Stage Sparkle Inspires Swarovski Nails

Street style and stage presence meet in nail art masterpieces!  Melia Barnes has chiseled a lifetime of dance energy into some haute couture spirit fingers with her spectacular manicures.  Now that she’s back on stage heading up one of the nation’s premiere dance competitions, you better believe she finishes the look with genuine Swarovski crystals.

Q: Tell us a little about your position as Talent Director with Showbiz: 

A: I am the Director of the West Coast region at Showbiz!  I coordinate the administrative and operational details, as well as market upcoming shows; I also host the shows live during the events, in additional to being a choreographer/teacher on our workshop Showbiz Xtreme, and choreographing the opening number at our nationals!  I wear many hats at Showbiz!

Melia full outfit

Q: What celebrity style can you most relate to?

A: I like a variety of styles and so I could not pick one person! I am influenced by the pin-up styles and couture from the 40’s and women like Bettie Page; I love Beyonce’s bold pieces and versatility; I adore the sleekness of Kim Kardashian’s style; I like Cher’s sense of sparkle; I even love the classiness of Diane Keaton!

Q: Why is nail art so beloved?

A: I feel nail art is just one more way for the individual to express their style and personality- another way to “polish” our edges and make a statement!  It gives us all another place to let out our creativity! :)

Q: As a professional in a very visual role, do you have to stay within any boundaries in your nail art?

A: I am very lucky, because my individuality and off-the-wall style is completely embraced in the environments in which I work! However, my sister-in-law works for a high end retail designer, and has to keep her nails much shorter and more conservative.  She still does nail art- just in a much more muted fashion than myself!

Melia sits

Q: You purchase the Swarovski rhinestones yourself and bring them to the nail techs, as you can’t always rely on salons stocking Swarovski while traveling for work.  Why not use the stones the salon has in stock?  What is it about Swarovski that you love?

A: I choose not to use the stones that my nail techs have in stock for a variety of reasons!  First, the plastic or “knock-off” crystals just CANNOT compare to the shine and the sparkle of the Swarovski.  I grew up around rhinestones, being a dancer, and I was able to point out the difference between a “fake” and a high-quality Swarovski rhinestone from an early age! It is just a better product and everything I purchase comes down to quality, my mother taught me that.  Swarovski is the Neiman-Marcus of the rhinestone!

Q: If you were a Swarovski stone, what color would you be?

A: OMG this is too hard!! LOL. Hmm… haha! (Sits frozen at computer for about 40 seconds.  Googles the Swarovski color chart just to be 100 percent sure.) I guess if I HAD to choose one… it would be Fireopal.  A close second would be Crystal AB.

Melia volcanic red nails

Q: Where do you get your nail art inspiration?

A: I often search Instagram for nail art inspiration. I use different hashtags like #swarovski or #nailart to find cool pictures to take ideas from!

Q: What are some of your favorite Swarovski stones to use on your nails?

A: I love Fireopal because my hair is ombre’d red to orange! I also love mixing the Jet Hematite with Black Diamond or I love to use different color schemes and add the AB versions!  I can often be found with one nail ALL Crystal AB’s as a “bling nail!”

Q: Any predictions for nail trends in the next three years?

A: I see the “Casket” shape nail coming in to style a lot lately, and color-blocking; but I think the Swarovski-inspired nail art is going to continue to take the lead of the fashion trends for nails over the next three years!

Melia Louboutin nails

Q: For those new to nail art, can you describe a wear-anywhere starter design?

A: Try picking a matte, no-sparkle, color for all of your nails, maybe offsetting one color on each finger! Then, I would suggest using one size 12 Swarovski on the center near the cuticle of each nail bed!  Perhaps offset the colors to coordinate!  That will give you a little edge, but you can choose muted and neutral colors if you don’t want to be too bold! :)

Q: You have expertise in the dance world.  What do you believe rhinestones can do for a performance?

A: I truly believe that rhinestones add a “finished” quality to a performance.  It gives the added “magic” of watching the expression of a person through movement and music- it adds that last visual element that creates the complete formula for WOW.  I have always been amazed and mesmerized by the costumes I see on stage with rhinestones, and have always been intrigued to find out more about them when off-stage!  They just add a very special touch.

Melia black white red booth


Q: If it were up to you, you’d love to see __________covered in crystals.

A: I want to say EVERYTHING but I think that might be cheating!? LOL. I would like to see a wall of my house covered in stones someday.  That would be sooo killer to have in my home! It would be my dream!

