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[whitespace] The BeDazzler
Photograph by George Sakkestad

Be Dazzled

Forced into doodad extinction, the BeDazzler is now a comeback bestseller

By Genevieve Roja

CALL IT THE SUMMER of BeDazzlement. Whatever it was, it awoke the dormant Martha Stewart in me. This was the summer of 2001, of novelty T-shirts and tank tops studded and rhinestoned. Some said "Aries," others "Diva," "Goddess," "Lucky U," "Angel, "Bahamas"--get it? Loving their bitchy messages, I shopped around at discount shopping outlets and department stores. I balked at the prices--some by Joomi Joolz, the label that caters to the Hollywood set and fashion victims, were running at $50 or more. Hmph. For a black ribbed tank top with a cross and the words "Material Girl"? My mama told me I better shop around.

Then, on the Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn, a Playboy Playmate mentioned she passed time on airplanes with the help of a BeDazzler. A BeDazzler? Kilborn remarked. What the hell is that? The BeDazzler, she calmly explained, is a stud and rhinestone setting machine and the number one arts and crafts seller in America.

Believe me, I can attest to its popularity: I hunted it down at three Michaels crafts stores before I landed one. Shakeeb Rashidi, manager of Michaels at Westgate Shopping Center in San Jose, says they usually sell out their monthly shipment of eight BeDazzlers. At presstime, Rashidi had been waiting to replenish his inventory of BeDazzlers. Michaels nationwide are having a BeDazzler Back to School contest where entrants embellish their backpacks. "I order more shipments when we only have three more BeDazzlers left on the shelf. It takes a while to get in."

The BeDazzler looks like a giant plastic stapler whose base contains a circular wheel called a Tiffany setting, instead of a square setting ordinarily seen on a desktop Swingline stapler. Using different plastic applicators, or "plungers," one can insert studs or rhinestones of different sizes, slide the desired fabric between the arm and the base and gently press--just like stapling a piece of paper. Anyone can turn studs into designs that can look as witchy as some Madonna has worn during her Drowned World Tour.

Everyone, apparently, has been BeDazzled. At Rosie O'Donnell's magazine launch party, the guests were given gift bags that included the BeDazzler. It was also written up in her self-titled magazine and in other magazines tracking style trends, such as People, InStyle and Entertainment Weekly. On Kilborn's show, singer Dido sported a BeDazzled T-shirt that read "Craig." Monica Lewinsky, now a handbag designer in New York, admitted to New York magazine that she has BeDazzled.

"Glitz is in," says Melody Gally, a gift store owner in North Hollywood who orders her BeDazzlers direct from their inventor, H. Brickman. "The popularity has surged because all the designers are doing rhinestone fashions. It's really the resurgence of sparkle."

Customers have a choice between buying a singular BeDazzler ($19.95 at Michaels), which comes with studs and rhinestones and instructions, or buying BeDazzler starter kits. Retailing at about $32.45 at Michaels and at Gally's gingersgifts.com for $27.95, the "starter set" is equipped with starter packs of pearl studs, an assortment of multicolored rhinestones, an Insertion Tool, instructions, a BeDazzler Custom Hand Tool and a BeDazzler Project Book with directions for designs. Those who want to add to their supply of rhinestones and studs can purchase the coordinate packs for about $2.

"It's just wonderful," says Gally, who estimates she ships out about 500 BeDazzlers every month. "You can take a $2 T-shirt and make it look like a $50 thing. That's the beauty of it. People can go literally hog-wild because it's so much cheaper to do your own."

In the '70s, the BeDazzler--marketed then as "the Original BeDazzler"--was an infomercial star. It picked up many craft fans and then won over girls growing up in the 1980s. Nothing on MTV glitters without the aid of a BeDazzler. Witness the BeDazzled bandannas of 'N Sync member Justin Timberlake, the miniskirts on Britney Spears or even the zippered motorcross bodysuits on drowning diva Mariah Carey. Even her upcoming movie and soundtrack album are called Glitter.

So exactly how many products have I made with mine? One. It's a denim sling bag with silver studs that has yet to make its debut. The novelty may have worn off. A week ago I went back to Nordstrom and saw a glittery tank top with the words "Nashville Dancing Queen" and a picture of a cowgirl. In the sale rack it had been marked down from $52 to $27. Its placement in the sale rack signaled the ultimate kiss-off--the inevitable backlash of the trend. And with the advent of the fall season, which sports several looks from military to equestrian, simplicity has replaced this summer's bawdiness. No matter. Judging from the teenyboppers and the hordes of celebrities that keep snatching BeDazzlers up--Dally won't name which ones--it's safe to say that the BeDazzler hasn't gone the way of acid wash, pet rocks and sea monkeys just yet.

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From the September 6-12, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.




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