I found my perfect wedding shoes, but I couldn't afford them. I wanted these:
But I could afford these:
What's an Offbeat To-Be-Wed to do? DIY, obviously! So how did I go from those to these?:
Read on to find out! (Warning: This project is not for the faint of heart. Still with me? Then let's get started!)
- One pair of leather shoes (ala Glenbrook Oxfords). They should be comfortable, and have a shape you like. We're not changing the actual structure of the shoe here, so pick something you like. Any or all of these techniques would probably work for synthetic shoes, but I don't have experience with that, so use non-leather shoes at your own risk.
- Angelus Leather Paint in whatever color(s) you'll be using — 1 oz should be plenty
- Angelus Leather Preparer/Deglazer or full strength acetone (think hardware store, not nail polish remover)
- Angelus Finisher. I used High Gloss, which is shiny but not as shiny as patent. The satin is pretty matte, so I can only imagine that the matte is really matte.
- Painter's tape — get the good stuff!
- an assortment of brushes
- rubber gloves
- old rags
- a fine knitting needle or perhaps a toothpick
- little dishes you don't mind throwing away (for the paint and water)
- Old newspaper, junk mail, or other disposable, crumple-able paper.
- Optional Supplies: Additional acrylic paints (I used these for the soles and for details), ribbon to replace the ugly laces, glitter
Remove those ugly-ass laces!
Step 2: Stuff!
Take your newspaper or junk mail, and stuff it into your shoes. Don't shove so much in that it deforms the shoe, but make sure they end up feeling pretty solid. Stuff all the way up to the edges — this newspaper is going to keep you from getting paint inside your shoes.
This step is especially important if you have a tongue in your shoe — stuff the newspaper into the front of the shoe to spread it out and reveal as much tongue as possible. You're not going to be able to paint the whole thing, but you want to be sure that any part that might be seen is spread out and paintable. Tape the tops of the crumpled paper together to ensure none of it goes tumbling out.
Step 3: Tape!
Tape off every part of the shoe you don't want painted. I recommend you use small pieces of tape to go around curves. This is worth all the time you put into it. If the part you're painting is sewed on top of another part (like the black part of my saddle Oxfords), position the tape under the edge.
If you're having trouble getting it under (happens especially in the inside of curves), use your knitting needle to slide it under. The goal here is to allow the edge of that piece to be painted without the paint spilling over onto the white part.
Mostly, you can just rip the tape into pieces that work — you'll use the smooth edges of the tape to define where the paint stops. In fiddly little areas like corners, you'll have to cut it with scissors. Don't worry about the pieces being totally perfect — you should be able to use your knitting needle to ease them in. Do make sure they cover everything you don't want painted, though.
I was also painting the part of the sole that shows on the sides of the shoe. If you're doing this, be sure to tape around that, too, including the bottom of the shoe. The bottoms are most easily done by taping over the edges and trimming the excess.
Taping should be the single most time-consuming part of this whole process. I spent more than four hours on it just ensuring that it would be perfect. The tape not only prevents the parts you don't want painted from getting dripped on, it also prevents the abrasive chemicals we'll be using to strip the leather from touching the leather you aren't painting. So don't skimp!
Step 3: Strip!
Put on your rubber gloves, or other hand protection, (I just put a plastic bag on my hand, which was effective, if inelegant), moisten your rags with whatever you're using to strip the leather, and get rubbing. This will take a lot of time and elbow grease, and a lot more acetone than you think.
(Note: I used cotton balls, and they left lint all over my shoes. You'll be much happier with a rag.)
Keep rubbing until the leather takes on a matte appearance, and looks a bit faded. The acetone evaporates quickly, so re-moisten your rag frequently. Also, don't be surprised if some parts take longer to deglaze than others. Be sure to do this in a well ventilated area, as acetone is highly flammable and not great for your lungs. When you think the leather is totally bare, let it dry. You might find that it needs more work. However, if your leather starts to develop little nubs (as though it were suede), STOP. We don't want to strip the texture from the leather; we're just looking for a good surface for adhesion. Let your shoes dry completely before moving on to the next step.
If you're painting the heel, you can strip it, too. For stacked (wooden) heels, simply use the same rags and acetone to wipe it down. It, too, will take on a matte appearance and start to look faded. If your heel is plastic, don't use the acetone. Instead, just sand it lightly and wipe down with a moist (with water) rag.
Step 4: Paint!
I recommend thinning out the Angelus paint just a bit (I used one part water to three or four parts paint). Apply the paint in thin coats, paying special attention to any stitching. You will probably be surprised and impressed at how good the coverage is (the picture below is after only one coat).
Don't let that rush you, though. Aim for thin, even coats, and make sure they are dry before applying the paint over them. I think I used about five coats. I might have been able to do it in fewer if I hadn't thinned the paint, but I like that I still have that beautiful leather texture. If your shoes have little cut-out details like mine, the holes might need to be touched up. I used tiny dots of white paint to make sure they still pop. Let this dry completely before moving on to the next step.
I wanted to paint the visible part of the soles a different color (shiny gold!). Skip down to step 8 if you're not doing this part.
Step 5: More tape!
Using scissors or a utility knife, score the tape on the sole where you want the color on the bottom to stop. Remove all the tape that is covering the area you're about to paint. Tape around the area. This probably means you're taping over some of your paint from the previous step, so be really sure it's dry! Like we did on the bottom, tape over the edges and trim the tape down. If there is a label on the bottom you want to remain unpainted, be sure to tape that, too.
Step 6: More paint!
Using the same technique you used on the leather, apply thin, even coats of paint. Because the sole of your shoe is probably not porous like the leather, the paint will take longer to dry. Try to be patient. This is a good time to catch up on the last two seasons of RuPaul's Drag Race, because these shoes are going to be sickening.
Step 7: Glitter!
(This step is obviously optional.) I used an acrylic paint with the glitter already mixed in. It took approximately a century to dry, so maybe separate glue and glitter would be a better choice.
Step 8: Finish!
Remove the tape from around the sole if you did that step. You might have to do a bit of touch up if it pulled off any paint. Once that dries, pour a small amount of finisher into one of your little cups and brush it over everything you painted. Especially on the leather, this should be a thin coat. You don't want to see any bubbles or pools. It takes way less than you imagine. Avoid brushing it too much once it's even. The finisher tends to pool a bit on smooth surfaces (taking on the appearance of a bathroom mirror that you wipe after a shower before the steam is totally gone), so on non-leather areas, you'll have to brush it more to get even coverage. Keep brushing until it holds a smooth finish. Let this dry completely
Step 9: Reveal!
Once the finisher is completely dry, it's time to remove the tape and the stuffing. Prepare for the fact that a little bit of paint will peel off with it. The best approach seems to be a smooth motion with moderate speed. Don't peel so quickly that the tape rips or so slowly that it pulls off entire sheets of paint. If you taped under an edge, that area is most susceptible to peeling paint. Go carefully to minimize the risk.
Step 10: Touch up!
Use the littlest brush you have to reapply paint anywhere it was pulled off. This will be adhering to the paint around it so unless you peeled off a ton of paint, you should be able to do this with little dabs that are thicker than the careful coats you applied earlier.
Step 11: Lace!
If your shoes use laces, this is the time to lace them up. If you're using ribbon, measure it against the old laces, and be sure to singe the ends so they don't unravel. A lighter works great for this. Move the ribbon towards the side of the flame (this area is cooler than the top, so you get more control). When you see the edges sort of melt away, you know it's good. If they turn brown, you got them too hot. Just cut them off and try again.
Step 12: Admire!
Put your shoes somewhere you can see them. You'll feel smug every time you remember how awesome they turned out. I recommend waiting at least 24 hours before trying them on just in case.
So that's it. I am really, really happy with them! Like, really. I had been freaking out about whether I would ever find shoes I could afford that I liked, much less loved. But I love these! I feel great that I stayed in budget (despite the temptation to go overboard), and I am really proud that I decorated these shoes myself.
Anyone else DIYing their shoes?