How to Make Your Own “Mistress Firebrand” 18th Century Shoes

Last week I shared with you our “Mistress Firebrand” shoes, a pair of “Georgiana” dyeable sateen 18th century shoes that I had decorated with fabric dye, fabric paint, silver lace, and petersham ribbon, inspired by an original pair in The Met Museum:

Shoes, 1760-1780, The Met

Bold and saucy (like Mistress Firebrand herself), the yellow and red shoes weren’t everyone’s cuppa, but just imagine if those shoes were decorated in your favorite colors, to match YOUR Georgian gown. It may seem complicated, even crazy, but I’m now going to show you exactly how to do it yourself.

How to Decorate Your Own 18th Century Shoes to Match Your Dress

What You’ll Need:

  • A pair of “Georgiana” 18th Century Shoes in Dyeable Sateen
  • One pot of International Fabric Shoe Dye in the color of your choice
  • Fabric Paints
  • Lacing – wide trim for the vamp of the shoe – can be a wide ribbon or trim of any kind, preferably metallic. If you can’t find metal lace or ribbon, use silver spray paint to “fake” it.
  • 3/8″ – 1/2″ wide Petersham Ribbon
  • Fabric Glue
  • Shoe Goo – shoe repair glue
  • 1/2″ wide flat paintbrush for glueing
  • Assortment of small detail paintbrushes for painting the leaf design
  • Clips of any kind (without teeth)
  • Rubber Bands
  • Pencil

Before we start, please know that you can do some of these techniques, all of these techniques, your own techniques, or no techniques at all (just leave them white!).

Dyeing and Painting

I started by dyeing my Georgianas light grey, using International Fabric Shoe Dye in color A29. Once they were dry, I sprayed them with Scotchguard before I started painting the flowers or glueing the trim. For a basic dyeing how-to, check out the slate blue Georgianas in this tutorial.

The inspiration shoes had a red and yellow silk brocaded leaf design, but since I couldn’t embroider through my shoes, I decided to paint the design instead. (Yes, painting on shoes is perfectly period correct – see an example here)

I lightly drew the leaf pattern on the shoes
I filled in with the yellow fabric paint
Then finished the pattern with the red fabric paint.

The painting took the longest and was the most “skilled.” As an alternative to painting, you could applique pieces of brocaded fabric or even lace, similar to the vamp decoration on these Pompadours.


I “laced” the vamp of the shoe using a broad piece of jute trim. Originally this piece of trim was brown (you can see the backside in the photograph below), but I wanted a metallic lace effect similar to the inspiration shoes. The solution? Spray paint!

To apply the lacing, I first separated the sole from the toe of the shoe. I used a heat gun (or hair dryer on hot setting) to soften the glue, then pried the sole away using a short flat-head screwdriver.

Separating the sole from the toe with a flat head screw driver

Next I covered the top of the shoe with fabric glue. Use plenty of glue and spread it all around where the lace will go with the 1/2″ flat paintbrush.

Glue down the vamp – spread this around with the flat paintbrush
Apply the lacing. Hold it in place while the glue begins to set. Rubber bands come in handy for this.

When you get to the toe area, trim the lacing and clip within so you can fold it cleanly around the toe. This can be a little tricky – an openwork ribbon trim or lace will make this easier, but go slowly and make only small clips until you can mold the ribbon around the toe.

Clipping the lacing to fold over the toe. Leave enough length to fully stuff between the sole and upper

 Now with the flat-head screwdriver, work the ends of the lacing between the sole and the upper.

Work the lace between sole and upper

 Using Shoe Goo, a shoe repair adhesive, and the flat-head screwdriver, work the lacing and the Shoe Goo in between the sole and the upper, and press the sole back into place as much as possible. Use the Shoe Goo to fill any gaps between sole and upper.

This is the stuff
Use clips to hold the lacing in place while the glue sets. The top edge of the lace is cut flush with the top of the tongue. You will later cover this with petersham binding.
Use rubber bands to hold the lacing in place along the top of the shoe, while the glue sets.


The last step is to bind the edges of the shoes, using petersham ribbon. You MUST use PETERSHAM ribbon, NOT grosgrain, for this technique. (What’s the difference?)

On original shoes the binding would have been stitched, but for this tutorial I have glued it. Squirt a line of the fabric glue along one side of the petersham, spreading it out thinly with the flat paintbrush. Go in sections about 4 – 6 ” long at a time, starting from the bottom edge of one of the side seams, and work the petersham over the side seam, then folded over the edge of the latchets.

Start at one side seam.

It takes a little patience and a lot of clipping. I like to use pin curl or hair clips, but anything that doesn’t have teeth or won’t leave a mark on the petersham will do just fine.

The trickiest part is working the petersham around the curve of the latchets. Stretch it, squish it, pull it taught – whatever works for you, bend it around the curve as smoothly as you can.

Spread the glue on the inside, fold over the edge of the shoe, and clip. Work the petersham around the curve of the latchet carefully.

Going along this way, you will move completely around the shoe, from one side seam to the other. It takes time, so be patient and diligent. Once you have completed these edges, cover the tongue edge.

Guess what? You’re DONE!  Affix your buckles and you’re ready to wear your completely custom pair of 18th century shoes!

Where to Get Supplies:

  • Dyeable Sateen Shoes, 18th c. Shoe Buckles, and Fabric Dyes –
  • Petersham ribbon – The Sewing Place, JKM Ribbon
  • Fabric Glue, Paintbrushes, Fabric Paints – Michael’s, JoAnn’s craft section, or any craft store
  • Clips, Rubber Bands – Hardware Store or Dollar Store
  • Shoe Goo – Shoe repair shop, hardware store, some shoe store “shoe care” sections, or online
  • Vintage Metallic Lace Ribbon/Trim – Etsy, eBay
  • Inspiration – American Duchess 18th Century Shoe Pinterest Board 


Leave a Reply

Discover more from American Duchess Blog

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading