Everyone in the Irish Dance world will be familiar with the concept of blinging up a competition dress, waistcoat or tiara to attract the attention of the all important judges – it is a well known fact that part of the scoring is based on aesthetics and stage presence, so the more impressive and sparkly the dress, the higher it will score in that area. Plus, you are more likely to be noticed and remembered by the judges if you have a particularly stand out dress.

How to attach sew on crystals

Sew on rhinestones have a flat foil backing, just like non hotfix rhinestones, but they also have a hole either side of the stone to enable you to sew them onto your fabric or garment.

Image credit: Rising Star Designs

Using sew on stones for Irish dance brings added texture and depth to your garment and are frequently used for decorating Irish dance dresses and waistcoats. They are generally larger than glue on rhinestones, so they are ideal for covering a big surface area quickly. We would recommend that when you are sewing on crystals to the garment, you use a see through or colour co-ordinated synthetic multifilament thread as they are strong and durable. If you use a monofilament or cotton thread you will find that they do not have the resistance to abrasion caused through movement of the costume and may fray and result in your crystals falling off. Some people glue the large crystal shape onto the fabric first, then sew on for extra durability.

Use a strong synthetic thread and needle to sew on the crystal, first place the sew on stone in the correct position on the fabric, then secure in place by threading through the hole on each side of the stone. For extra security, thread through multiple times and give it a good flexibility test (scrunch the fabric up in your hands, shake it, fold it etc) to check nothing falls off.

How to attach sew on mirror shapes

Image credit: Rising Star Designs

Sew on mirror shapes are becoming more popular for embellishing an Irish dance costume, they are a great cost effective way of bringing sparkle and shine without the need for crystals. They are literally fragments of glass mirror with a hole either side to sew on, in the same way as a rhinestone. And they sure do give off an amazing shine when reflecting the stage lights!

Again, gluing them on first with either Gem Tac glue will provide extra durability, but be careful not to use too much so it seeps out at the edges. Some people choose to use glue only, this is fine to do but you may find the mirrors start to peel away after a while, so we would always recommend sewing as well.

How to attach flatback rhinestones

For attaching rhinestones to an Irish dance dress, we recommend using a syringe and tip for easy and precise glue application, half filled with Gem Tac glue. The most popular flatback rhinestones for Irish dance dresses are the SS34 (7mm) which are available in a fantastic range of colours, these are more often glued onto the fabric with gem tac but if the dress is made from a longer pile velvet, E6000+ glue works well too.

Image credit: Rising Star Designs

Applying flatback non hotfix crystals to an Irish dance dress is the easiest and most popular method of crystallising, due to the large variety of colours and sizes available, but also because you can get a lot of sparkle for your money.

Before you start gluing the crystals on, we recommend you have a clear plan of which stones you will be using and the pattern you want to create. This way the actual embellishing process will be a lot faster and neater. Simply half fill a syringe with glue and screw on the tip. Start squeezing out small dots of glue to the area you want to embellish, then after a few seconds, pick up your rhinestone with a pick up tool of your choice and place it onto the glue dot. Make sure the rhinestones are pushed down with a small amount of pressure, and are flush to the material, to ensure the glue has bonded, and wait 24 hours before attempting to move it.

How to attach pearls

A fairly new trend for Irish dance embellishments is the flatback pearl, they are a large domed pearl with a flat base ideal for gluing onto the fabric, again with gem tac. Using pearls brings a more subtle and sophisticated sparkle to the design, and look really beautiful when mixed in with rhinestones too. The most popular colours are the white and ivory, but if the dress is a particular colour scheme, the bright colours look great too – we’ve seen a lot of pink, blue and green being used recently.

Image credit: Kelly Hendry school of Irish dance

In the same way as you would glue on a rhinestone, you can attach pearls to an Irish dance dress on the bodice, collar, sleeves, wings etc.

What are the most common crystal embellishments for Irish dance?

There is so much choice when it comes to Irish dance rhinestones, you can choose between different shapes, colours and sizes. Plus there is the brand of crystal to think about, in general we like to recommend the Zodiac brand for sew on stones as there is a huge amount of choice and they are very high quality for low cost. Preciosa also do a great range of sew on rhinestones and their SS34 non hotfix crystals are perfect for Irish dance.

Here’s a handy guide to the Irish dance rhinestones that are available:

Irish dance