Bedazzling is the art of decorating an object with sequins, beads or glitter. According to fashion designer Rachel Burke, it’s also a conversation starter. “It’s the process of transforming something from mundane and normal into something dazzling and astounding,” she says.
Burke, a Brisbane-based designer, has made a name for herself creating fabulous – and highly sought after – tinsel jackets, dresses and skirts. If there’s an authority on bedazzling, Burke is it. She even wrote a DIY craft book called Be Dazzling, published in 2018.
Burke recently applied that handiwork to a Little Mermaid-themed capsule collection in partnership with Disney. To mark the film’s 30th anniversary, Burke hosted a one-off glittery crafternoon with Broadsheet and Disney at The Espy in St Kilda, where she demonstrated first-hand to a group of invited guests how to bedazzle a pair of Twoobs sandals.
“My take on bedazzling is creating something lush and very majestic to look at,” she says. “That’s why it ties in so well with the “under the sea” theme – because there’s a barnacle-esque aesthetic to the gem-encrusted work I make.”
According to Burke bedazzling is an art anyone with a hot-glue gun and an assortment of shiny bits and pieces can try at home. “I love to use gems as a solid foundation,” says Burke. “I also love adding pearls, beads, sequins to the mix, as well as lace trim – an unusual bedazzling element.”
You can bedazzle all manner of clothes and accessories. “Any kind of accoutrement with a flat surface that can be embellished works. I love bedazzling old denim jackets – anything that’s looking a bit drab that you can make fab is good,” says Burke.
Shoes also make an excellent bedazzling medium. Burke says the best to work with are canvas shoes, sneakers and jelly sandals. “Anything with a synthetic surface is good because the glue adheres to it really well.
“Something like a gumboot isn’t great because it will have a repellent.”
We asked Burke for her tips on how to bedazzle a shoe at home.
Don’t use new
Resist the temptation to jazz up your brand-new sneakers. “Start with an old pair of shoes you’re happy to experiment with – it’s fun to use a pair of shoes you might think don’t have much life left in them,” says Burke. This also applies your bedazzling accessories. Rather than buying new decorations, use old fabric, ribbon, lace or jewellery pieces to give your old shoes shine.
The first step for DIY bedazzlers is to assess your shoe. View it as a blank canvas and work out where you want to place your embellishments. Then, using a hot-glue gun, “start with layers of lace to lay down the foundation of cute texture onto the surface of your shoe”.
More is more
Next, glue down your gems and other embellishments. Your shoe’s bedazzled surface should be starting to take shape. “By this stage, you should notice that everything is looking very textural and delicious,” says Burke.
“If you’re working with sneakers, take down the old laces and replace them with ribbon or a fun-coloured lace. If you’re working with a velcro shoe, keep customising it until you’re happy with the result.”
Clean your glue
Burke has developed a special technique for using the hot-glue gun. “Make sure when you apply the glue that you wipe down the gun as you squirt it out,” she advises. “The worse thing is gluing willy-nilly and ending up with heaps of hot-glue strings, which look webby on whatever design you’re working on.” Instead, she says, cut off the strings as you go to get a clean finish.
Designing creations inspired by The Little Mermaid is a dream project for Burke, who has always related to the flame-haired Ariel’s character. “The Little Mermaid was hands down my favourite Disney movie growing up,” she says. “I love the idea of her finding her feet.”
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Disney.