Q: Any tips for DIY crystallers?

A: Use good nail glue and glue every other rhinestone separately!  Don’t lay too much glue at once because it dries quickly and creates ridges!

Q: How has your personal style changed since experimenting with nail art?

A: I think my style has just gotten more finished and unique since I have started incorporating rhinestones and nail art into my wardrobe.  When I am onstage, people can see my hands sparkling and have commented on how great it looks to me afterward! I love that added detail of originality and pop. It makes getting ready to get my nails done every few weeks that much more exciting and fun! :)

Melia snow cone nails


Like high fashion on the runway, Melia’s bold style will not translate to everyone, but it can inspire your own show-stopping masterpiece.  Swarovski crystals can be set into gel topcoats or glued to the top of your cured lacquer.  Try using your favorite shades in a size 5ss.  Remember not to apply the topcoat over the face of the crystal, which will diminish the brilliance.  Instead, seal the edges in place by using a fine detail brush to apply topcoat around the perimeter of the rhinestone base.  Let your imagination run wild, and add a little sparkle into your everyday routine.

Melia oceanic blues nails

-xo- Jemm

P.S.  Want more?  Watch a video tutorial and more by visiting  Then, go forth, and steal that spotlight!

Melia RU logo


Rhinestones Unlimited is proud to be part of an arts-packed Minnesota community, one that has fostered scores of successful professional and competitive dancers, including four contestants on Fox’s talent show, So You Think You Can Dance!   Season 9 featured contemporary dancer Dare Kujawa of Larkin Dance Studio; season 4 saw Kourtni Lind of Dance Tech Studio, also a contemporary mover;  and Alan Bersten- with his family’s ballroom business Dance With Us, America- was featured in last year’s season 10.  If you’ve been tuning in to the show this season, you will have noticed Jourdan Epstein of Summit Dance Shoppe tiptoeing her way across the stage.  Behind the scenes for 20 years’ worth of stage costumes is Jourdan’s mom, Lisa, crystalling away on all things from tights and tutus to phones and fine art.  We asked both of these ladies via email during Jourdan’s last week on the show to spill their secrets of success, both on and off the stage.

See more Jourdan on So You Think You Can Dance by visiting

See more Jourdan on season 11 of So You Think You Can Dance by visiting


Name: Jourdan Rose Epstein

Nickname: Jourdance, Joey Rose

Number of years living: 24

Favorite RU product: The rhinestones themselves are my favorite product. The lock-in compartments are also wonderful when you want to work with more than one color but need to keep them separated!  CraftMates Storage


Name: Alyssa J Epstein

Nicknames: Lisa

Number of years rhinestoning:  21

Favorite RU product: I love the rhinestone banding!!


Q: So, Lisa…you think you can dance, eh?   A: I know I can dance! It’s like the movie Ratatouille, “Anyone can dance!”

Q: The song that relentlessly plays in your head while you’re trying to drift off to sleep?  A: “Latch” by Sam Smith 

Q: You’ve trained in dance all over the country since you were young.  What differences do you notice in the Midwest dance culture compared to the east coast and west coast?  A: I think each region has their own special niche within each style of dance. The east coast is known for artistry, the west coast is known for entertainment value and the Midwest has some of the best training around!


Q: Lisa.  How many costumes do you think you’ve worked on since Jourdan started dancing?  A: 88+

Q: Once you start blinging, it’s hard to stop.  What’s the most unusual thing you’ve added rhinestones to?  A: A Barbie Rolls Royce and a mannequin (working on that)

Q: If you were a Swarovski crystal, which color would you be?   A: Chalk White AB

Q: What are your go-to adhesives for your different project types?  For costumes, Gem Tac.


Q: Jourdan.  Why did you decide to try out for SYTYCD?  A: I want to push myself out of my comfort zone and try something new. SYTYCD is an amazing outlet to bring dance to Americans and a fantastic platform for dancers. I wanted to do something I wasn’t sure I believed I could and hopefully inspire other dancers to believe in themselves too!

Q: On the show, the fans vote as well as the panel of judges.  This is different from the competition dance world or the dance art world where you have to please one or the other.  From your time on SYTYCD, how have you learned to relate to your audience in each unique performance situation? A: It’s hard to impress everyone while you’re dancing, you definitely want to relate to your viewers as well as impress the judges but the most important part is to be happy with your own performance and leave all of yourself on stage so you have no regrets.

