It's time for another project journal - not so much a tutorial as a step-by-step walk through a repurposing project of mine. This time it was a gorgeous pair of Faryl Robin heels, which I had bought on Ebay.
I just love 1940s shoes - their shape, style, and femininity. But unfortunately, buying vintage shoes is usually both expensive and risky. Will they fit? Sizes were so small back then my modern size of 8 or 8 1/2 is difficult to find, and even if I buy a pair, I am never sure if they'll fit. Will they be wearable? Old leather and glue can grow stiff or wear out, even though as a rule the quality of craftsmanship means they are usually well put together. Comfort is a whole separate issue, since rarely do vintage shoes have any sort of padding or arch support, or even more than a thin sole which can be painful to wear when you can feel stones right through it.
It is possible to find vintage shoes that will work. I have posted earlier photos of my favorite sandals, from the 1940s, which I have worn every summer for several years and just love.
But back when I was searching for Period shoes, I began to realize that there are some modern shoe makers which make shoes that look like they stepped out of the 1940s. It's tricky - you have to look at a lot of photos and movies from WWII to catch the subtle differences between modern throw-backs versus reproductions. Anthropologie, Miss L Fire, and Faryl Robin all are good brands to look for if you want modern sizes and comfort in a truly 1940s style shoe.
That's what I found in these.
The deep cherry color was perfect; the heel shape (a tricky area in repros) is perfect. The diamond pattern on the top is just like some old advertisements I've seen. Two problems. One - they were a tad too big for me; Two - they were my first experience with platforms, which builds up the front of the shoe and it won't bend.
The elastic straps also weren't quite period, and were supposed to add to the slip-on ability of the shoe, as well as help keep it on. They didn't work for me. So I stuffed them in a closet for a while, disappointed but not dismayed.
Then a few months ago I tried gluing elastic straps to the ankle area. This helped me keep them on, but didn't look right at all. Besides, the glue wouldn't hold well.
So I forgot about them again, until one day a week ago or so, I pulled them out and began to bend the red straps, trying to figure out if they could be bent and buttoned on the top or something. Nope. They are stiff fabric lined with thin leather and wouldn't bend up to the ankle without buckling.
Then I got this idea, and with trepidation, cut the elastic holding the two fabric straps together.
Now it looks like this:
Next, I bent down one of them to the inside of the shoe to form a sort of loop.
On the inside, the edge will be folded down against the foot but it's not too thick to be uncomfortable.
With a sturdy needle and two strands of matching thread...
...I fought my way through the stiff layers to sew the strap into a loop.
After several semi-straight stitches as close to the shoe as possible, I tied off the thread.
Unless you are on eye level with the shoe, the stitches aren't noticeable.
I repeated for the other strap.
Now it looks like this:
The next hurdle were the ties. I tried it with a ribbon, but that didn't work. Next I tried a length of rawhide cord.
I dyed it in Rit Dye with the color Wine. It did darken to close to the shoe color, and softened the cord at the same time.
So I tried threading it on the shoe, through the side loops and the center where the elastic had been.
The color worked, but not the knot and kinky ends.
Then I tried some black leather cord to see if I liked that better.
I liked tucking the ends in, but not the way the black looked. Besides, it was so much stiffer it was painful on the foot.
So I settled for the burgundy ties and tucked the ends in.
Perhaps they aren't quite as Period as I would like, but they are an improvement - and at least I can wear them!
I'm much happier with them now and can't wait to dress up '40s style.
So that's how I made my red '40s shoes wearable. Hopefully from my experience you can gain inspiration for articles of your own that you wish were altered a wee bit.