Whenever I tell people what my job involves and who we’ve supplied rhinestones to, they often envisage our crystals sparkling on the Strictly Come Dancing stage (which they have), or making an appearance in the West End (which they do every year), but my non-creative friends are always fascinated to hear where else our crystals pop up. Rhinestone embellishments are not just for dance dresses and jewellery, you can apply flatback rhinestones to almost any surface you can think of, and can transform an object or item of clothing from mundane to magnificent.

Rhinestones for costume making

If you’re a fashion or costume designer, you may have already worked with non hotfix or hotfix rhinestones, perhaps for added sparkle on a shoulder pad or some extra bling on a handbag. Or in the theatre world, flatback crystals can really elevate a stage costume, picture Cinderella’s glittering ball gown or Dorothy’s ruby red slippers. We love to work with designers who take rhinestone embellishment in costume making to the extreme!

We’ve been catching up with fashion and costume designer Jo Irvine, who uses our crystals to embellish her bridal gowns, occasion wear and costumes. Jo was commissioned to design and make a catsuit and sequin bomber jacket, for a client who needed a costume for a tropical fish themed event. After sketching out two versions of the costume, one in blue/green and the other in gold, Jo’s client loved them both so much that she commissioned both, so her friend could wear one too!

Jo: ‘I was very inspired by beautiful fabrics and crystals to represent the sparkling colours of tropical fish. I used shimmering foiled lycra for the catsuits and sequin fabrics for the bomber jackets. Both fabrics remind me of fish or mermaid scales. I sourced plastic tropical fish toys, which I spray-painted and drilled holes in so they could be sewn onto the jackets. I’m such a magpie and have always been drawn to sparkles, so I covered them in flatback crystals so they would stand out, and to make them the main sparkly features of the costumes.’

Jo worked with mostly Preciosa crystals to complete the project, using Gem Tac glue to attach the non hotfix stones to the fabric. Gem Tac is the ideal glue for costume making as it dries completely clear and can be washed on a cool wash without damage to the rhinestones. She worked with mainly SS12 (3.2mm) crystals which allowed her to go into lots of detail, although it is time consuming when working with such a small size – overall the project took two weeks to complete, but boy was it worth the wait for the client!

Each shoulder on both bomber jackets is adorned with rhinestone sparkle, the gold version is covered in Aurum – a stunning metallic gold colour that screams luxury.

For the blue jacket, Jo used some bright bold colours to represent the stunning colours of the tropical sea creatures – Light Siam for the octopus, Citrine, Emerald and Sun for the fish and the gorgeous hot pink Fuchsia to create the seahorse.

Jo could have simply sewn tropical fish motifs onto the jackets and embellished those, or just added rhinestones to the collar or shoulders to create a more toned-down version of the costume. But let’s face it, who wants that when you can have a 3D, interactive costume that is the talk of the party?! We absolutely love how Jo has created something totally unique and beautiful for her client. The intricate detail she has gone into, to the re-create the beautiful colours of the ocean life is inspiring, and we can’t wait to see what she comes up with next!

If you’d like to see more of Jo’s work, including bridal gowns, prom and evening wear, check out her website. She is also on Instagram, Facebook and tiktok as @JoIrvineDesigns.

Performance costume

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