by Wendy Chao
Stone, v – “to cover with rhinestones, with the intent of making sparkly”
When we compete, we want judges to notice our dancing and mark our number. Our appearance can play a large role in getting a judge to look at us in the first place — this is why we wear dresses in bright colors, with voluminous skirts or floats or fringes that move when we move. We can also use sparkly things like rhinestones or sequins to draw attention, since our eyes are naturally drawn to the reflection of light from these sparkly things. However, the rhinestone aspect of your look isn’t cheap, especially when you’re already buying a dress or getting one made. If you have the time and the inclination, stoning your own dresses or making your own accessories can be a more affordable way to draw judges’ attention on the floor. This is also a great way of making a cheaper dress look higher quality.
Note: Pretty much everything I say here would also apply to stoning a man’s latin shirt, if that’s something you want to do.
Before we get to how you want your dress to look, I want to explain the basics behind each of the elements we’re going to discuss, so you’ll have an idea of how to “design” the stoning you will do. The biggest thing to keep in mind is the visual effect of stones. Stones “sparkle” because our eyes see the light reflecting off their facets, but if stones are the same size, the same color, and very evenly spaced, the light will reflect off these stones in a similar way and you will get a kind of “flat” reflection that doesn’t shimmer as much. In order to keep the sparkle more dynamic and interesting, and to have that “shimmer” effect, we want to vary these elements as much as we can. Of course, the more they vary, the more difficult/expensive the stoning process will be, so you should weigh the pros and cons of making each element more or less complicated before deciding which enhancements to utilize in your stoning.
The easiest color schemes to use are:
1) all stones that match the color of your dress, and
2) all Crystal AB stones.
Other options include a combination of these 2, or adding in slightly different complementary colors (such as mixing indigo stones with blue stones on a blue dress).
The color “crystal” is the standard clear stone, but this color appears almost matte white on the floor. “AB” (or “aurora boreal”) stones have a kind of iridescent coating that makes them reflect more of a rainbow of colors, giving a more dynamic reflection. Crystal AB stones, clear stones with a bit of iridescence, are therefore the generic, go-to color for stoning. Not that I have anything against them – this is probably the color that I stock up in the most, because I know it can go on any dress and on any accessories I choose to make. I especially like using Crystal AB on any nude-colored areas, because it will basically look like you’re just wearing stones. (You could also go for a color that actually matches the nude fabric for a more subtle look. See next paragraph.)
Using the same color as the fabric of your dress will always give a more subtle effect than using Crystal AB on the same fabric, because the color will blend in with the dress. You will still get a sparkle effect, so not to worry. I actually prefer this more subtle look, because when you’re standing still the stones won’t stand out, but once you move, you get sparkles. For the audience, it’s like, “where did that come from?”
If you choose to get a dress made and want to use stones that match your dress, then you should actually choose the color of fabric based on the color of stone you want to use, because there are way fewer options for stone colors than there are for fabric colors.
Option 3 is to combine the color of your dress and Crystal AB for some accenting. This can work well if you have some nude-colored areas or different kinds of shapes, highlight areas, or motifs going on. For example, maybe you want to highlight your neckline using Crystal AB stones to border it. You could then use your colored stones to fill in the rest of the dress, so the whole dress will sparkle, but more attention will be drawn to the neckline because of the color difference.
You can also play with using multiple different colors together to create a mixed color scheme:
For example, if your dress is blue, using mostly blue stones that match the dress and then mixing in some greenish stones and lighter blue stones could have an interesting ocean-like/mermaid effect.
If your dress is red, using mostly red stones that match the dress and then mixing in yellow and orange stones would give a fiery effect, while mixing in darker red stones instead could have more of a dramatic feel.
When using multiple colors, you can choose to mix multiple colors in the same area (creating the most variance and therefore the most dynamic sparkle), separate them into different areas (i.e. color blocking), or mix some but not all colors in each area, for example a gradient (for example, a gradient from red to orange to yellow).
