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March 2017

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Project: Shoe modification!

Our unit in shoe class right now is on modifying shoes on some basic structural level to achieve a new silhouette or shape. As i've mentioned before, i do the projects a step ahead of or along with my students, so that they can observe my process as well as one another's. So, here is one of my pairs of shoes that i've completely remade:

Here is my research photo. This is the shape/look i was shooting for.
Photo is of a pair sold on Zappos.com for $165.

Here are my base shoes.

These have sat in my closet for 3 years, entirely unworn but for once when i played an angry office-worker in a music video. (Don't ask.) I decided that, within the context of the project, i'd allow myself to expand the color range of the shoes, largely because there's no good way of turning black leather to brown leather. I could spray them with shoe spray, but i actually wanted to turn these shoes into ones i'd wear, and i feel that shoe-spray, while often fine for stagewear, is not something i care to have for streetwear shoes. I decided what was most important was to change the actual shape of the shoe into the maryjane-strap/button style, and incorporate the elements of textural leather and more decorative topstitching. I removed that little tiny buckle-strap and set to work.

I decided to add a sort of "saddle shoe" shape that would extend under the arch, and on top of which a strap would be added to create those big rounded strap-flanges, like this:

Note skanky pink vinyl couch cushion cannibalized for mock-up/pattern material. Whee!
I tried the shoe on at this point to make sure the shapes were good for my foot.

I used our industrial button press to create 1" leather-covered buttons.

The next thing i did was to trace the pattern pieces out onto some scraps of green upholstery leather that i found in storage, one plain-grain and one with a pressed faux-crocodile pattern. I then adhered my pieces to some thin pigskin as lining, and stitched them close to the marked edge.

Use proper respiratory protection when working with Barge adhesive!
It is a proven cancer-causing agent and who wants cancer? Why, no one.

Stitching around the strap piece.

Here i am cutting away the excess, close to my stitching line.

I then Barged the pieces onto the shoes themselves.

I decided to reinforce the interior of the saddle piece with two small tarnished-brass rivets, and to attach my strap with two more, slightly larger rivets. The above photograph shows this, and also is probably the best illustration of the two shades of green of the added leather pieces. I then punched a hole in the strap for the button's shank to go through, and the button itself is attached with a small piece of elastic. In this manner, the shoes can be slipped on and off easily without actually operating the button.

Here they are, my fabulous new shoes!
Total cost: $0

Incidentally, if you want to read about some easy fit-related shoe modification ideas that anyone with cobbler's access can do, check out this post on having elastic godets added to her bootshafts to accomodate wider calves by La Bricoleuse reader jacquez.


Just FYI, the godets link goes back to this post.
Whoops! Fixed it.

Thank you for this! I don't think I'd have the nerve (and certainly don't have the resources) to completely re-make shoes, but I love seeing it can be done.

And thanks for the link. I wonder if it can be done in place of zippers? I have a fabulous pair of boots that just won't zip high enough--I've thought about adding elastic gores so that I can wear them.

Finally, do you have anything to offer on the topic of covering shoes with new material? (I think you might have written something on this already and I admit I haven't gone back to check.) I have a pair of structurally sound fake-suede shoes with a trashed finish that I'd like to cover with lace or something instead.
You should take the won't-zip boots to a cobbler--they might be able to add a couple of godets beside the zipper so that it *will* zip up.

Re: covering shoes, check out Mary Wales Loomis' site, here:


She has a section on making your own pumps which might be of help regarding your recovering project...? At the very least it should give you an idea of what the flat shapes look like that you'd need to cut out to start from, and perhaps it's something you could do with a combo of sewing around the foot-opening and gluing elsewhere, or if you have a leathercraft vendor in your area, pick up a stitching awl to stitch the whole thing? Hard to say without seeing the shoes in question!


Cool Shoes!

I love this post. Hope you plan to wear those green & black ones--they look great in a photo. Probably better in the real.
AWESOME! Do you recommend any other hardware type store glues for this sort of thing? I've wnated to modify shoes forever for various costumes but never could settle on a glue that really sounded like it had what I needed.
What about a polyvinyl acetate white glue and clamps? Some of those are formulated to dry with a flexible bond--brand names like Leather Weld and Leathercraft Cement--and you don't need a respirator with them. I guess it depends on what the shoe alteration is that you're doing.

I would say, on a case by case basis, consult http://www.thistothat.com/ and see what brands/types they suggest!
AH. See I didn't know if I trusted thistothat but if it comes recommended by you I'll give it a go. I'm certain you've had to glue every sort of item in the known universe together at SOME point. Thanks for the recommendations of non-respirator glues. I have access to a respirator but avoiding it is a good thing too. I've always been afraid of investing the time in pattern-making and all for shoes only to have them bust while I'm oot-n-aboot after a short while. I'm rather hard on my shoes. The gaybar has seen many hours of my dancing. I've got some crazy shoe ideas so now I shall go forth with a clue of sorts. thanks!


Wow. Thanks for this. I have been working professionally in costuming for about 4 years, and sewing/crafting/cannibalizing clothes for ever. But, I never knew what to do with shoes that would not stay on my feet/were not cool enough. I am going to try this. (i'm going to add you as friend, ok?)



Glad to be of help! And, sure, please feel free to friend me.
Certainly, welcome! And enjoy the blog!