When it comes to burlesque costuming, there is a general opinion within the community that the more bling, the better it looks. Of course, not everyone follows this mantra. However, for many performers, the idea of being covered head to toe in crystals and glitter is a dream come true and hotfix wands are wielded with passion at Ebay sellers worldwide. However, how do you know if you’re getting good quality for your money? When I first did my Bird Of Prey outfit, I’ll admit that I wasn’t very clued up on the world of rhinestones. Despite having spent days on the internet looking up different sellers and prices, I found what I thought was the best on Ebay. Ok, a rhinestone is a rhinestone, if it sparkles then its doing it’s job. Right? However, to the ever-increasingly-experienced eye I could see they weren’t the best of quality and so for my next burlesque outfit I set about the internet doing some research on rhinestones and the different qualities available on the market. Swarovski are known as the creme de la creme of rhinestones, they certainly sparkle more than your average crystal with twice as many facets as other brands and enhanced colours after their recent 2058 upgrade – Dita Von Teese has her own limited edition colour range of Swarovski and her Opium Den routine boasts over 250,000 crystals! However, along with all that extra sparkle comes a hefty price tag – to completely bling out an entire outfit (not including giant props) would cost you a minimum of £500 – if not a lot more – from a reputable UK seller. I’ve always said that I would replace my fallen off crystals with Swarovski over time as an investment, so they will probably get a good amount of money out of me over the next few years… Preciosa is deemed to be of a similar quality to Swarovski, if not preferred by most burlesque performers who’ve divulged their crystal habits with me over the years. From a relatively basic internet search it seems it would cost around £400 for a whole blingy outfit if you find a good seller. Of course, with stones like this though, you may not opt for all over sparkle and just go for light touches. DMC crystals are machine cut glass and are said to be similar to Swarovski in every way except the price. Ordering in bulk direct from a Chinese supplier, my order of 50,000 SS16 (2 outfits) came in at £103 for two full outfits including 48 hour delivery (seriously!) and I am really happy with the quality. Next time you see me in my new red outfit, corner me and take a closer peek. I’d be happy to show you the difference between old and new costume. Then, moving into direct purchasing from suppliers in Korea, you’ll hear them start talking about 3A and 5A crystals. Having done my research, there are 5 grades of Korean crystal, with 5A being the highest and costing about £50 an outfit in bulk too if you can find a good supplier. I’ve also learnt that they don’t tend to offer 5A as a default quality, so its best to check with the supplier before ordering. 3A tends to be a default quality and apparently an OK quality – for many people they can’t tell the difference and so would do for the stage if you weren’t getting up close and personal with the audience. That way, you’d only be spending £30 an outfit plus postage. And as it turns out, my Bird of Prey crystals from Ebay were acrylic, not even glass. But if you’ve seen the photos of my black corset, they still pack some good shine power for £25! So what do I recommend? Really it all comes down to your budget as a performer and what you can afford to (or are willing to) spend on an outfit that is going to be peeled off and dropped on the floor regularly in a night club. When it comes to Korean and Chinese stones, the difference in sparkle for the extra £10-20 an outfit seems worth it to me, although I would probably save the Swarovskis for my pasties or really special items I know would be looked after.
I didn’t expect to be inundated with so many private requests for DMC crystal seller details! So, of course everyone will have different requirements and what I chose might not be suitable for your own project. My advice? Get a number of quotes from different companies on Alibaba and see who offers the best value and quality for your order and get samples if you can. Oh and try and find a seller who takes Paypal so you don’t have to pay a Swift charge (international transfer charge) of £25.