Making regency shoes – a little experiment in refashion
I have started to make a Regency outfit, just for fun. The clothes and the underpinnings are easy things to make but what about shoes? I didn’t want to wear modern shoes and neither could I justify spending 200 € for a replica pair. Then I found a website where someone transformed an old pair of shoes into regency shoes and decided to try it myself. (I’d link the page, but I am unable to find it anymore.)
A disclaimer: These will not in any way be historically accurate shoes. I have spend a few minutes looking at the pictures of regency shoes online and I am only interested in making something that would be passing if you didn’t bother to look very carefully. Neither am I a shoemaker so my methods may be questionable to anyone who really knows their craft. With that in mind, let’s go.
First I went to the Recycling centre and bought a pair of kitten-heels:
The shoes are leather and they a small flared heel that I wanted. I know that the toe is too round but then, these were much better than most of the alternatives.
The first thing to do was to rip out all the straps and decorations and to remove the sole. That was surprisingly easy to do. I was ready to do some steaming but finally, I could just pull the sole away.
The toe was too open and the stitching lines very visible, so I decided to start by glueing a piece of leather to the top of the shoe. When the glue was dry, I sanded the edges to remove most of the edges:
I found this nice moss green taffeta that was just the kind of fabric that I wanted. It would be more historically accurate to use silk but I didn’t want to make a pair of shoes that I couldn’t properly wear outside. Besides, the polyester fabric was cheap.
First, I cut U-shaped pieces that were larger than the shoes that I wanted to cover. I tried placing the fabric on top of the shoes but the surface looked uneven. I then decided to interface the front of the shoe with the same interfacing I have used on my previous shoe projects here and here. (Afterwards, I think it would have been better to interface the whole fabric and not just the front…)
Then the scary part started. I had to glue the fabric pieces to the shoes. The glue I used was Casco contact adhesive (kontaktiliima for us Finns). I spread it generously on top of the shoes and the fabric and then waited about 10 minutes for the solvent to evaporate. Then I carefully smoothed the fabric on the shoes. The good thing about contact adhesive is that you can manipulate the fabric quite a while and keep smoothing and pulling it until the wrinkles disappear. I also cut away the excess fabric to make it easier to fold the fabric at the toe and heel.
This is how the shoes look at this stage. The front looks nice:
But the sides and the back not so nice. Here it is obvious that I should have interface the whole fabric. Well, I was too far along to go back, so forward I went.
Here you can see how I pleated the fabric under the sole.
Regency shoes have a seam at the side and I noticed that it was often covered with a ribbon. I cut a small bit of fabric, folded the sides in and glued it on to mimic this. As I was working with my iron, I also cut two about 50 cm pieces of bias tape out of the fabric and folded it, too. These I carefully glued to finish the edge of the shoe. After that, I was able to glue the sole on.
At this stage, I had done so much glueing that I wanted to leave the shoes a bit to rest. While the shoes had their nap, I made a pair of bows out of some green ribbon. I fastened the bows with a hot-glue gun. (Yeah… really historically accurate!) I also used the same hot glue gun to fasten a piece of tape to cover all the fabric ends at the heel. (Here, it would have been better to use contact glue. The hot-glue made a much thicker seam that was harder to cover later.)
Now all the other seams were covered but the ugly edge was still showing at the upper edge of the heel. After some thought, I made some rouleau straps and glued them to cover the ugly bits:
I was able to tuck the ends of the rouleau straps under the sole that was still not fully dry.
Now, what to do with the uneven, glue-striped sides of the shoes? I know that the glue stripes might disappear after the glue dried properly but the surface was still a bit messy looking. A pattern of some sort might distract the eye from the wrinkles so that’s what I decided to do.
My fabric paints needed setting with hot iron, so those were out of question. I took a piece of the green fabric and tried some of my acrylic colours on it. However, I found out that those were too thick and it was hard to make an even pattern with them. Then I thought about nail polish. Nail polish is water proof!
I took out my collection of nail polishes and nail tools. With experimentation, I found out that the normal sort of nail polish didn’t have enough pigment. However, I also had special high pigment nail polish for nail stamping. That was just perfect! Even better, I found out that my nail dotting tool made beautiful small polka dots on fabric! (And, I even found a lot of pictures with actual historical shoes with dotted fabrics.) So, I chose this beautiful light green colour and started dotting. This is the end result:
Here you can see the sides a bit better.
You can see that the glue stripes are already fading but I think that the dotted pattern looks pretty and makes the shoes look cute.
It is very apparent that this is the first pair of shoes I have ever covered but I learned a lot in the process. The next time I already know a few things more and the result will be much less wrinkly.
Most of us do not have that many uses for regency shoes. Luckily, I think that most of these methods would also work if you just wanted to refashion an old pair of shoes. You could take your scuffed pumps and add some cool fabric and make a truly unique pair just with a piece of scrap fabric that we sewists tend to have!
I hope you enjoyed this post and thank you for reading! Happy sewing!
Very inspiring, I have difficult and wide feet but to take an old pair that fits and transform them to complement my regency dress is worth trying.thank you.