If you choose to go with a color scheme, you absolutely need to make sure the colors all look good together. Try to keep the color scheme as coherent as possible. I recommend keeping the colors either all warm (red-toned) or all cool (blue-toned), and/or using the same area on the color wheel, like three colors next to each other on the color spectrum. You could even use a site like this one to help you generate some complementary colors.
The colors of the stones on your dress will be visible even when you are standing still, so the color scheme makes a huge difference and can define the look of a dress. A “fiery red” red/orange color scheme will have a totally different feel from a darker, “dramatic” red/burgundy color scheme. You can actually use this to your advantage — for example, if you think the color of the dress is too light, you can mix in some slightly darker stones to make the dress seem darker.
Pros & Cons:
Using fewer colors (i.e. sticking to one color per area) will be much easier to execute and will be more likely cheaper. When you start to use more colors, you will need less of each color so won’t get as much of a discount for buying in bulk. You will also have to figure out how to distribute the color evenly so that the main color is predominant overall and the extra colors are evenly spaced around the area. If you’re trying to make the whole area a combination of red and pink, for example, you wouldn’t want all of the pink stones to end up on one side of the area by accident. On the other hand, the more colors you use, the more interesting your dress will be even when standing still and the more dimension the sparkle will have. Using different colors can also really define a dress and give it a completely different feel.
Here’s a link to the types of colors that are available:
Preciosa stones: https://www.danceshopper.com/preciosa-rhinestones-FlatBacks
Swarovski stones: https://www.danceshopper.com/swarovski-rhinestones-FlatBacks
As I said before, it’s more difficult to find stones that match fabric than it is to find fabric that matches stones, so if possible, choose your stone colors first before your fabric. If you can’t find a stone color that matches, Crystal AB is a good default.
The basic shape is a circle, and these tend to have 8-10 diagonal facets and then 1 flat octagonal/decagonal facet in the middle. The angles of the facets are what catches the light, so the more facets compared to the size of the stone, the better. This is why I generally prefer these basic circles with 8+ facets as opposed to the bigger, more distinct shapes like the teardrop. However, different shapes will have different facet angles, so they will reflect light differently. This makes the shimmer effect more interesting by adding more variety to the sparkle.
You can vary shapes as long as it complements the design of the stoning – for example, you probably wouldn’t put a bunch of square shapes stones in the middle of your swirly curlicue shape. Using other shapes will also bring more attention, so I would use them in key areas that you want to draw more attention to. It wouldn’t really make sense to use different shapes while you’re stoning a mesh sleeve because you want the mesh to be a bit more subtle, but you might use different shapes when stoning a border around the plunging neckline because you do want to draw attention there.
Pros & Cons:
Using fewer shapes is much easier, especially if you will vary size (see next section). If you use multiple different shapes, you will need to spend more time figuring out how to fit all of the stones together and not leave awkward gaps or cram them too closely around the other shapes. Successfully adding in shapes in a few key highlight areas could make the dress more interesting by adding more dimension to the sparkle.
If you want to add more texture, you can add trimmings like beads, pearls, sequins, as long as they match the area they are in and are cohesive with the rest of the dress in terms of color, size, shape, etc. This is out of the realm of my expertise, but if you’re really feeling the pearls, you do you.
I consider the basic size to be SS20, which is about 5mm in diameter. If you’re only going to get one size, buy this size. If you go much smaller, it will take considerably longer to fill up the same space. If you go much larger, the stones themselves will be much more visible on your dress, ruining the illusion. SS16, which are slightly smaller, is also a viable option, but will be a bit more difficult to work with due to the smaller size.
If you are going for more than one size, I would buy about an equal amount of SS20 and SS16, or buy slightly more of the size you prefer of the two. The slight difference in size means there will be a slight difference in the facets on each stone, so more variation in the sparkle. If you choose to add a third size, I would suggest buying SS30 (the next size up). For a fourth and fifth size option, go down one more size (SS12) and up one more size (SS34). The larger sizes are generally used more for accents, such as if you have an actual line that you want to make with stones or an area you want to highlight, but I also mix these in with the SS20 and SS16 when covering a larger area to add a bit more dimension to the sparkle.