Back to the important stuff: rhinestones.  Q: If you were a Swarovski rhinestone, which color would you be? A: I love the AB colors! If you have Amethyst AB definitely that one! If it doesn’t exist, I’m suggesting making it! :-) the Xilion Ceramic is also to die for Gorgeous. 

Q: What rhinestone trend would you like to see in the dance world?  A: I’m a big fan of rhinestoned shoes!!


Q: Lisa.  If it were up to you, you’d sure love to see ________ covered in crystals.  A: The HOLLYWOOD sign

Q: What is your rhinestone routine?  A: Sometimes it’s very planned out & sometimes I just go with the flow.

Q: Any words of wisdom for a first-time crystaller?  A: Take your time and don’t use too much glue.

Q: Off the top of your head, if you were mixing a cocktail and naming it after a Swarovski crystal, what would it be?  A: Pearlized Peridot- Stoli vanilla vodka, Midori, ice cream and blend


Q: Jourdan.  How do you know when you’ve just put on a great costume?  A: When I feel great in it and I know that I’ll sparkle just right when the light catches the stones!

Q: When it comes to the stage, the biggest fashion faux pas is_____:  A: Fabric in the wrong places! Too tight fabric or not enough of it can create a skimpy look and too much fabric can overwhelm or a dancer and hide their body. Know your lines and show them off!

Q: What big screen dance scene gives you the willies?  A: Willies in a bad way? I never like to knock down dance; of course it’s better when the dancing is actually good, but props to everyone trying!

 Q: But, some films must be legit.  Props to ______:  A: I LOVE Black Swan! It may be cliché, but the cinematography and choreography


Q: Lisa.  Have you ever opened a new package of stones and laughed maniacally with pleasure?  A: Hahahaha everytime!!  I kind of clap like a three year old.

Q: Have you ever been temporarily blinded by sparkle?  This does not have to be medically proven.  A: My husband calls it, “getting distracted by shiny things.”

Q: What is in your emergency Dance Mom kit?  A: Oye!  Hair pins, hairspray, safety pins, needle & thread, elastic, rhinestones & glue

Q: What performance trait can Jourdan say she got from you?  A:  I have learned from her.


Q: Jourdan.  How do you know when you’ve had a good day of dancing (even if you’re not being judged)?  A: When I come out of the studio feeling better than I did when I went in. I love this feeling!

Q: How do you reward yourself?   A: Usually with a bubble/Epsom salt bath, Pandora and a glass of red wine :-) or lemonade for the youngins :-)

Q: In the last 24 hours, what was the high moment of the day?   A: I came off stage from my performance of Dee Caspary’s “Dissapear” contemporary routine knowing that I gave my all! My partner Marquet Hill and I were proud!


Q: Lisa.  If SYTYCD had a mother-daughter dance, what song would you want to jam to?  A: Celine Dion’s ‘If I Could”

Q: Jourdan.  If you learn to ______, you can learn to do anything.  A: believe in yourself

Q: Lisa.  Be honest- do you try to emulate some of Jourdan’s moves in the mirror when you’re alone?  A: This should answer your question





Thanks, ladies- your talents are uniquely yours, and we’re looking forward to seeing more of your successes!

-xo- Jemm

P.S.  And readers, if you want more on Alan Bersten’s experiences on So You Think You Can Dance, check out the article featuring he and his brother, Gene, RU Presents: The Bersten Ballroom Boys of SYTYCD.

Here are just a few samples of Lisa’s work:

Lisa Epstein- Barbie Rolls Royce straight on Lisa Epstein- Field of Poppies purse Lisa Epstein- gold pearl burst camera Lisa Epstein- Queen Play 2 cases

Xirius Stone, Serious Sparkle

Well, they’ve done it again.  Always on the verge of something groundbreaking, Swarovski has created the most brilliant crystal flat back to date: Xirius 2088 flat back.

2088 Xirius introSounds like something from space, right?  A telescope, a landing probe, a character from Star Wars…  Well, you’re not too far off, my friend.  With its rich coloring, enhanced foiling and amazingly intricate cuts, it’s named after Sirus, the brightest star in our Milky Way galaxy.  The Xirius 2088 has more faceting than ever before, which means exponentially more ways to sparkle.

