Accessorize! How to Make Ballroom Jewelry, Part One

As promised, here’s the next installment on costuming, as I learn to replicate expensive ballroom costume crap in the comfort and fabric-scrap-strewn luxury of my kitchen. Last time, we looked at how to make the straps that hold costumes together – today, it’s bracelets and armbands!

An essential component of any costume is bling. You have to accessorize your dress, or it looks half finished. The costume department on Dancing With The Stars has buckets of them so Karina can stack them up her tiny arms every week.

Trouble is, those accessories can end up costing as much as the dress – mostly because high quality Swarovski rhinestones are expensive, and gluing those little bastards onto things is a time intensive process.

At my most recent competition, I checked the price on regular bangle bracelets with a couple vendors, and the average market price these days is about $50-$60 per bracelet. That seemed pretty steep to me, so I decided to try making my own. I already had to make armbands for my Latin costume, so what the hell, right? I had taken the time to check out the bracelets and it seemed like it was just lycra wrapped around a stiff material to give the thing structure, and then stoned.

I decided to use 1/2 in plastic dress boning (hur, hur, BONING) as the stiff material (I know, I know). I cut it to size in strips and then ran a line of glue down the center of the boning strip so that when I rolled the lycra around it, it would stay put. I did the first one with E6000, but that was a little too much firepower, so for the second bracelet I used Gemtac and that was fine. I only needed enough glue to hold the fabric in place for a bit while I wrapped the lycra, not enough to permanently secure it through the zombie apocalypse.

I hand-sewed through the lycra and the boning along the inside of the strip, just to make sure that it stayed attached.

After I ran the stitches all the way down the strip, I cut off the extra lycra and figured out how to make the strip into a circle.

The first thing I tried was just joining the ends together and whip stitching it closed. But that did not work at all because the boning sat in a teardrop shape instead of the circle that I wanted. So I pulled it all out and figured that I needed to have some overlap of the two ends in order for the circle to stay intact once I sewed it shut.

I overlapped the two ends about 1/4 of an inch and hand sewed (hand shoved my needle – that was a lot of crap to sew through!) the thing closed, which ended up giving me a pretty satisfactory circle. I tried to keep everything as tacked down as possible so that when I was ready to stone the bracelet, there wouldn’t be any extra fabric or thread or loose ends of things fouling up my stoning.

Then I stoned it with Swarovski – I ran a line of Crystal AB 20ss down the center and filled it out with Crystal AB 16ss on either side, which fit just about perfectly. The 20ss go much faster, but the 16ss give more sparkle, and also I had more of them, so that’s what happened.

I’m really happy with the way they came out – they look exactly like the ones the vendors sell (except that mine are slightly different colored lycra and the stoning is better). And God knows I saved some money! It literally came out to about ten percent of the cost. If I had more ambition, I would do some bracelets and sell them. Maybe a summer project?

Total cost for 2 bracelets – $11.95 (versus $110.00)

4 way stretch lycra – $1.05

Plastic boning (ha!) – $0.40

Gemtac, stones, thread – $10.50

Total time – about three hours (but only because I was learning – the second bracelet I did in about an hour start to finish)

The finished product, shown here with Latin fingers so you get the full effect. (You will also note that I have not one but two different kinds of fake tan in the background – that’s ballroom for you, baby. You can also see the plastic boning strips in their raw form on the left – they worked really well, and I have a giant roll of the stuff that only cost $20. It would probably make about 23948290384023 bracelets.)

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9 thoughts on “Accessorize! How to Make Ballroom Jewelry, Part One

  1. loveablestef says:

    Those bracelets look great and I especially love the Latin fingers! Thanks for sharing!

  2. […] can save yourself a LOT of money if you know how to make your own ballroom jewelry and accessories. Last time we talked about how to do those fancy rhinestone bracelets you see all over the place; today we’ll talk about how to do armbands. Like basically every Latin costume ever (and a […]

  3. Kristen says:

    Where do you get your stones? My stones alone are $10/gross

  4. Hi Kristen – I get my stones in the fashion district in my city if I’m in a hurry (about $70 for 10 gross) but if I plan ahead which almost never happens, then I order from Elite Crystals. They are a Hong Kong based retailer whose stones are indistinguishable from Swarovski.* They sell 10 gross of ss16 Crystal AB for $35.90 plus shipping. They’re fast, reliable, cheap, and uber high quality. (http://www.elite-crystals.com/products-101.php)

    *Really actually indistinguishable. Not like Preciosa or those crap Korean stones but actually impossible to tell the difference. I know because I have mixed the two on the same project and you can’t tell the difference. I think Swarovski Crystal AB has a little more pink and Elite Crystal AB has a little more blue but really, scholars debate.

  5. So helpful (and funny!), thank you! Mentioning you and these bracelets on my blog 🙂

  6. […] upon a great blog yesterday that is right up my street ‘Against Line of Dance’. I was searching for some tips on making some bracelets for my Latin dress and I have to say I found …. I also particularly enjoyed the sniggering over ‘soft boning’ which I will most […]

  7. Kathy says:

    I’m a little late to the party but where did you find the 1/2 inch boning? All the stuff I’ve found is fabric covered!

  8. Lauren says:

    How were you able to hand sew through the boning? The needles I’ve tried just won’t go through.

    • I had some heavy duty needles – I think they were upholstery needles or something? – and I just shoved them through with force. Sorry I don’t have an awesome secret method!

Cha cha cha.

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