I usually use 3 sizes: SS20, SS16, SS30, and I find that to be enough.
Pros & Cons:
It is technically both cheaper and easier to simply buy all one size. With more sizes, you will also need to spend more time figuring out how to place the stones so that they are spaced properly, not crammed too tightly or with awkward gaps. However, I think it’s worth it to buy multiple sizes, as I would consider this to be the simplest element that you can vary to add more dimension to the sparkle of your dress. If you can only choose one element to vary, I would choose this one.
Here’s a link to a chart of sizes and shapes: http://www.sparklz.com/matt/sizecht.jpg
This element does not affect the types of stones that you will buy the way the previous elements would, but can still be a useful way to make the stoning more interesting and more varied. For small areas, shapes, or motifs where the area you want stoned is very defined, there isn’t really any need to vary the density. You probably want to have the whole area very densely stoned anyway. For larger areas or areas where there isn’t a specifically defined shape, you may want to have one edge be very densely stoned and then gradually have the stones spread out more and more as you go away from the edge. This would have the effect of looking more blended with the rest of the dress, instead of having an abrupt end to the stones.
For example, if you are stoning the hem of your dress, you could have an inch of very dense stones, then an inch or two of medium density, and a few more inches of stones that are spread out. This would bring the stoned and unstoned parts of the dress together and make the entire dress look more cohesive than if you had just stoned a two inch stripe of very dense stones at the bottom. However, if the look you’re going for is very strong, bold lines, a stripe of very dense stones with no fading out would actually fit into your desired effect.
High vs. Medium vs. Low Density
High density is best for focus areas to make them the most impactful. Medium and low density can be used to reduce costs, but will have less sparkle than high density. Medium density can be worth the reduced impact for larger areas that are not meant to be the focus of the dress, but low density may decrease the impact of the stones to the point of being less cost-effective.
Achieving an even gradation across an entire area can be very difficult, so this is the most difficult option. The advantage is that fading out the density of stones can look very professional and can also use fewer stones than high density all over, potentially reducing costs.
Theme and Visualization
Before buying materials or actually stoning, and even before deciding which of the above elements you want to vary, I recommend thinking about your dress’s overall theme or aesthetic. You should have a good idea of what general colors you will use, what areas you will stone, and if you will have any designs or motifs on the dress. Ideally the overall theme will match or take ideas from what the dress currently looks like, so as to form a cohesive image, or better yet, as if you bought or designed the dress with the theme already in mind. I’ve already discussed colors above, so I’ll focus more on the other items here.
What do I mean by overall theme or aesthetic? You want to convey something about yourself or your dancing with this dress. The theme could be imagery — what you want to look like (a mermaid? a princess?) — or it could be about highlighting specific elements about you or your dancing (you have great arm styling or hip action and want to showcase that). We want the stones to complement whatever theme we have, in both imagery (will likely affect color scheme and design or motifs) and in highlighting areas of your dancing (will likely affect where your stones will be placed).
In general, the areas that are stoned are the areas that will capture more attention, so it should complement what you want to stand out about yourself or your dancing. If there are atypical shapes or lines created by your dress, like a plunging neckline or a low back that shows off your back muscles, you may want to highlight these areas by creating a border of stones around them. If you want to accentuate or create an hourglass figure, you can stone down the middle of your dress in a slightly exaggerated hourglass shape to draw more attention to the curves of the hourglass, and leave the sides unstoned. If you want to make your legs look longer or draw more attention to your upper body, you can create the illusion by stoning the bodice and then stopping higher up than would be expected (at or higher than your natural waist). If you want to elongate your body, you would try to make a design with more vertical lines rather than horizontal lines.* And so on.
Hopefully your dress was also chosen or made with the same highlight areas in mind, so that the stoning and the design of the dress will complement each other. If not, you may need to adapt your ideas to fit with the dress so that the overall look is cohesive. It would probably be a bit jarring to see a dress that was designed with a drop waist to make the torso look longer, but the stoning stops higher to make the legs look longer. A compromise would be to gradually fade out the density of the stones as you go down, although the best option would be to not combine those two opposing ideas at all.