Swarovski is considered by most to be the gold standard in crystal.  (Or, should I say, the Aurum standard?  See what I did, there?)  Despite their worldwide reputation, they’re never content to just sit on their laurels and rake in the praise- the company is constantly developing products beyond the imagination of possibility.  Take Advanced Crystal, for instance.  For centuries, the key element in crystal has been the addition of lead to break up the light and create a prism.  Without the lead, you just have transparent glass.  Even the original stones on the Rhine River, rhinestones’ namesake, sparkled on the banks due to the high lead content in the quartz.  In worldwide standards today, your crystal is still valued higher the more lead it has, sometimes up to 30 percent.  But, the word lead freaks people out.  So, what did Swarovski do?  They created a whole new recipe for crystal, one 99.9% lead free, still exceeding standards of clarity and brilliance, still creating the reflective play of light within its facets.  What?  That’s crazy.   Oh, and did I mention they do it all while being certifiably green?  The company, in fact, belongs to a worldwide organization established to meet accountability standards for social and environmentally friendly practices.

So, next time you think about which rhinestone company to support, go ahead and weigh your socioeconomic options…or, just think about wearing the brightest star in our Milky Way galaxy around your neck.  Either way, you’ll land on the best.

-xo- Jemm

See them here:

2088 Xirius crystals

Nail Art “for Art’s Sake”

Ahh, nails.  Self-expression is all in the details, right?  Well, nails are definitely a detail.  Shellacking the tiniest tips of your paws in color is just as ridiculous as any beauty routine (who thought it necessary to brush gunk on eye hairs to gain points?) but a beloved custom just the same.

Who knows why it stuck.  Maybe because it’s a pampering act that shows visual results- ones you can actually see in your day to day life.  You can shave your legs, spread avocado through your hair, blend a luminous flush into your highest of high cheekbones- but who’s left to reap the rewards of your efforts?  Everybody else, that’s who.  Unless you work 40 hours in front of a looking glass, the only time you’re reminded of your goddess appeal is when you wash your hands in front of the bathroom mirror or catch a glimpse while passing a shiny city skyscraper (and pretending that you’re not looking at yourself).  But, give yourself a little manicure, live life with your hands in front of your eyes and every 12.8 seconds (I just made up that statistic) you have a subconscious memo that you’re a fox.  Text your buddy?  You’re a fox.  Type an email?  Ooo, hey, you’re a fox.  Hands on 10 and 2?  Face it, lady.  You’re a stone fox.

Back in high school, leaving a painting class, I’d proudly remind myself that I was une artiste by leaving the smears and flecks of oil color over my hands.  I could see it all day long, and remind myself that I was awesome.  (Or, so I liked to think in the days of youth.)  I had hard proof!  Others could see it all day long, and remind themselves that I was awesome.  (Or, so I liked to think in the days of youth.)

Colorful artificial nails

Pop culture blog writer Tracie Egan Morrissey nailed it when she said, “Nail art isn’t anything except art for art’s sake.”

In my easily entertained days of grade school, I remember frequently tracing my hand on a piece of paper and very carefully adding nails to the silhouette, drawing in a few rings and, if I was feeling ultra pink, I’d toss some glamorous compacts and lipstick tubes into the corners.  I wouldn’t just color the nails in with markers or colored pencils- oh no, my friend.  I’d put the whole page in my Trapper Keeper (no Lisa Frank for me), bring it home and use real nail polish to color my traced fingertips.  Even on paper a manicure was a treat and a creative expression.  Imagine if I had access to crystals then!

Nail polish has been around since 3000 BC, and our special shout-out to China on that one.  So, why all the hullaballoo these days?  My guess is the viral spread of great ideas through visual-themed collectives like Pinterest are just generating worldwide inspiration like a petri dish growing penicillin.  Elaborate nail art has boomed the last few years in part to celebrity style and social media sharing; now, new ideas can be imitated by the public as soon as they’ve seen the light of day.

Note here that, like all trends, the novelties will appear and disappear and another extreme will jump in their place, like the flip of a coin.  2016 could bring a trend of matte nude nails to counter the wacky 2012 excess (wait, is this the ‘80s?) or a black painted underneath the nail tip will suddenly become hot; they’ll call it a sexy mechanic look.  But, according to trend forecasters behind the scenes, make no mistake- the art of the mani-pedi will not be anything but present in generations to come.  What will remain is a reminder that we’re not limited to merely the basics of beauty.  Our creativity can extend to the very edges of our being (ahem, toenails) and beyond, because we will it to be so.

“Nail art…might be the only form of primping and grooming that isn’t rooted in making oneself more appealing to men or exploiting women’s insecurities.  It transcends skin color and hair texture and face symmetry and body type.”

