Costume grad school is the best, guys. My first project in crafts class last semester was re-covering shoes. Which was extraordinarily convenient because I was invited to attend an 18th Century dinner in February, and I had no appropriate shoes!
My next bit of luck was finding a decent pair of shoes at the thrift store. Since it was the first project of the semester, I didn't have a lot of time to shop around for something with the perfect shape. The shoe I found has a much too narrow heel, but the toe was great and they fit really well.
The fabric selection process turned out to really easy too - our professor gave us permission to raid the costume shop scrap bins. The diamond patterned silk reminded me of these shoes from the Bata Shoe Museum. I knew I wanted to cover the heel and bind the edges in a contrasting fabric, and eventually I decided to go with HIGH contrast. I wish I could say that I had a great period inspiration for that color combination, but mostly I just liked it.
The process in involved draping a pattern directly over the shoe in muslin. The class found that using a little bit of spray adhesive helped the fabric stay put as we worked. From that pattern I cut the top fabric and used light fusible interfacing to stiffen the parts that needed stiffing (mostly the tongue and latchets). Then I spread fabric glue lightly on to the shoe and smoothed the fabric on. The trick to getting the fabric to lay nicely over the toe is to make sure that fabric is on the bias!
To finish them off, I bought the "Fleur" shoe buckles from American Duchess and they were really worth every penny. They are not only sparkly and gorgeous, they are very functional and make the shoes look more "real."
And I am happy so say that while there are definitely things I would do differently were I to do this project again, the shoes were a big hit at the dinner! Stayed tuned for more about that!