Another option would be to use a pattern or motif that goes with the imagery you want to create in your dress. Lace is a good example of something that can be stoned wherever it is placed on the dress, and can be used as a motif. Ideally, the lace will already be placed on the dress in such a way (such as, making a diagonal line* going down the dress) that, when stoned, the dress will have a cohesive look. Again, the stoning and the theme of the dress should complement each other. If the lace on the dress has curving lines and shapes, I wouldn’t want to start stoning triangle shapes. Something like triangles could work well on a dress meant to highlight sharp angles and lines, instead of on softer shapes like lace. Shapes such as triangles or curlicues could also be a good motif to use on a dress.
Finally, when in doubt, you can choose a large area (or multiple smaller areas) and stone the hell out of it. This is probably the most expensive option but requires the least planning, and I actually don’t recommend doing this without at least some other theme happening. If the entire dress is covered in stones, it can actually be a bit overwhelming, and you will not draw attention to anything about the dress in particular. Not to say that it’s bad, but it’s a look that I wouldn’t suggest doing unless you deliberately choose a theme of “sparkle literally everywhere,” since part of the point of stoning is to bring attention to specific parts of your dress or your dancing. I would recommend incorporating some other element to bring a dynamic to the mix, like using different colors, or stoning particular areas of the dress like the bodice or fading the density of the stones (or color of the stones) out from your focus area and thus keeping your focus area the most eye-catching part of the dress.
If you are looking for ideas, you can try looking through Google images, dress marketplaces (such as on Facebook), websites that sell dresses, and watching competition videos to see what other people are wearing. I like to save any concepts or ideas that I like into an album on my phone for future reference, and then eventually I create a rough sketch of a dress that combines the elements I like, in order to have a visualization of what I will be stoning later on.
Once you have a good sense of what your dress will end up looking like, you can then determine how each of the elements we discussed first will be affected – shapes, sizes, colors, etc.
*When I say “lines,” I don’t actually mean a straight line. It’s more like the flow of the design and the general direction that the eye is drawn toward. A dress with vertical stripes will literally have vertical lines, but a dress can have vertical lines when using the hourglass example above. Generally borders will define the direction that the eye is drawn in.
How many stones should I buy?
Rhinestones come in a unit size called a “gross,” which contains 144 stones. Generally smaller sized stones (SS20 and smaller) are sold by the gross and in packs of 10 gross (or 1440 stones), while larger sized stones (SS30 and larger) are sold by the gross and/or in packs of 72 (½ gross) or 360 stones (2.5 gross). Stones of different shapes are also generally sold by the gross and/or in packs of 72 (½ gross) or 360 stones (2.5 gross), but larger and different shaped stones may be sold individually or in much smaller quantities.
Here is a rough method of estimating how many stones you will need to buy: 10 gross of stones will give approximately 3 hands’ worth of area, depending on the ratio of sizes you are using and the spacing between stones. (What I mean by 3 hands’ worth of area is that if I had three hands, I would be able to lay them down on the dress and cover the area that 10 gross of stones covered.) Figure out how many hands you would need to cover the areas you want to stone, then divide by 3 and multiply by 10 to find out approximately how many gross of stones you need. Obviously, your stoned areas won’t fit your hands perfectly, so you would just round or estimate the fractions as best you can and add up your areas.
This is a super, super rough estimate based on my own dresses, the spacing and sizes I used, at the highest density. So as you start stoning, you will get a better idea of whether you will need to buy more stones based on your own spacing and sizes, and whether you vary your density.
I’ll give some examples of estimates just to show you what different quantities might look like.
This dress has some stoned areas but they are not very dense, so I’ll do a rough rounding down on each of the estimates here. About 2 hands’ worth (of dense stones) on the back of the dress and maybe 3 hands on the front. 5 / 3 x 10 = 17 gross of stones.
