DIY: Custom Western Show Clothes With Bling

DIY: Custom Western Show Clothes With Bling

Create your own custom western clothes by adding your own bling.

black horse show western vest decorated with copper sequins, nailheads and conchos (Credit: Tara Matsler)

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With the recent concerns of coronavirus (COVID-19), most folks are finding themselves indoors and practicing “social distancing.” This has it’s pros, as we all know how easy it is to get caught up with work and our social lives. With reduced travel and social engagements, we have more time to catch up on things that may have ended up on the back burner. 

As you know, AQHA cancelled the Nutrena AQHA Level 1 Championships. (Learn more about those cancellations and more show-related cancellations.)  Don’t let the downtime of cancelled shows get you down. Consider a new project: Make your own show clothes by bling-ing it yourself! While making a sparkle show shirt may not affect how you place, it’s fun to dress up and express your individuality through your clothes, especially clothes you have customized yourself. 

Quality crystals are the key to beautiful show outfits. But if your show clothes budget is limited, try blinging a nice shirt yourself. It’s surprisingly easy and fun. Here are a few of tips:

How to Find Stones to Make Your Ladies Sparkle Show Shirt or Vest

a woman wears a black and copper colored sparkly western horse show vestFinding the right rhinestones to complete or fix your show shirt can be a challenge.

Many craft stores sell pre-designed, press on and iron-on, “hot-fix” crystals but these will not have the same shine and sparkle as the ones you see on the big-name show-clothes designers’ tops.

There are many hidden places you can find the flatback Swarovski crystals. Try online at a dance clothes store/studio or you can also find them on eBay, Amazon and at some high-end fabric stores.

Rhinestone Sizes.

The crystals range in sizes from large to teeny-tiny. Rhinestones are measured in SS units: one SS is equal to 8/10ths of a millimeter. The 18-22 SS sizes work best for show clothes. You can purchase them by the dozen (12), gross (144) or masse (1,200). How much you want your shirt to sparkle determines how much you need to buy.

Rhinestone Cuts.

There are different cuts that Swarovski rhinestones can have that give them a different sparkle. There is a plain round cut, rivoli, xillion (or diamond) and checkerboard. The xillion and checkerboard are the most commonly used.

Rhinestone Colors.

There are also going to be a lot of colors to choose from. When buying online, it is best to purchase a few different options so that you can compare which ones look best with your shirt! Some companies even sell sample sheets. Order the sample sheet, compare to your shirt, then place your bulk order. 

Rhinestone Glue.

Some websites and stores will have glue that is specially made for attaching flatback rhinestones to material. The best glue to use when applying your rhinestones is typically plain instant glue (such as Super Glue). They now make instant glue in gel form, which makes the process less messy.

Some people prefer to put the glue directly onto the rhinestone and set it onto the shirt. An alternative is to put the glue onto the shirt, then set the rhinestone onto the glue. This ensures that the rhinestone ends up in the correct spot.

Setting Up a Workstation To Rhinestone Your Show Clothes 

  • Set up a station in a well-lit area.

  • It is best to work on a large table with newspaper spread on it. Do this  in case the stones or glue spill.Get a thin magazine and cover it in clear plastic wrap. This will guard the opposite side of your shirt from the glue as you stone. 

  • Lay your shirt down and slide the covered magazine inside your shirt, between the fabric layers.

Blinging: Plan of Attack

Start stoning in one area. It is best to concentrate on stoning one color or area at a time instead of being sporadic.

There are many different ways to decorate your shirt.

  • Follow the pattern of the fabric.

  • Create your own patterns

  • Add letters or initials

When stoning the pattern on a fabric, vary the sizes and shapes of rhinestones throughout the pattern to create the most sparkly arrangements.

Tools for Adding Rhinestones to a Show Shirt or Vest

Sometimes the crystals can be hard to place with your fingers, especially the small ones.

  • Tweezers help grab larger stones.

  • A pencil eraser can pick up the small stones. Dab the end of your pencil eraser in water or use an all-purpose craft glue to give it a little grab, and it will pick up the rhinestone.

Cleaning Up Bling Messes

Once you have finished stoning, you may notice some of the stones have dried glue on them. Use non-acetone nail polish remover and a cotton swab to remove the dried glue. Let the shirt lay flat for at least two hours before trying it on.

Then rock your new, self-made, custom-blinged top at your next horse show.

a woman wearing a custom western horse show vest with chaps runs a large fast reining circle on a brown Quarter Horse