Poised and graceful, the gymnast rolls, leaps, and vaults across the floor and into the air. As they move, the reflective stones on their costume catch the light, shimmering in an array of colors and drawing all attention their way.
Rhinestoned garments highlight the beauty and grace of their wearers, making them stand out in competition settings. But pre-rhinestoned leotards can be costly. Fortunately, you can rhinestone your own gymnastics leotard for a much lower price. In this guide, we explain how to use rhinestones to bling your gymnastics leotard, DIY-style.
Plan Your Design
First, you need to consider your design- are you looking to add sparkle to a traditional gymnastics leotard with maximum brilliance such as Simone Biles and her Olympic teammates? Or, are you looking for a rhythmic gymnastic leotard with artful elegance? Do you have a specific pattern in mind? Do you have lines, fabric pieces, a print, a logo, or some other design element to follow? Will you be drawing a design to follow on the leotard first? What color(s) will you use? Having a general idea of what you want will help you determine the type and quantity of rhinestones you need.
Gather Your Materials
With a plan in place, you can start to shop for your supplies. Naturally, the first item you’ll want to purchase is your rhinestones. There are a few things to consider when selecting rhinestones for your project, such as:
For gymnastics leotards, we recommend using flatback or hotfix rhinestones. The main difference between the two is their attachment method. You apply flatback rhinestones by placing a dot of glue on the fabric that will attach to the rhinestone foiled back. Hotfix rhinestones have heat-sensitive glue pre-applied to the back, so there’s no need to buy your own. You heat up the back using an iron or BeJeweler applicator tool and apply the rhinestone to your garment once the glue is sticky. Large brand manufacturers will want to research equipment that can either set up a heat transfer and a heat press to apply, or computerized equipment that applies with precision one hot fix rhinestone at a time. Either way, we have what you need!
Non-hot fix and sew-on rhinestones come in a variety of shapes, including round, oval, navette, pear, square, and baguette. You can use one consistent shape or freely mix and match. These shapes add a beautiful design element to your garment.
Rhinestones are measured in stone size, abbreviated to ss. Sizes range from 3ss to 48ss. 3ss rhinestones are approximately 1.4 mm in size. For each number you add to the stone size, the size in millimeters increases by roughly .2. As with shapes, you can stick to one size or use multiple for dimension and depth. The most popular rhinestone sizes for do-it-yourself gymnastics leotards are 12ss (3.1mm), 16ss (3.9mm), 20ss (4.7mm) and 30ss (6.4mm).
Rhinestones come in a dazzling array of colors, from fiery, bold red to deep and mysterious black. You can also purchase AB, or Aurora Borealis, rhinestones for an extra-colorful prismatic effect. Choose colors that speak to you and that either match or complement the colors of the outfit you’re adorning.
The least exciting part of rhinestone shopping is calculating the quantity. But this step is essential if you want to have enough rhinestones to complete your project. To start, you’ll need to measure various parts of your costume—the chest, waist, shoulders, and arms—and estimate how many inches you’ll cover in stones.
Once you have a rough idea of how many inches you need to cover, all that’s left is to do some quick, simple math. Our Estimating Guide provides formulas you can use to determine the number of gross packages you need to buy.
If you’re using flatback rhinestones, you’ll also need to purchase glue. We recommend a durable, quick-setting, washable adhesive like the industrial E6000 or user-friendly Gem-Tac. Lastly, don’t forget to pick up items like a small tray to store your rhinestones in, tweezers to pick them up with, and a syringe for glue. If you’re using hotfix rhinestones, you may also want to invest in a BeJeweler applicator for faster, smoother attachment.
Set Up Your Workspace
Now that you have all the necessary supplies, you need to select and prepare your workspace. Any flat surface, like a desk, table, mattress, or the floor will do. To prevent messes, you may want to lay down a plastic mat. Place your rhinestones in a tray or another easily accessible container, then arrange the rest of your tools and materials.
Now, you’ll want to prepare your garment. Your costume needs to be stretched out when you’re attaching rhinestones to it. This ensures the rhinestones won’t pop off due to stretching breaking the glue’s bond. To accomplish this, stuff your costume with a material, like cardboard, wax paper, or clean garbage bags. This has the added benefit of preventing the glue from seeping through one layer onto the next.
Apply the Rhinestones
You’re ready to start the blinging process! Here’s how to use rhinestones to bling your gymnastics costume based on your chosen rhinestone type.
To apply flatback rhinestones, place your rhinestones on a flat surface with the faceted side facing up. Apply a few small dots of glue to the fabric, then pick it up with one of our pick up tools or a precision tweezers, position it, and lightly press it onto your garment.
If you want to apply hotfix rhinestones with an iron, start by arranging your rhinestones on your garment, faceted side up. They should be exactly where you want them to be in the final design. Cover with teflon paper to protect the fabric (do not apply to any leotard fabrics with a high degree of nylon that will burn), and then grab your iron and turn it on with the steam function off. Preheat it to a temperature of 250°F to 340°F (120°C to 170°C). Once it’s hot enough, lower it onto the fabric and hold for several seconds. You can also pre-set your design using our hot fix transfer paper to help keep the stones in place during the application process.
If you’re using an applicator, start by attaching the correct tip size to your applicator. Place your rhinestones on a flat surface, faceted side up. Gently pick up a rhinestone with the tip. The applicator will slowly melt the glue on the back. Once the glue looks wet, shiny, and bubbly, position it and press it onto the fabric with the applicator.
Once you’re done embellishing your gymnastics leotard, let it lay flat until the glue is set and then don't wear the leotard for at least 24 hours to allow the glue to fully set up.
It takes time and patience to bling a gymnastics costume, but arguably the hardest and most time-consuming step of the process is procuring your supplies. Fortunately, Rhinestones Unlimited simplifies this step by offering all the high-quality, affordable rhinestones and tools you need for your project in one place.
We carry premier rhinestones from brands like LUX Austrian Crystal®, Maxima Crystals by Preciosa®, Priceless Crystals™, and Starcut Crystals™. Create a passionate, fiery look with our red flatback rhinestones, or try another one of your favorite colors to make a costume that shows off your unique personality. You’ll also find glues, syringes, trays, and tweezers in our store. Browse today to find what you need, or feel free to contact us with any questions.