How To Make Your Own Pair of Couture Pompadour 18th Century Shoes

Last week, I showed you several pairs of custom-made shoes I designed for Whoopi Goldberg. I was so flattered by the comments – thank you! – and also a little frustrated that we won’t be able to mass-produce those design for those of you who wanted to buy them.

However, I thought it would be helpful to show you the kind of customization you can do with your American Duchess shoes. Many of our styles are dyeable, but sometimes it can hard to imagine how you can take your shoes from “blank” to “blingin’,” so I’m going to show you today how to start from scratch and turn a pair of Pompadours into some seriously tricked-out shoes.

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 pair of American Duchess Pompadours in White
  • 1 pot of International Fabric Shoe Dye in the color of your choice
  • Wool Dauber
  • Paintbrush
  • Scotchguard
  • Fabric Glue (any kind that will adhere to fabric)
  • Decoration – applique patches, metallic lace, sari trim, jewels, anything really
  • 3/8″ or narrower trim – guimpe, petersham, lace, etc.
  • Clips (hair clips or alligator clips, etc.)
  • 1″ – 1/5″ satin wide ribbon (for laces)
  • Aiglets/Bolo Ends/Ribbon Ends
Step 1
First, you’re going to dye your Pompadours. I chose color A81, a dusty pink, to match the trim I’d selected for the vamp. The design in the fabric will take the dye the brightest, and the ground will dry lighter. Be sure to remove the ribbon laces from your Pompadours.
American Duchess 18th Century Shoe Decorating Tutorial

Starting at the back seam, dab on the dye with the wool dauber. Use a small flat paintbrush for more control along the edges. Do not dye the heel – the fabric dye will stain, but not stick to, the leather heel. For this tutorial, I left it ivory, but you can paint it any color you like with Angelus Leather Shoe Paints.

American Duchess 18th Century Shoe Decorating Tutorial

Work your way around each shoe, then allow them to dry overnight. The following day, spray them thoroughly with Scotchguard, to seal and protect the color. (*If you don’t spray them with Scotchguard, you’ll have a hot mess when you come to glue your decorations on later!)

Step 2
Prepare your decorations. I found some gorgeous beaded and embroidered sari trims, but you can use just about anything – metallic lace, pre-made appliques, even a motif you embroidered yourself. (*tip: embroider on gold organza, then cut around the edges of your motif)

American Duchess 18th Century Shoe Decorating TutorialThis technique uses glue to topically adhered the decorations to the vamp of the shoe. I do not recommend trying to sew these bits on, as the structural elements in the shoe (particularly the toe) will make it *hard* to get a needle through.

American Duchess 18th Century Shoe Decorating Tutorial

The trim I found used a stiff organza ground for the beads and embroidery. I chose to cut out around the motifs, but there are lots of antique examples where a large piece of flat ribbon was used down the vamp of the shoe. It’s totally your choice what you use and how you arrange it on the shoe.

Step 3
Now it’s time to start “lacing” the shoe. With plenty of glue, start sticking those motifs on how you like. For my sari trim, I clipped between the flower and leaf motifs to “bend” the trim into curves, and cut out individual parts of the trim to fill in the gaps throughout the application.

American Duchess 18th Century Shoe Decorating Tutorial

American Duchess 18th Century Shoe Decorating Tutorial

Some glues are quicker-setting than others. I recommend a quick-setting glue. Use the hair clips to help hold pieces in place while the glue dries.

Step 4
Next, I glued the guimpe trim around the edges. This is totally optional, and it’s up to you if you want to use a trim like this, or petersham ribbon, which also gives a wonderful period look.

American Duchess 18th Century Shoe Decorating Tutorial

 Again using the clips to aid, bend that trim around the edges and hold it in place until it sets.

American Duchess 18th Century Shoe Decorating Tutorial

Do the same for the tongue, ending your trim at the seam that goes across the top of the foot.

*Trims that are NOT RECOMMENDED for the edging on your shoes:

  • grosgrain, jacquard, or satin ribbon – it won’t bend into curves as needed
  • trims that are wider than 3/8″ – you’ll have trouble getting it around the curves

Step 5
You’re almost done! The last little detail is to add the ribbon ties. The ribbons can really oomph up the finish of your shoes and give them that polished final look.  I chose spring green ribbons to contrast the pink and complement the beadwork from my trims.

American Duchess 18th Century Shoe Decorating Tutorial

Your ribbons will be about a half-yard long, depending on how big you want your bows to be.  Feed each end through the grommets. Then, if you’re using aiglets (bolo ends), tie each ribbon end into a small, tight knot, clip the excess off, and stick into the open ends of the aiglets. Use needle-nosed pliers to crimp the ends of the aiglets over the knots. There’s no need to stitch them into place.

American Duchess 18th Century Shoe Decorating Tutorial

*Keep in mind that once those bolo ends are on the ribbons, you won’t be able to pull them back through the eyelets on the shoe. You’ll have to take the bolo ends off the ribbons to switch them out.

Now you’re finished! Sit back and admire your seriously gorgeous new shoes! Imagine them peeking out from the hem of the stunning 18th century gown you’re working on!

American Duchess Customized 18th Century Shoes - DIY

I’ve done this tutorial with Pompadours, but you can use any dyeable shoes, leather or fabric – just make sure the glue you use is suited to the material to which you’re adhering your decorations. Don’t be afraid to get a bit wild, too – 18th century shoes could be quite eye-popping. Need some inspiration? Check out these originals…

LACMA, 1700-1715
Muenchner Stadtmuseum, c. 1730
Bata Shoe Museum, 1735-50
The Met, 1690 – 1729
The Met, early 18th c.

Dive right in! Your “lacing” could be as complex as individual motifs cut out of organza, or as simple as a wide piece of metallic lace or ribbon running gracefully down the top of the shoe. There’s no right or wrong way to do it, and your result will be truly one-of-a-kind. Let history guide you, and have fun!


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