away.

Note added 2/2/2014: I discovered a new, more efficient way to apply rhinestones. Less mess, less fumes, twice as fast! https://dancem0m.wordpress.com/2014/02/01/a-new-method-of-rhinestoning/

My Rhinestoning Experience – Using Gem Tac vs E-6000

Have you ever wondered what kind of rhinestone glue works best? Read on to find out what I have learned over the past few years (and I’ve learned a lot). I’m finding that the more I rhinestone jackets and costumes, the more I actually enjoy it. Call me crazy! It’s like a craft – it feels good to see how it turns out when I am done.

Here’s my brief history of rhinestone experience:

Two years ago, my hip hop class danced to “Ice Ice Baby”, the warm up suits we wore seemed appropriate. At the last minute, we decided to put our names in rhinestones on the back. Being that I had no experience with rhinestones, I bought peel and stick ones from the craft store. That was a bad idea for two reasons. First of all, the stickiness of the adhesive was not strong enough for clothing. I ended up having to go buy some glue. I bought the kind that was recommended by the dance studio (Beacon Gem Tac). Since I had to peel the backs off each rhinestone, then glue put glue on each one, it took A LOT longer than I expected. I think in all, it took me about 6 hours. At the end, I was very happy with how it turned out, and my rhinestones stayed on, while most of the other ones that had not been glued on (other people in our class) were falling off.

The next year, my daughter was invited to be in the competition classes. Little did I know how much rhinestoning was involved in competitions. In the end, it was worth it. The extra stones really glitzed up their costumes! Her dance studio gave us the rhinestones we were to use on the costumes, and suggested we use the Gem Tac to glue them on. It was nice not having to peel the backs off each of them, since there were likely several hundred. The Gem Tac was easy to use, though messy. The glue, though white, dried clear, so what little bits of glue did not stay under the rhinestone, was not obvious. This was good, since her ballet costume skirt was purple tulle. White glue spots would not have been pretty. The downside of this glue was that it bled through the fabric. I had to be careful to make sure the layers were separate, and there was something underneath the bottom. My folding table still has my name in glue residue that I have not been able to get off. I also discovered that Gem Tac doesn’t work well on velvet. The top of Grace’s ballet costume was velvet. It took a lot of effort to get the glue to stick and hold the rhinestones on. In the end, I figured out the right amount of pressure, and length of time to squeeze each stone on to make it work. This created a lot of extra time I didn’t plan on spending to get her costume done. I also ended up putting rhinestones on her dance jacket. In the end, most of the rhinestones stayed on through 3 competitions and 2 shows, though a few came off of her jacket after several washings.

Now, we come to this year. We moved to MN, and found ourselves at a new dance studio. In talking to some of the moms, they suggested E-600 for rhinestones. They said it will stick anything to anything. One of the dance moms, Barb, has lots of experience with rhinestones, etc. and said she swears by it. She used it to rhinestone both of her daughters’ costumes, jackets, and other dance gear over the years. She’s also used it to attach bling to her daughter’s Dream Duffel. Yeah, but how hard is it to use?? The answer is, not very.

I had already added rhinestones to Grace’s new jacket. The material was a bit more of a shiny material, with the logo embroidered on the back. I used the Gem Tac as usual, and after 2 washings, rhinestones started falling off. I decided to try some E-6000. They sell it right at the dance studio, and it wasn’t very expensive. I started using it to reapply the few stones that had fallen off. I was disappointed to see that there was a dirty-looking residue where the old glue had been. Maybe Gem Tac doesn’t stay good for a year? Barb told me that E-6000 lasts for years.

When we got her costumes, we were given a packet of 200 rhinestones to apply randomly on her tap skirt, and another packet with more rhinestones that we were to make stars out of. E-6000 and I quickly became friends. It was very sticky, but thicker than the Gem Tac (which was the consistency of school glue). I didn’t have to hold each individual stone on as I applied it. As soon as I put the glue on, it started to dry, which made it bond instantly to the fabric. Due to the thicker consistency, I found myself squirting the glue into a small dollop onto a piece of waxed cardboard. I then used the skinny end of rhinestone sticks to put just a dab of glue on the stone before affixing it. This system went really slick! I was able to do both costumes in the amount of time it took me to do that first one two years ago.

There was one thing I didn’t love about E-6000. When I was making the stars (another blog post to come soon on that ordeal), I had to slide the stones around a bit to get the shape just right. As I did, some glue got up the sides of the rhinestones. This dulled the sparkle of the stones some. I am going to go back and try to scrape some of it off, but I don’t want to wreck the stars, either. On the upside, the glue that did get on the table (not much) peeled right up like a rubber strip.

From now on, I will also be swearing by E-6000 for applying rhinestones. After we get Grace her Dream Duffel, we will try it to affix some bling too. I’ll add a comment once we try it.

What experience have you had with gluing rhinestones? What’s worked, what hasn’t?

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