Ask a Burlesque Entertainer: Rhinestones

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Vivienne Vermuth.  Photo: High Art
Vivienne Vermuth. Photo: High Art

Tips for stretching your costume budget: Making every rhinestone count!

by: Vivienne Vermuth

Sitting in the audience at a burlesque show is thrilling, especially seeing the moment when the dancer struts out on stage, displaying a glittering, gleaming costume full of feathers, sequins, rhinestones and glam. You immediately decide to go home and try to create something similar… Wow, who knew that those teensy rhinestones were worth their weight (literally) in gold! And how much are ostrich feathers? GEEZ!
Yes, burly girls develop quite the expensive habit… But there are ways to cut down costs and not lose the glitz! I will also clear the air on types of bling so you are more educated on where your dough goes!

The most important item that every ecdysiast needs: rhinestones to adorn their pasties, g-strings, gowns and gloves. It can be confusing searching for these, especially when buying in bulk and in high quantity! Here’s what years of searching and buying have lead me to –

1) Not every rhinestone is equal! There a three major types – plastic (acrylic), glass (also can be preciosa) machine cut, and the highly coveted Swavroski. These can be broken down by two main categories that separate them, cut and clarity. Hold up an acrylic rhinestone, and they appear a bit cloudy, not easily seen through, but still some shine, and there is just a little reflection off its surface. Hold up a machine cut glass stone, and it’s much clearer, with more glint. Machine cut stones have more facets, or inner/outer surfaces for the light to bounce off (like a diamond). Swarovskis have a specific cutting process that gives them the most facets, which gives them what’s commonly called the “inner fire”. While a lot of machine cut glass comes close, there isn’t anything like a “Swav”. Good news is you can find balance of sparkle and checkbook by mixing your stones!

2.) Be careful of how MANY you buy! I’ve seen too many companies sell stones for much higher mark
Up, simply by changing the numbers. Look for words like “by the gross” which is industry term for 144 pieces, or stones in a pack, or a “ten”, meaning a ten gross pack, 1440 pieces or stones. Generally the more you buy, the cheaper they become. Don’t be fooled by half gross! You could pay way more!! Best places I have found for great prices on Swavroski without a wholesale ID – rhinestone guy.com, rhinestoneshop.com (free shipping!) and my newest find, rhinestonebiz.com. I have used them all, found great prices, excellent service and fast shipping. For excellent acrylic and glass stones, I highly recommend Decadent Dame Designs on etsy.com, she sells an amazing selection of high quality acrylic and glass machine cut stones, and I have a coupon for you to use when purchasing through this store – use “VIVIENNEVERMUTH” in your checkout for 10% percent off your purchase! Please do not buy crystals at the local craft stores unless you are in desperate need – you won’t get nearly as much bang for your buck!

3.) When combining rhinestones, it’s always smart to use them strategically! If you have a large area to fill, use acrylic or machine cut stones, and use Swavroski to highlight where light will hit your costu e most! the great performer and costumer Penny Starr Jr teaches this in her famous workshops all over the country. You can also use sequins, especially faceted ones (not flat) because they are foiled and will bounce light off easily! You can also use sparkly material and use good rhinestones to accentuate.

4.) Don’t forget a food glue! When possible, don’t use hot glue! It’s not a bad glue for in a pinch, but generally speaking it’s not a long term adhesive. Look to more industrial glues, such as E6000. Do material tests first to make sure these glues don’t stain fabric, and be VERY cautious of fumes and work in well ventilated areas! When used properly, these glues will ensure you don’t lose stones while taking it off! They also work well for trim, feathers and other pieces.

Now get out your crafty stuff and make something sparkly! Happy bedazzling!

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