Late 18th century shoes, 2019
I have from time to time been inspired to upcycle modern shoes for re-enacting purposes, partly because it's a cheap option for proper high quality replica footwear, partly because I just like crafts. However, after my last 18th century shoe project for the Robe a la Francaise I felt quite fed up with this special form of madness, as I made the shoes as a final part of the long big project that was the Francaise and was generally exhausted. However, some time later I found myself playing with shoes and fabric and glue again, this time for my 1870's ballgown. And suddenly that was fun again, especially I had had a lot less to do without massive alterations to the shoe shape as the pumps didn't need the quintessial 18th century buckle straps.
|At some point it also
occurred to me that my striped Robe a la Polonaise
might need new shoes. My first pair of
upcycled shoes ever I had worn with it in the past
were beginning to show considerable wear, and besides they
had always been a bit too tight. I reasoned that with this
dress I might just be able to pull off the later shoe
style without buckle straps. It would be so much easier to
make and it's also nice to try a new style.
With this project in mind I had purchased a very affordable "used only once" pair of satin pumps. I had even hoped that the color would match to the turquoise stripe in the dress fabric so that I might even been able to save the origal fabric covering and just fix the heel shape and cover the heels with leather, which is a typical look for the era.
|Well, of course it did
not work out quite that easily, when the shoes arrived I
had to admit that the shade was way too green. Besides,
the satin had a very modern shiny look, and not a very
great quality as it was already damaged at some places
even though the outer soles and heel tips seemed barely
used. Oh, well, I very much doubt I would have ever
managed to redo the heels without soiling the rest of the
shoe somehow, so it was better in the end to take them
|The natural choise
might have been to use the leftovers of the dress fabric,
but for the first thing stripes have to be matched I was
feeling a bit lazy, and the material was of the type to
invite glue stains. Also a bit more generic look would go
well with other outfits too.
|When in doubt, go for pastel pink for late 18th century (or whatever)! It goes with white, turquoise and all kind of pastels. Also all shades of blue. I also have a large stash of pastel pink materials. A tiny silk second hand pillowcase was perfect to for this.|
|First I removed the
outer soles and peeled off the satin covering. This pair
had a heel tip screwed in to tightly (not a bad thing in itself) that I just didn't manage to remove, but
luckily I managed to lift it just enough to rip the satin
out from beneath it.
As the heel had a rather curved shape to begin with I didn't have to carve it almost at all this time, just pad the front edge under the sole with epoxy putty to get the gently rounded shape typical for the era, which really gives the shoe a period look.
|Modern pumps are
usually cut very open at the top, almost revealing the
toes, so I raised the front edge a few centimetres for a
more period look. This, combined with the heel set well
under the foot also rather cleverly makes the shoes look
This patchwork at the top of the shoe can easily show through the final fabric covering, but then again it's also easy to disguise under the decoration. At this stage the shoes began to have a pretty, quite Vivier-esque look.
curved heels with fabric can be rather tricky, if not
impossible depending on your material, but thin leather
has a lot of stretch and is thus so much easier to shape
smoothly over the heel. I'm quite willing to bet that as
the heels turned narrower and more curved in the late 18th
century the new fashion of covering them in leather instead
of silk was not a coindicence.
My biggest problem with the heel was instead to finish the tip neatly as I had not been able the remove the heel tip. I tried to push the leather edges under it, but managed to tear the leather at some places in the process.
|Pattern for the uppers
was very pretty easy to drape with muslin. I have learned
with practise that most shoe patterns for the same size
and roughly the same heel height are nearly identical, but
I still prefer to make a new pattern every time just to be
|As the silk was very
thin I used two layers of iron-on interfacing this time to
prevent glue from leaking through, first a thin one on the
whole piece and then my regular heavier, slightly napped
one on top of it. The heavier interfacing does not extend
to the seam allowances to that they don't become too
I gathered the edge of the toe part to curve neatly under the sole. I also gathered the lower edge of the back piece sligthly and glued the seam allowance to turn under at the heel edge.
|I glued the silk pieces
on and covered the join in the sides with tape. At the
counter and sides there remain some wrinkles, but the toe
turned out very neat. As the dupioni silk has a more
subdued, softer shine compared to satins the imperfections
are not as visible from some distance, however.
Then I tried on the outer sole and cut off the extra at the sides to match the altered heel shape. This is always a bit tricky part and and I never get the edge very neat (a sharp knife gives a neater finish that scissors, though), but it doesn't show much when wearing the shoes.
|I finished the edge of
the shoe on the trusted method of glueing a tape to cover
it. Okay, I could in theory sew the tape on, but sewing through
several layers of leather with all the heavy shaping
layers they put on modern shoes is hard work so I just
usually use glue.
The part where my extention pieces join the original opening were so thick that the tape didn't look that great there, but what is decoration for if not to cover up mistakes?
|I kept the decoration
quite simple, I could always pin on extra bows and
rosettes later if I wanted to. For now I just pleated two
rows of taffeta ribbon on narrow tapes, which I glued on
the top of the shoe.
|The rather quickly made
shoes turned out quite pretty. This style is very
charming, and the white decorations complement the white
heels. The light color combo will hopefully go with many
outfits, and brings a deligthful touch paired with pink
With my current mania for Victorian styles I will probably not be starting any major dress projects for 18th century, so it was nice to get some new stuff at least in the form of accessories.