Hearts, cherries

When trying something new, such as bringing in a wild new color- like Tangerine, Emerald or Radiant Orchid (wink wink)- into a mostly beige closet, your nails are a great place to introduce the trend.  Dip your toe in, as one might say.  If anyone out there is a regular reader of my rants and raves, you know I can go on about color and how our entire being responds to it.  It’s a mood changer.  If a tiny part of you is feeling like busting out of your beige world but you’re uncomfortable standing out, saturate the itty bitty part of your body that you will constantly see, and thus become more familiar with the shade.  Once you’ve accepted it as being appropriate for you on your nails, you’ll find it easier to add it into your life in other ways.

So, if you’re letting your own creativity run wild with DIY paint jobs, try integrating some of the crystals left over from your latest project.  You may find they make you happy just to see them in front of your face throughout the day.  Using a toothpick to dot a tiny bit of nail glue on top of dry nail polish, set your stone on the glue, and use a fine detail brush to apply a clear top coat just around the base of the stone to secure it.  Don’t bother painting the top coat over the entire stone- it will just diminish the sparkle.  When working with gel nail color, the stones can be set into the wet top coat before curing under the UV light.  Add another seal of topcoat around the base of the stone and cure under the UV light again for added security.  And have fun with the details!  This self-expression is something special just for you, to see and remind yourself with every move how killer you really are.

-xo- Jemm


10 Ways to Sparkle Your Wedding

Unless you ride a gossamer parade float crowned Miss Butter Queen at the state fair or are voted to the homecoming court, your queenly days are numbered.  For most, there are maybe only 7 times in your life you will feel like royalty, if you’re lucky: the quiet hours playing dress-up in your bedroom; Easter Sunday wearing the first dress you were allowed to pick out; confirmation day; quinceanera; prom; and the first day of your retirement when you realize you’re free!  Don’t have to take no orders from nobody!  Likely, the biggest of them all will be your wedding.  So make it count- add sparkle!  Here’s ten ways to make a big impact with a little bit- or a lot- of crystal rhinestones.

  1. Your dress.  The obvious option for sparkle is in the gown.  Oo, just saying it makes you feel like the British regency: gown.  Find a dress that makes you feel good, whether a couture designer number, a simple slip dress or a secondhand vintage frock.  When it fits well and highlights your best features, you’ll be comfortable.  From there, it’s easy to add a million dollar look with a relatively small amount of rhinestones.  You can do an all-over scatter for shimmer from every angle, or concentrate the crystals to bring attention to a specific area, say a face-framing neckline or a waist cinching sash.  Cluster rhinestone brooches, sew on a crystal appliqué or create your design with flat back stones.  You can glue them on, purchase hot fix elements or get sew on stones, pre-drilled with tiny holes just large enough for a needle and thread to pass through.  By nature, design presents infinite possibilities; gather patterns or finished looks you like to help narrow down a design- then, just go with your instinct.  Queens must make executive decisions every day- don’t look back.Jackie-Hanson-Wedding-Dress (2)
  2. Your invitations.  Just one or two crystals in the right spot can class up invites, thank you cards and other royal decrees.  Stick with flat backs with a low table height, say Preciosa Viva 12 crystals, and a smaller size, 12ss through 20ss, so they can slip through automated mail machines with ease.  If you’re making it official with a wax seal, press a pointed back stone in before the wax hardens.  If you’re giving gifts to your handmaidens and ladies-in-waiting, use the leftover stones on the wrapping or bow.  After the event has taken place, you could also decorate your marriage license a little before framing it for display.  Maybe make a photocopy first…
  3. Your accessories.  Every regent needs a crown, right?  Modernize your tiara by substituting a crystal headband, blinged veil or wearing a unique necklace in your hair.  But, beyond jewelry, consider your bag and shoes.  Unless your gown has pockets, and let’s pray that they become a standard in dresses from now on, you’ll want to keep your camera phone and lipstick somewhere close.  Update a great wristlet clutch and a pair of flats with glue and flat back stones, and you’ll be stylish and comfortable.  Don’t forget the ring!  Oh, wait.  Your partner probably has that one covered.  Never mind.Lindsey Haigler crystal platforms
  4. Your flowers. If you’re serious about sparkle, collect crystal brooches at your bridal shower and carry a brooch “bouquet” down the aisle.  Or, let your florist add bling to the fresh flowers.  Bouquets can get rhinestone wraps around the stem or dewy crystal drops worked in between the petals; table centerpieces can incorporate large cushion stones or decorate a blah bottle for an insta-vase.  Boutonnieres, kissing balls, sparkling ribbon in green garlands- if you want sparkle, queen, your florist can guild the lily. Brooch bouquet- cropped
  5. Your skin and nails.  Did you know that rhinestones can be applied to your skin with a high-quality eyelash glue?  Add a few stones at the corners of your eyes for an ethereal day glamour, or add drama to your black tie affair with a full masquerade application.  Love, honor and cherish an exposed tattoo by dressing it up for the event.  (After all, it truly will be with you ‘til death do you part.)  On nails, DIY mani-pedi parties can drop tiny flat backs into wet topcoat.  Once dried, seal the perimeter for reinforcement, using a detail brush dipped in the topcoat.  For the pro nail job, purchase the stones with your technician or bring your own to match your bridesmaids; between Swarovski and Preciosa alone, you have over 230 shades to choose from.
  6. Your cake.  Creative cake toppers, like crystal-encrusted monograms, look fantastic atop a tasty tiered dessert.  Banding- rhinestones preset into strips- is an easy way to decorate frosted layers for show and then remove for eating.  Got cupcakes?  Plate them on a glass pedestal edged in colored flat back stones.  Pleasing to the eye and the palate!Unique Magraff blue mono cake topper
  7. Your altar.  Your dearly beloved will be staring at you for an hour.  Some are far away in the last row, some are just old with astigmatism.  Make sure they can see you (and have something to look at besides the back of your heads) by glamming up the altar.  Chessboard squares give off a lively- but not overpowering- shimmer for a large stone.  Attach them along lengths of ribbon to hang as a backdrop.  A chuppah cloth, table runner or ceremonial wrap can get the royal treatment with a crystal border design.  Make a mobile of vintage crystal ornaments; jazz up candelabra with stone size (ss) 16; glue 30ss and 40ss rounds onto the edge of the garden arch you stand under.
  8. Your table settings.  Table numbers and name placards, disposable cameras and favor boxes can all get some sparkle.  If you want the attendants table to shine, tuck crystals into the swags, decorate the bouquet vases, crystallize the speech microphone or bling up a large frame and hang it behind the smiling faces of the couple.
  9. Your getaway car.  If your pumpkin carriage footmen called in sick (sigh. Bachelor parties.) whip out a pair of rhinestoned driving gloves and drive yourselves into the sunset.  A “Just Married” sign at the tail can be filled in with colored stones, and a loopy bow can get a dangling crystal pin in the center.  Your matching Vespa helmets can say “bride” or “groom” in contrasting crystal script, or get a sparkling saddle blanket and some crystal-riveted tack for your horse.  Or, glue some stones on the lacquered hooves!  There’s always a way, my friends.
  10. Your honeymoon!  Sunglasses, luggage tags, passport covers, bikini, your Nook, your scepter.  Oh, by the way, did I mention vajazzling in number 5?

Have fun!

-xo- Jemm

Don’t Miss Out On All Things Bling!

As new blog articles are published, we announce them first on Facebook, so don’t forget to become a fan of Rhinestones Unlimited!  When you join the crystal community you get a support network of fellow rhinestone users around the world, plus news briefs and new posts, giveaways and plain old fun sparkly stuff.  So, go ahead, like us on Facebook next time you’re on your computer.  Or your phone.  Or iPad.  It’s so easy.

-xo- Jemm


Showing Swarovski Style at Dry Creek Designs

If you’ve not been in our showroom in the past year, you’ve missed out on the show-stopping show jacket garnering so much attention. Designed by Liz Workland from Idaho’s Dry Creek Designs, the custom made piece features nearly 54 gross of Swarovski ELEMENTS crystals, pearls and ceramics, all hand-applied.3-4 Front in studio

As we welcomed new products to our shelves at the request of our Western wear customers, we asked Liz- one of our long-time friends- to create a piece showcasing them, exclusively for display at Rhinestones Unlimited. When I asked Liz what her inspiration was in coming up with the design, the first thing she pointed out was the colors. Thanks to Swarovski, we sent her a box filled with gorgeous neutrals to pick and choose from: silky nudes, smoky shades of translucent greys, bronzes and metallics. She came up with a swirling motif of hand cut ultrasuedes, set on a charcoal woven suiting fabric and a coordinating inner lining of graphic squares. It blazes in faceted crystals, soft charcoal and golden pearls, funky metallics, and artsy ceramic mosaic stones. This jacket is classic and edgy all at the same time, can suit any horse’s coloring and will complement any rider’s skin tone.

