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Monday, October 28, 2013

Creating 18th Century Styled Shoes and Stockings on a Budget

I absolutely adore my 18th century inspired shoes!

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Can you believe they once looked like this?

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Of course I first needed a bit of inspiration.

Most 18th century shoes were one of three styles: the slipper shoe, the pump or the mule. The most comprehensive collection I found can be viewed on The Met website.

Most shoes featured a “Louis” or “French” heel which curves in mid heel and then flares out.


The shoes were made of silk, velvet, linen or leather.


Most were closed via a ribbon or buckle.

Shoe buckles

I have had these black mules for so long that I had forgotten them. Believe it or not I had been stalking thrift stores looking for shoes to transform and thankfully had had no luck. One recent Saturday I cleaned out my closet and rediscovered this perfect pair. First, the buckles were snipped off to create a smoother surface. 

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Next, the shoes were wiped down with a damp cloth then given a few thin coats of ivory spray paint I had on hand.

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Once the shoes were dry I coated the vamp with glue and applied a leftover scrap of dress material and cut it to fit the existing shape.

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All of those rather small pieces of lace I have been hoarding saving finally came in handy.

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Soutache (aka gimp) braid was glued on to hide the edges and a silk bow was added to the top of the vamp for flair.

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While the heel is not quite as thick of a “Louis” heel as I would like, once the mules are on my feet I doubt anyone will notice.

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Here is a somewhat blurry action shot in which you also catch a wee glimpse of my white cotton stockings.

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Because every well dressed lady would wear a pair of stocking with her shoes.

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“La Toilette” also known as “A Lady Fastening Her Garter” ~ Fran├žois Boucher c. 1742

Stockings were held in place with silk, linen or cotton ribbon. I opted for vintage cotton jacquard ribbon. The ribbon was wrapped above the knee twice before tying.

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The stockings were actually fairly comfortable and kept me warm. The party we attended was held outside and as the evening progressed the temperature dropped into the 50’s.

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Because I had the shoes, the fabric, glue and trim my 18th century mules were free. The stockings were purchased during my first visit to Colonial Williamsburg for $9.

What is your favorite shoe?

The Duchess of Decor


Julie Tucker-Wolek said...

What an amazing transformation! They look WONDERFUL!!

Creations by Marie Antoinette and Edie Marie said...

Simply magnificent makeover! Your shoes look like they came out of Marie Antoinette's closet. Your little snips of lace gave it such a nice finish. I love anything from that era and these make my heart skip a beat. Great job!!

Blessings, Edie Marie

The Quintessential Magpie said...

You outdid yourself with these! Laura!!! Amazingly beautiful these are. Simply amazing, and the historical research is, too.

My favorite shoes to wear are jazzy sneakers. Comfort is key, but if I am going to dress up I like the classic Ferragamos with the bows on the toe in black. Mine were stolen on vacation. I wore them for years, and they were in perfect shape. Evening shoes, I go higher in black or gold strappy heels. Right now with my knee healing, I am confined to flats. I have been wearing leopard flats for fun.

Cindy (Applestone Cottage) said...

That is just amazing Laura!
They work perfectly.
Outstanding job there girlfriend.

GSGreatEscaper said...

WOW!!! You sure give upcycling a good name - and of course, using scrips and scraps to personalize one's own shoes would have been authentic 18th- 19th century practice!

If you ever come to Lexington, I hope you'll wear your outifts. You will fit right in here!

marty (A Stroll Thru Life) said...

Oh my word, those shoes are totally amazing. I love them. Hugs, Marty

Butterfly 8)(8 Bungalow said...

Perfection! So Jane Austen.

designchic said...

No way....these are amazing!!

Pat@Life At Lydias House said...

You have really outdone yourself on this one! Amazing costume from head to toe!

Holly Marie said...

First of all I am in love with that fall mantle. The white is so pretty against the dark wood. Second I am wondering if you would be interested in writing up a guest post for Poppy Seed We have a shop and a little blog to compliment our shop. If you are interested I can send you more information, just email me at

Kelley said...

You KNOW Kelley Highway's favorite shoes are MULES! And your shoes turned out fabulously! I could not believe the transformation! They look like the real historic deal! Good job!

Head to toe, you're the duchess all right!

Happy week,