- https://www.designbyradim.com/latin-dresses?lightbox=dataItem-itizu6op and https://www.designbyradim.com/latin-dresses?lightbox=dataItem-itizu6ou
This dress is densely stoned near the edges, and more sparsely stoned on the rest of the dress. It looks like the front has about 5-6 hands’ worth of Crystal AB stones and the back has about 3-4 hands’ worth of Crystal AB. Then the rest of the dress has maybe 3 hands’ worth of purple stones (very roughly estimated). That gives us about 9 / 3 x 10 = 30 gross of Crystal AB stones and 3 / 3 x 10 = 10 gross of purple stones.
This dress is absolutely covered in stones. I would estimate this dress to have about 36 hands’ worth of area covered by stones (the bottom of the dress is more sparsely stoned so I went with a “2 hands of this area = 1 regular hand” estimate). 36 / 3 x 10 = 120 gross of stones.
What types of rhinestones should I buy?
There are several different types of rhinestones – hotfix, flatback, pointed back, and sew-on, just to name a few. Hotfix stones required using a heat tool to apply; flatbacks use glue; and sew-ons have small holes in them for sewing on. Pointed back rhinestones on dresses are… well, I’ve never heard of these being used on dresses so I have no idea how you would put them on.
Out of the other three options, typically flatbacks will be the most optimal choice in terms of cost and time efficiency. Sew-on stones will take forever to apply to your dress and I would suggest only using this type for large stones that are used as accents, particularly if you have a lot of large stones in different shapes as well, so that they are more secure. Hotfix are more expensive, but are less messy and more permanent. Flatbacks are the cheapest, but potentially messy due to the glue. They may also fall off (but I find this an advantage rather than a disadvantage because that makes it easier to fix mistakes).
So for the most part, you would probably want to go with flatbacks to keep costs down, and if you are planning on buying larger/different shaped stones, possibly also some sew-ons. (If cost is not an issue, and you really don’t want to glue, go for the hotfix. But cost is usually an issue since if it weren’t, you would just pay someone else to stone your dress, right?)
What supplies do I need?
Obviously, you need your stones. On top of that, you need whatever tools are required to apply the types of stones you buy to your dress. For hotfix, that’s a specific hotfix tool you’ll need, which kind of looks like a cross between a screwdriver and a hot glue gun. For sew-on stones, you’ll need a needle and thread that will work well with your dress in both color (obviously match the color of the underlying fabric/stones) and fabric type (I’m not a sewing expert, but I believe lighter fabrics need specific types of thread/needles so the fabric won’t break. You can probably google this to find out more.)
For flatback stones, you will need glue. The most popular glue options are GemTac and E6000. E6000 is much stronger, but tends to be smelly and also can get very messy, because it leaves strings of glue behind if you’re not careful. Either one is fine, it’s pretty much personal preference. You will probably also want to buy syringes for the glue, so you have more control over where it is placed, and a tool to pick up the stones themselves. There are some stoning starter kits out there that have a disk of wax and a little wooden stick. Anything similar to that will work, even something like a bobby pin with some candle wax would probably be fine. You want the wax because it will allow you to pick up the stone by the glass side and not touch the glue at all. You can also use tweezers, but they will touch the glue each time you press a stone into the fabric and then potentially leave strings of glue behind, and also residue on future stones, so I don’t recommend it. Be sure to stock up on syringes or at least syringe tips, because these are generally single-use. The glue dries up inside the syringe tip overnight, making it impossible to reuse. In addition, I find the syringes don’t always like to unpush themselves for a refill, but sometimes you can reuse a syringe multiple times in the same session. Syringes are usually pretty cheap, though.
Where do I buy my supplies?