Front tail detail

TJ- an American Quarter Horse- and Austin B. rock the jacket on the streets

Because you’re not looking at it in person, let me assure you that this piece is stunning. Anyone who sees it is drawn in by the precision level of detail. I’ve personally witnessed it hold teenagers’ attention for minutes. Minutes! Now, I’m not going to lie to you- I don’t know horses. I love horses. But, I don’t know their world. My background is in fashion and theater costume. I can tell you what looks good on an individual, and if you’re willing to listen, why it looks good. The rest of the information I have to get via phone interview from Liz, a long-time veteran in the Western and equestrian world.

Q: Liz, what would you like people to know about Dry Creek Designs?

A: We are professional tailors first, designers second. I’m in my 22nd year of [creating custom show apparel]. Our fit in the industry is probably the best as far as jackets and pants. I went to school to learn this- you don’t learn this from your mom! From toddlers to 70-year olds- you have to know how to [fit everybody] and make a pattern specific to their intent. We always put care labels inside – the only custom show company doing that. And they last! Our clothes last forever. I’ve seen pieces of mine that are 10 years old on clients and they still look great- all lined, beautiful on the inside and outside- and the resale value is phenomenal.

Unlike the majority of show clothing out there sold at pop-up arena booths or in a catch-all store, Dry Creek Designs creates pieces that are made especially for the wearer. Liz uses woven fabrics and fits them through intentionally flattering seams- not a standard one-size-fits-all stretch polyester that pulls here and sags there. She assesses each person’s figure and personality, shades that look best with their skin and hair, how they ride, the horses’ breed. The most important factors? “The person’s age and what they show.”

CB detail, ceramics

Liz on Rhinestones

Riding horses since she was 8 years old and in business for over two decades, you better believe that this woman knows her craft. She graciously shared her trade secrets with me, as I must have appeared charming and trustworthy.

Q: You’re showcasing some product that is new to our shelves- did any specific embellishment strike you?

A: I loved the rectangles [Cosmic #2520] in Golden Shadow. Anything we can glue on we love! We’re putting out an average of one garment a day, so we like speed.

Q: RU is a Swarovski distributor- if they make it, we can get it for you.  What are your top three Swarovski products?

A: Crystal and Crystal AB are number one. Jet Hematite number two, Light Colorado Topaz number three. The latest one we’re really liking is Comet Argent Light- or as we started calling it in the shop, the “shiny diamonds.”

Q: Any tips & tricks you’re willing to share?

A: Too many to name. I’d say know how your product is going to respond- test it. Prototype it. We test every product we might use, every fabric for shrinkage and colorfastness. Leather bleeds like crazy, so we use pig suede and synthetic ultrasuede instead. Also, I only use Gem-Tac [adhesive]. I bought it from you at your beginning.  Best glue on the market.

Q: Do you have a rhinestone routine?

A: We don’t put stones on until after a coat is completely finished, because we line our coats, and there’s a chance for the stones to get damaged [during the construction process]. We put any spikes, big domes, metals or hot fix stones on first, and we start on the back, working around to the front…I don’t know why. Generally, as priority, there’s a lot [of rhinestones applied] by the face; we can shortcut on the sleeves.

Horse love front with bougainvillea big

Liz On Horses

For those outside of the equestrian world, like myself, you may not realize that competitive showmanship is serious business. “It’s incredibly expensive. Horses are like children that require round the clock care, day in and day out. You’ll need a confident trainer and coach to compete at any level. But, it’s a lifelong passion, an addiction. What we do is all we do. It’s hard work at the shows. There’s long days, early mornings. Late nights.   Home is easier. And, you better know how to drive a truck and fix a flat tire if you’re going to travel! But, it’s so beautiful. It’s so rewarding. When people have horses, they are passionate about them. You’re born with that passion. It’s not acquired.”

Q: When I’m on a horse I feel…

A: …Fabulous.  Special.  Connected, like I belong there.  It’s hard to put words to that, really.  It’s kind of like riding a giant dog sometimes: similar personalities, just bigger. It feels very natural.

Q: Barbie has ridden more than a few (dozen) horses in her world.  Any prize winners in your book?

A: Not a Barbie girl.

3-4 back with bougainvilleaLiz on Leather

“Horse showing is stinky. It’s dirty. Everything we make is washable.” You can launder every piece they make- and that includes the Swarovski display jacket.

Q: In your business, what is the most recent mistake you have learned from?

