Oh wow, I’ve had this draft saved in my blog for over a year, and all this time I’d thought it was posted already! I only recently realized it wasn’t, so here it is, better late than never.

Last year I competed in Sectionals for the first time, and I had a new program for my bronze freeskate and for bronze dramatic, and I needed new dresses. Because I had two programs, I was wary of spending too much money on costumes, so I decided to do what I’d done before in buying a plain, unstoned dress and add crystals myself. Having done it once before, I felt pretty confident I could turn a plain black dress into something interesting, with the help of thousands of crystals and hours and houuuuurs of free time.

Here’s the dress, bought unstoned from Brad Griffies:

I looked up a ton of figure skating dresses online to see what kind of pattern I wanted, whether I wanted to create lines or swirls or clusters, etc. I decided to take a similar approach to my last dress in making the edges dense with crystals, and then tapering them off so there was a gradient effect. I scattered stones on the dress to get a general sense of how I wanted it to look — something like this:

What I did differently this time than the last time I stoned a dress was swapping some materials. I switched to that industrial-grade E6000 glue, which definitely smelled toxic but seemed strong and secure once dry — these crystals aren’t going anywhere! I also upgraded to real crystals, after having used plain acrylic ones in my first try. In retrospect it would have been nice if I’d sprung for the good stones the last time, since the real crystals do look much nicer, but I don’t regret making that choice because it felt safer to start with a modest project and small budget when I didn’t know anything.

Here’s a comparison of the old dress (red) with acrylic gems, and the new one (black) with real crystals. If you click to see the enlarged image, you can really see the quality difference.

I bought about a thousand AB crystals in a few different sizes, which cost probably close to $150. I didn’t use them all, so there are leftovers for another project, but I did use A LOT. I debated between the standard foil-backed crystals and the AB ones, which have more color when they sparkle under the lights, and am pleased that I went for the AB.

Here the pattern’s starting to emerge — mostly medium-sized crystals (I want to say they were 20ss; I bought the most of that size), with some larger ones scattered throughout (40ss and 48ss). No science to it; just eyeballing what looked good.

I found that it made things look a touch nicer to fill in blank spots with a lot of tiny crystals — the 5ss size — so despite the tedium of painstakingly gluing on those tiny suckers, they really added a nice touch. Next time I’m buying more of those.

I used the same stoning pattern for the wrists, so that it looked sort of like chunky bracelets when wearing the dress. The white paper in the sleeves are pieces of parchment paper, so that I could glue the stones on without the glue bleeding through to the other side. Having the sleeves glue shut would not have been awesome!

And here’s the final product! You can see it in motion in my sectionals freeskate video.