How To Use Rhinestones for Western Show Apparel

How To Use Rhinestones for Western Show Apparel

Posted by Rhinestones Unlimited on Feb 27th 2023

Bling, It's a Cowgirl Thing!

As an equestrian show rider and performer, you know how to wow the crowds with fluid, graceful, athletic movements, but also with your sense of style. Your show apparel and tack help you draw attention and truly shine as the center of the ring. If you want to personalize your apparel to enhance your confidence and the beauty of your performance, why not cover everything in enchanting rhinestones? Rhinestones offer superior sparkle and shimmer that will catch the audience’s and judges’ eyes. Read on to learn how to use rhinestones for western show costumes and become the ultimate rhinestone cowgirl or cowboy.

Picking the Best Show Apparel for Rhinestoning

Want to know which parts of your show apparel you can bling out? You can use rhinestone embellishments on many parts of your western show costume, including the belt, boots, collar, cuffs, and jacket. 

Choosing Your Rhinestones

If you want to create custom rhinestoned show wear, the first thing you need to do is find the right stones. Rhinestones come in a wide assortment of types, sizes, cuts, and colors—how do you know which ones are best for your project?


The most common types of rhinestones include flatback, hotfix, and sew-on rhinestones. Flatback rhinestones are loose rhinestones that have a flat back covered in a reflective foil. You can apply them using one of two methods: gluing them on or attaching them using metal settings. Hotfix rhinestones, also known as iron-on rhinestones, have flat backs pre-covered with adhesive. To apply them, use a heat source like a heat press, clothing iron or BeJeweler hotfix applicator to melt the glue, then press the sticky backing onto your clothes. Sew-on rhinestones are, as the name implies, rhinestones that you sew on with a needle and thread.

If you’re covering a show shirt, vest or jacket in rhinestones, flatback or hotfix rhinestones will be the fastest and easiest to apply. Although, if you plan on decorating a leather jacket or leather boots, we recommend using flatback rhinestones with either a leather friendly adhesive, metal settings or sew-on rhinestones for best results, as leather is a finicky material to work with.


Rhinestones come in a variety of sizes, ranging from mini to mega. The most commonly used sizes for show attire are 12ss (3.1mm), 16ss (3.9mm), 20ss (4.7mm), or 30ss (6.4mm) rhinestones. Our cowgirl customers love bling and will often go for the big crystals- 40ss (8.4mm) or even 48ss (11 mm) or large sew on jewels. We recommend utilizing several different sizes to give your show clothes more dimension.


You can also choose from different cuts. There are perfectly round rhinestones; rivoli sew on rhinestones, which are round with pointed, tapered ends; xilion 2058, xirius 2088 or diamond faceted, rhinestones; triangle rhinestones; square rhinestones; and more. Round, xilion 2058, and xirius 2088 stones are the most frequently used, but you can adorn your apparel with whichever shapes you like.


Finally, there is a plethora of colors available to you. From vibrant reds, oranges, yellows, greens, blues, and purples, to mysterious blacks and glimmering crystals, to shimmering, prismatic AB rhinestones, you can find stones in any hue imaginable.

But which colors are best for your costume? Try to choose rhinestones that complement the color of your show shirt, jacket, pants, and boots. Black costumes are neutral, so you can pair them with just about anything for astounding results. Make a striking red costume stand out even more with touches of gold, black, and off-white. Or mix green and orange for a down-to-earth, nature-inspired look.

Planning Your Project

Depending on the type of rhinestone you’re using, you’ll need a few additional tools before you start applying your rhinestones to your show wear. If you’re using flat back rhinestones, you’ll need a strong glue, like Gem-Tac or the industrial E6000, plus a syringe for dispensing the glue with precision. Alternatively, you can use metal settings. For hot fix rhinestones, make sure you have a heat press, clothing iron, applicator, or another heat source on hand. And for sew-ons, grab your thread and needle. You’ll also want a small tray you can pour your rhinestones into such as our magical tray that even flips them right-side up! And, of course one of our rhinestone pick-up tool or tweezers, to grab, lift, and apply the stones.

Once you have your supplies in order, set up your workstation; this can be any flat surface where you can sit and work comfortably. Put your rhinestones and tools within arm’s reach and spread out your garment. If attaching rhinestones to a thinner material, place a barrier inside the clothing item—a thin piece of cardboard works well—to prevent glue from seeping through or to separate layers from being stitched together.

Next, come up with your game plan. What kind of design do you want to create? You can experiment with different patterns by arranging the stones on your garment before applying them. This will also give you a general idea of how to space out your glue dots or where to sew.

Now, it’s time to start the blinging process. Begin to glue on or sew on your stones in your desired pattern.

Adding Rhinestones to Leather

Our final tip regarding the use of rhinestones for western show costumes is to be cautious when attaching rhinestones to leather. As we mentioned previously, these two materials don’t always like to play nice. The easiest ways to attach rhinestones to leather are by using a leather friendly adhesive, metal settings, sew-on rhinestones, or banding.

Metal Settings

One way to apply rhinestones to leather is to take a small, thin piece of leather, attach a rhinestone with a rim setting, then sew it onto your project. This is by far the most secure and professional way to attach rhinestones to leather.  

Sew-On Rhinestones

Sewing is an equally secure way to ensure your rhinestones stay in place on leather. Many cowgirls love the look of large sew-on jewels on their show apparel and tack.


One more option is to weave a fabric or metal rhinestone banding inset into the leather. There are also bandings available to be sewn on or with net on two sides to be sewn to a thin piece of fabric or leather and then attached to your show apparel or tack.

If you want to personalize your show attire or tack for your next performance, shop with Rhinestones Unlimited for the beautiful, high-quality rhinestones you need. We carry an assortment of rhinestones from luxurious but affordable brands like LUX Austrian Crystal®, MAXIMA Crystals by Preciosa®, PriceLess Crystals™, and Starcut Crystals™. Whether you want pretty pink flatback rhinestones that add a feminine flair to your performance or a bold, commanding hue like blue or red, we have it all. Browse our vast selection today!