A: Hmmm. I don’t know… Well, we had a quality control issue on a couple substandard pig suedes recently. I guess it reinforced the habit of double checking hides.

Q: With PETA and bondage and bike gangs and Prince in peekaboo chaps, leather can be scary.  How have you taken the fear out working with it?

A: Working with leather is something you have to experience. Learn to look past what it is and treat it like fabric; it takes the fear away. I have so many years of experience with ultrasuede, pig suede, lambskin, leather, that I have no fear. Recently, we had a design for twisted fringe and we just did a prototype and doggone it if we didn’t nail it on the head! I’m big on prototyping- that’s how we started painting. Now fifty percent of what we create is hand painted. And for that, you have to know your products.

Full back in studio

Liz on Style

Shockingly, when asked whose country star style Liz most related to, all of my prompts were rejected. Granted, they could all be considered retirees today. And one of them is a horse. (Dolly Parton? Hank Williams, Jr.? Loretta Lynn, Mister Ed, Patsy Cline?) “I don’t do country music, so I’m going to have to guess…can I say Trisha Yearwood?” Sure you can, Liz.

And what does her Trisha Yearwood eye for style predict for the future trends? “There’s more texture lately: lace accents, eclectic embellishments, found objects, a lot of shiny things, of course.” With the recent rock and roll boom in Western wear, Liz was quick to interpret the attitude into a more timeless composition for the Swarovski display coat: the groupings of assertive Jet Hematite and acutely angled Rose Gold metallics are edgy but not hard. Use as accents, they don’t define the design.

Q: Do you see any big differences in show clothing from coast to coast?

A: In the past, yes: the East coast was generally more conservative in color- typically all black- and the West coast was more flamboyant . But, the East coast is catching up.

Q: Any stand-out show outfits you’ve never forgotten?

A: This display coat is number one for me. There’s also a little leather jacket with feathers, fringes, a powder blue buffalo coat my daughter wears. It’s all hand painted and covered in crystals and absolutely magnificent.

3-4 Front horse

Liz on Liz

Though she doesn’t have a cowboy name (because I asked), she was quick to supply her American Indian name: “Runs with Scissors!” After an enjoyable conversation on a grey Minnesota day, I figured I better let the Dry Creek Designs ringleader get back to her Idaho life (“It was 60 degrees yesterday! I gave the horse a bath.” In contrast, the February forecast on my end of the telephone was technically -8 degrees Fahrenheit – though the official “feels like” temp was -23). With reluctance, I hit her with my final barrage of investigative journalism.

Q: Liz, describe your personality as a Swarovski color:

A: Fireopal.

Q: And as a horse color:

A: Oooo. That one’s harder. I’ll say black. It’s a strong color, and I have a very strong personality.

Q: What is your favorite movie with horses?

A: [thinks about it] The Black Stallion. There are a lot of poorly done horse movies. Horse people can be critical of handlers and horses, just like a dancer would be watching a dance movie; but I’d say The Black Stallion.

Q: After a job well done, you gotta treat yourself.  Are there any classic recipes suitable for the stable, arena or a picnic in the pasture that you’d like to share?  They may or may not involve whiskey, as you see fit.

A: A bottle of red wine and always a couple of friends. We take off on Fridays to enjoy some flatbreads, food, friends, wine. And we breathe! It had to be done with the display coat. First, we had to get Jamie wearing the coat in some photos, but when we were okay to ship it off to you, the first thing we did was take a breath!

Full front walking with legs

Want a jacket just like it? Well, this one is not for sale. But you’re not alone! She gets many requests for so fine a piece. If duplicated- after 66 hours of work and nearly three pounds of crystal embellishments- it would retail at $4,995. And by the way, did I mention that this jacket features Swarovski crystals coated in 18 carat rose gold? Gold!

“I get at least one hit a week [asking after the coat]. You make a great design and people want it. They just don’t want to pay for it!” [She laughs] But not to worry, dear reader. Dry Creek Designs will definitely work with you to modify the design for your budget. That’s the advantage of custom show clothing- YOU become the central element in the piece. Not the other way around.

-xo- Jemm


Looking for a genuine Dry Creek Designs show piece? Keep your eyes peeled for the miniature L she’s tucked in to every garment since 1998. You can find Liz Workland in Meridian, Idaho or by visiting

Special thanks to Swarovski ELEMENTS for sponsoring the creation of the Rhinestones Unlimited Swarovski display jacket.

Secret L closeup