For tools other than the actual stones, you can likely find these on Amazon or in “trimmings” stores (stores that sell beads, ribbons, buttons, etc). Here are some examples of what you’d be looking for:
- Hotfix tool: https://www.mjtrim.com/hot-fixer-rhinestone-setter
- Here’s a kit of hotfix tools: https://www.amazon.com/Applicator-GLTECK-Rhinestone-Different-Rhinestones/dp/B07GVBQB53
- Flatback starter kit (includes syringe, wax, tool to pick up stones, and also a color card that could be useful when deciding on colors): https://crystalrhinestoneboutique.com/products/flat-back-rhinestone-starter-kit
- Glue syringes (there are different syringe tip widths available, I generally go for a larger side to allow more glue on each push of the syringe, so about gauge 14-16): https://www.amazon.com/Creative-Hobbies-Applicator-Rhinestones-Precision/dp/B00T3H8EAE/
For the stones themselves, I recommend buying stones from http://tohoshoji-ny.com/ (basically some of the cheapest prices I’ve found, but the one downside is they only sell in Preciosa in bulk) or https://www.danceshopper.com/swarovski-rhinestones (more expensive, but you can buy smaller quantities of Preciosa than on Toho Shoji’s site).
What brand of stone should I buy?
The last thing I want to talk about before we start the “okay, now what should my dress actually look like/how do I get these stones actually on the dress” conversation is rhinestone brands.
The two main high quality brands are Swarovski and Preciosa. In terms of appearance, on the dance floor they won’t look much different from each other (Swarovski is slightly higher quality), but Preciosa tends to be cheaper. The main difference is the colors available differ slightly between the two brands. (For example, Preciosa’s Light Siam is slightly lighter than Swarovski’s Light Siam). To give you an idea of cost, on the two sites I linked above for buying stones, 10 gross of Preciosa Crystal AB (SS20) runs about $60-70 and 10 gross of Swarovski Crystal AB (SS20) runs about $90-120. The cost per stone would then vary with stone size and also by shape and color (ie, different shapes will cost more than the basic round stone, AB costs more than non-AB stones, and colors cost more than Crystal). Seeing the price difference between Preciosa and Swarovski, my recommendation is to buy Preciosa whenever possible and only use Swarovski if Preciosa colors don’t match or otherwise won’t work for you for whatever reason.
What about other, cheaper brands?
My response to that is: you get what you pay for. Between Preciosa and Swarovski there may not be a ton of difference on the floor, but cheaper brands won’t have the same reflectiveness and you will get a flatter look, with much less shimmer. If you aren’t willing or able to spend the money to buy Preciosa or Swarovski stones, you would probably be better off not adding any stones to your dress. A matte look can be just as polished as a fully stoned dress, and I think is better than using cheap stones that don’t reflect light at all. Or you can buy as many Preciosa or Swarovski stones as you can afford, and only stone a few key areas, like major borders or visual lines, or make some very sparkly accessories. I would rather not spend time and money if the effect isn’t going to be impactful, and I believe that cheap stones will not make a significant impact on your look and may even make your dress look worse/cheaper.
Now that you have your materials, I would recommend spending some time doing a test run on each of the areas you plan to stone – this entails laying out stones on the dress itself, playing with the ratios of colors/sizes/shapes/whichever elements you chose to vary. I would also suggest putting the dress on a dress form or stuffing it with clothing to make a rough body shape inside, because stones on a flat surface will be very different from stones on a body. Then stand back from the dress to see what the stones will look like from different angles. It doesn’t need to be a full setup of the stones, but you should have a good idea after this of the ratios of colors/sizes/shapes/etc needed for each area and also a general plan of attack (i.e. which areas will you prioritize and spend the most time/energy on getting the right look? Which areas aren’t so important?)
If you’re a planner, like me, you may also want to do a mockup on paper of all of these elements even before you buy stones so that you have the ratios of colors/sizes/shapes and the placement and everything else planned out ahead of time. This would also help determine the quantity of stones needed, but I don’t think it’s a necessary step.
After the test runs, you’re ready to start stoning.
Preparation for Stoning
Here are some items that I would recommend doing before you start stoning.
- If you haven’t already, stuff your dress with a rough body shape so that the fabric is taut the way it would be on your body. You can use a body pillow, I use a bunch of old tshirts inside one tshirt, and if you have a dress mannequin then that’s even better.
- Lay out some type of covering on the floor – cardboard, newspaper, old towels, or something similar – to catch any stray bits of glue and stones. This makes it a lot easier to clean up after yourself.
- Set up the area around you so that everything is within easy reach. I like to line up my packets of stones in a row, with syringes and glue to the side. I also like to keep paper towels handy to wipe off the syringe when glue builds up on the tip.
