When I first heard about stoning your own figure skating dresses, I was completely at a loss. I’ve never been a crafty person, I can barely sew a button, and I don’t know the least thing about sequins or glitter or crystals. But it seemed like ALL figure skaters knew about this mysterious world of sparkle, and that it was understood that you would naturally stone your dresses to get it.
But I had no clue where to start. The internet is great, but all the references I found were written by people who… knew stuff. Who assumed you knew stuff. Who talked about hot fix vs. flat back, gross, Swarovski vs. Czech, 5mm vs. 20SS, and basically was way over my head from Step 1. I knew that I didn’t have $600 bucks to order a custom-stoned dress, but once I saw the difference that crystals can make, I wanted the bling. And I decided I would have it.
So I set about taking the dress pictured above and turning it into the one below:
I bought a new dress for the competition, which was a splurge because I already had a dress that I’d worn to the holiday show. It was a nice inexpensive dress ($35) and I could have worn that again, but I was both indulging myself and looking for a more satisfactory skating costume.
The first dress, once worn on ice, wasn’t quite as tight as I would have liked and a bit long (I got it from a dancewear site). I think skating dresses are most flattering at very short lengths, even though you feel self-conscious in them. Plus, I couldn’t wear a real bra under the dress, so I wanted something more supportive; the new skating dress is tight like a racing swimsuit, and holds me in comfortably.
After researching my options and experimenting with various glues and stones, I settled on my methods. It basically boiled down to glue and tweezers (and a lot of patience).
- Standard cheap rhinestones from the craft store. Flat backs, no stick-ons or peel-offs or heat required. I chose a few different sizes, which is a good thing because what I thought would work in the store looked a lot different on the dress. I used a LOT of them. Probably 600 of the size that I used the most (5mm), and maybe a couple hundred more in other sizes scattered throughout (3mm, 7mm, 9mm).
- Tweezers with slanted tips. You’ll get glue on them, so probably best to buy a set just for stoning.
- Glue. I used Gem-Tac fabric glue rather than the industrial-strength E6000 stuff because Gem-Tac seemed strong enough without the noxious fumes. It looks a bit like Elmer’s glue (and smells like it, ick), but it’s actually quite strong.
- Cardboard, cut into small squares. I started out squeezing glue onto each rhinestone back individually, then decided that was a huge waste of time. So I squeezed out big drops of glue onto cardboard, then dipped the rhinestones in the glue with the tweezers.
- Tissues. Lots of them. I got glue on the tweezers so I had to wipe them in between stones.
- Parchment (wax) paper. This is for the mesh part, which I explain below.
- A pin. The glue bottle tip dried pretty quickly so I had to poke holes in the tip regularly.
Armed with my tools and the photo above, I got to work. I started with a single row of stones along the border, because I needed to start somewhere:
(I looked into buying real crystals, because up close they really do look much nicer than the standard cheap kind you get at the hobby store. But once you put them on a dress they look fine, and until I have a compelling reason to go for high-quality crystals I decided I’d start out with regular cheap rhinestones. Which aren’t even terribly cheap, because they add up. I probably spent about $20 on rhinestones, whereas the equivalent amount in crystals would have run me two to three times that. In either case, it’s a lot less than paying an added $300 to the dressmaker.)
The nice thing about the glue is that it dries clear, so that even if you get sloppy, it doesn’t show up in the end result.
Which is handy, because I made mistakes:
Or rather, it may be more accurate to say that I wasn’t as careful as I could have been. But I didn’t want to stress out about this whole stoning thing, and seeing how the glue dried invisible really helped speed up the process. I’m patient, but not THAT patient.
After I finished with that trim, I thought it looked pretty nice. I could’ve left it at that, going for an understated look.
But no, I was committed to The Bling.
Looking at the photo, I realized belatedly that the pros had mixed up the sizes of the stones along their border, and mine was too even. Thus mine wouldn’t have that same nicely assorted look. Balls.
Oh well. I added larger sizes to the mix:
I thought that was really pretty, actually. I was tempted to leave it like that. But again, I decided on More Bling.
I scattered stones along the bodice before gluing them, trying to experiment with the size of the spacing. Too far apart? Too dense?
I decided on something in between the above two examples. Then I started gluing, one stone at a time. It was random, just sticking on stones at intervals and trying not to space them too exactly.
Not gonna lie, I ran into regrets. At about this point, I started second-guessing myself and worrying that I’d just wasted a brand-new skating dress and fearing that I’d done irreparable damage.
The only solution? Keep moving forward. More stones!
It was starting to look too busy. I had more regrets. I kept adding more stones. (I recalled hearing how the dresses that look classy and understated up close barely show up when on the ice.)
Once I’d beefed up all the borders with several rows of stones, I added more at intervals through the rest of the bodice and skirt. Again I just eyeballed it — if I tried measuring I would’ve driven myself crazy.
For the bodice, I just stuck on the stones normally with glue. However, the skirt has two layers, the red underskirt with the black mesh on top, and I only wanted the stones to be on the black layer. After reading up on it, I placed sheets of waxed parchment paper (for baking) between the mesh and the red fabric and glued the stones onto the top layer only. I got nervous that the paper would stick, but I peeled it off carefully while it was semi-dry, and it turned out fine.
And here’s the final product!