Vintage shoes from the 1900s-1920s are hard to find in good shape and in modern sizes, so what to do when you want Period shoes for a Titanic or Downton Abbey costume? Shoes from that era were mostly similar in general shape, with lots of strap and toe detail. No sandals yet, but cut-outs, embroidery, multiple crossed straps, bows and buckles, and similar features on their high heels were all popular. The main distintive of shoes from this era is the heel shape. So when you're looking for costume wear, the first thing to look for is heels of the right shape.
I found these 1980s heels at a thrift store. Their heels are perfectly shaped. In the 1980s when throwback fashion was common, many styles of shoes were made with this kind of heel. The rest of the shoe doesn't look so Period, but the heel is great.
So I did an internet search for photos of shoes from the era - Edwardian-Titanic-Roaring '20s - I was hoping to copy. Most times the decorations were of the same material as the shoe, but I did find some with contrasting ribbon bows, which inspired this project.
Here's how to make costume-worthy court shoes out of an existing modern pair. Plus, with detachable brooches, make them to match any outfit and switch the colors whenever you feel like it!
1 pair shoes
1 1/2 in. wired gauze ribbon
3/4 in. matching solid ribbon
2 buttons (or more)
needle and thread (not shown)
Now, about the buttons. First I had intended just gluing a button to the front of each shoe, but since I am picky about matching metal tones, I didn't want to put a silver button on them in case I wanted to wear gold jewelry, and vice versa. That's when I had the idea of making them brooches, to be removable.
And there are no better buttons to use than La Mode's Vintage line. These are super great buttons for costume work, since they are copied from originals and each card is dated with the approximate era the buttons are from. These are circa 1860-1900, which is perfect for the style of shoe I'm working on.
Besides being unique and good quality, they are beautiful!
So, to begin.
Here's the starting place - the plain shoe toe.
1. Lay the wider ribbon across the toe, where you want it to end up. I chose wired ribbon for this because it would stay where I put it better and keep its shape, but you can use a soft ribbon.
The shoe is slanted and the ribbon will need to be too. So lay it across the top and and cut it along the sole on both sides, including an extra inch to roll up on each side.
Match it against the shoe to make sure the slant is right.
Fold up the tip that sticks out. Secure the whole edge roll with a drop of glue.
Repeat for the other side. Here's what it looks like now.
3. But because the end doesn't look very neat and we can't tuck it between the sole and upper as a shoe maker would have done if decorating it originally, take the narrow ribbon and wrap each end, keeping the slant the same. Secure with a drop of glue on the wrong side.
Here's what it looks like when finished:
4. Now lay it across the shoe and secure each end the whole way along, and one drop in the center to keep it in place.
5. To make the bow, just take a doubled piece of wide ribbon as wide as you want, and cut it to that length.
Wrap the center with the narrow ribbon, to form the bow shape. Secure the narrow ribbon with a drop of glue on the back side where it won't be seen.
6. Glue the bow to the center of the ribbon on the shoe.
Repeat all the steps above for the other shoe.
Now to add the right silhouette to the shoe, we'll make detachable brooches with the buttons. There are two styles.
#1 Brooch - Plain
First I had La Mode's 170001703 buttons, which are a 1 in. cupped shank button in antique gold.
To make these into brooches, I cut rough circles of felt a little smaller than the button, with a slit in the center for the shank to go through.
I stacked 3 of them together with dots of glue between, and glued them to the button. This builds up the back and makes a place to glue the pin back.
I glued the pin back to the top of the button.
Yet from the front it still looks like a plain button.
#2 Brooch - Ruffled
The other two buttons were La Mode 170001706, which is a flat-backed shank button...
...and La Mode 170001718, a flat button with 2 holes. Both of these I needed a backing for, which I did the same way.
Tie a knot in the thread end, and weave your needle through one side of the narrow ribbon, gathering it.
All you want is a circle, which may take about 5-6 in. of ribbon. Keep gathering it until when you pull the needle through and tighten the thread, it makes a ruffled circle, similar to a yoyo.
Secure it with a few stitches so it stays shut, then use the needle and thread to sew the button to the center front and the pin back to the back. This adds a nice soft ruffle outline the whole way around the button.
If you can sew them both on at the same time, so much the better. (I love short cuts. :-)
So there are your brooches, and they can be interchanged on the shoes depending on what style or color you want to accessorise with. And of course, worn separately as brooches on collars, lapels, handbags, hats, gloves, etc.
I loved the painted shell button brooches!
I had to see what they looked like in costume, so here are some pictures of them with my Titanic skirt and accessories. Enjoy!
That's it for now. Till next month!
~Kristen - Verity Vintage Studio
Look for my new tutorials posted sometime during the first full week of every month. Hairstyles, crafts, repurposing, etc.