- Fill your syringe with glue – I go about half full for easier control of the glue, and only one syringe at a time.
How to Stone Flatbacks
Here’s the general order of steps for stoning:
- Squeeze out dot of glue onto dress
- Pick up stone with tool, flat side facing away
- Press stone firmly into the glue dot
I’ve found that the stones are less likely to slide around if you wait a few seconds for it to dry, kind of like eyelash glue. You want the glue to not be super liquid so that it runs everywhere when you apply pressure, and you also don’t want it to be so tacky that it’s hard to push the stone in. To be more efficient, my method is to actually put down a few dots of glue at a time, then start applying stones to the first dot of glue after it’s had some time to dry. When you first start out, don’t stress too much about being efficient, though. You’ll get faster as you go along and then can start doing multiple dots at a time, but start off with one until you get the hang of the gluing and the spacing. If the syringe keeps pushing out glue when you put it down, you can try taking the push part of the syringe out to release the pressure, or if the glue hasn’t dried yet, you can use it for your next stone.
How much glue do I use?
If the glue only touches the flat back, the glass part of the stone is more likely to fall off and doesn’t have anything to hold it to the back. You want the glue to ooze out just enough that the glue touches and grips onto the glass part, but not so much that all of the spaces between stones are coated in glue.
How much space do I leave between stones?
This will depend on what density you are looking to achieve, but even the highest density should still have a bit of space in between the stones, so that they have the opportunity to reflect light. If you put all the stones close enough together that they touch, the stones will crowd each other out and not as much light will be able to reflect off of the slanted facets. The spacing should be a bit roomier the larger the stone – for the highest density, I aim for ~1mm spaces around SS16 stones, a tiny bit more for SS20s, and more like ~1.5-2mm spaces around SS30s. If you are using a graduated density to “fade out” from an area of high density, I would recommend going row by row across the whole area and spacing out each row a bit more and a bit farther away from the previous row, so that you can have an even fade. If you start at one end and do the fade for a small section before moving onto the next section, it will be difficult to replicate the same gradation.
Keep the fabric where you are stoning as flat as possible. When you have wet glue, the stones will slide downwards if the fabric is not flat. This means it’s best to stone your dress in sections – however much can be flat at a time – and let each section dry before you turn the dress at all. I would leave at least 15-30 minutes before turning, and if you can leave it for longer that is ideal. Then when I’m done for the day, I turn the dress so as many new stones are facing upwards as possible. For this reason I would recommend only stoning on one side (front or back) of the dress each day. Then you definitely want to leave at least one night, but ideally more than 24 hours, for the dress to fully dry before dancing in it.
Note when using E6000: As I mentioned above, this glue can leave strings if you pull the syringe away while glue is still being pushed out. To avoid this, you can wipe the tip of the syringe across the fabric as you finish squeezing out your glue dot to cut off the flow of glue.
Where do I start?
If you have areas that have distinct outlines, I would stone the outline first to make sure the shape will have a nice, defined edge, and then fill in the shape in whatever order you like. As above, if you are going to have gradations of density or color, also go one row at a time to keep the gradation as even across the area as possible.
I messed up, what do I do?
Your dress isn’t ruined! If the glue is still wet, you can simply lift off the stone and place it somewhere else. If you let the glue dry, you can try to peel or pick it off later or remove with nail polish remover, but a bit of extra glue is almost unnoticeable if you don’t want to do this.
I’m finished! What now?
Make sure you practice wearing your dress through routines so that your partner can adjust to the stones, as they may affect a leader’s hold.
Once stones have been glued on, you want to avoid putting the dress in extreme heat or agitation because that will potentially remove stones, so dry cleaning is out of the question, and be careful when steaming your dress. Spot cleaning and hand washing are probably the way to go.
Wendy Chao is an open American Smooth competitor in the collegiate circuit. She first began her journey into the world of rhinestones three years ago, and has stoned all of the dresses and accessories she currently wears to compete. Wendy began dancing ballroom while attending NYU.