Vernet Project: Silly Shoes

One of the five pieces of my Vernet Project was creating the silly up-turned-toe elf shoes in the fashion plate. Clearly, these are not shoes that could be purchased, as they are so specific in style, so I set out to make my own!

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In the beginning, I was thankful to have another Vernet project maker’s experience making her boots before mine to work from. Jenni posted a two part tutorial showing how she made her boots as well as sharing information behind-the-scenes with project participants earlier in the process (Part 1 and Part 2). She closely referenced Every Lady Her Own Shoemaker, published in 1855 (a little late relative to the date of the project, but still useful for construction advice), for construction methods and carefully documented her process. In fact, she did a much better job at documenting the actual sewing than I did… I also read Anna’s information about making mid-19th century shoes multiple times to help get my mind acquainted with the project (again, a little later than the period of the project, but still helpful). She also has lots of great construction pictures.

I started by creating a pattern for my shoe using patterns in Every Lady Her Own Shoemaker. Given that my shoe has the unusual turned-up-toe, I necessarily needed to make adjustments to the general slipper pattern. Here is my shoe at the mockup stage. The upper pieces fit pretty well! I adjusted the width of the sole as well as the shape of the turned-up section before moving on to cut out the final pieces.

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Here are all of the final pieces cut out and ready to assemble. The soles have three layers: heavier tan leather for the outer sole, cardboard for the inner sole structure, and white linen to cover the cardboard insole. The uppers have two layers: lightweight raspberry leather for the exterior and white linen for the interior. Later in the process I also added a faux fur cuff.

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To help the shoes keep their turned-up-toe shape I soaked the leather soles in water, taped them to a lysol wipe container, and let them dry. You can see the results below. Not perfectly curved up, but still helpful. I also tried boiling leather soles to thicken them before shaping, but found that the leather shrank unevenly which created soles that wouldn’t work for this project. I did save them, though, and hopefully will get to use them for a future shoe making endeavor. I repeated the soaking and shaping for the cardboard insoles before gluing the linen to them. There’s a picture of the insoles at this stage in this past post.

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After shaping the soles it was time to construct the uppers. I did the interior and exterior separately, then basted them together around the top opening and around the bottoms. Then I sewed the bottom edges of the uppers to the soles, using the slanting stitch through the side of the sole that Jenni shows in Part 2 of her tutorial. She used all sorts of nifty leather tools as well as a wooden last during construction. I purchased the nifty leather tools but found that they didn’t work for me and a simple non-leather needle worked just fine. (I think my leather was too thin and soft for these to be needed). As for the last, I looked online for a wooden one, never found one in my size foot, and eventually decided to give it a go without one, especially since I had to do the turned-up toe. In the end, I don’t think it was a problem not to have a last.

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Once the soles were attached, I bound the front slit with matching silk ribbon. Then I cut a piece of faux fur for each shoe that went around just the top of the foot opening and could double over on itself. There are non-functional silk ribbon loops that are sewn to the front of the fur that encases the top edge of the shoe. The shoes actually close with a twill tape threaded through hand sewn eyelets on each side of the opening.

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They’re actually quite comfortable for walking around in. I have very flat feet, so don’t really need arch support to be comfortable. The only thing is that my feet did get cold during our photoshoot due to the freezing ground only separated from my feet by a few thin layers of fabric. So, for the second wearing, while caroling at Christmastime, I added a faux fur insole. Problem solved! They were toasty and even more comfortable!

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Interestingly, witzchouras are mentioned as being popular in Paris during the year 1827 by La Belle Assembleé, after a mention of other popular pelisses and mantles (well worth checking out!), and are are described as being worn with boots laced in front and with fur around the leg.

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Doesn’t that description sound oddly familiar? It reminds me so very much of the Vernet fashion plate and my silly shoes!

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HSF #5: Versailles Shoes

I realized after I’d posted about finishing the trimming of my Kensingtons that they qualify for May’s Historical Sew Fortnightly challenge: Holes. The description of the challenge is:

Sometimes the spaces between stuff are what makes a garment special.  Make a garment that is about holes, whether it is lace, slashing, eyelets, etc.

And boy, are my shoes about the lace (which has holes!). The lace makes the shoes complete and finished looking. (Also, the buckles required holes being made to fit the buckles, so that’s a roundabout way of including the shoes, too.)

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Just the facts:

Fabric: (well, materials) One pair of American Duchess Kensington shoes and American Duchess “Fluer” buckles.

Pattern: None–inspired by extant shoes.

Year: 2nd half of the 18th century.

Notions: Just under 3 yards of 1/4″ metallic lace; other supplies included angelus leather preparer and deglazer, angelus leather paint, angelus matte acrylic finisher, masking tape, paint brushes, and hot glue.

How historically accurate is it?: 85%. Reasonable color and trim on well researched historical shoes, but of course the whole thing is actually modern.

Hours to complete: 8 maybe? I took a long time painting lots of layers until I got a color I was happy with and then adding the lace took another hour or two.

First worn: Will be worn at the end of May!

Total cost: $102 for imperfect Kensingtons and the buckles a few years ago, $15 for the lace, $15 for the paint, and the rest was from the stash, so about $137 total.

I’ve been making lots of things this spring, but they haven’t lined up with the HSF since January. Yay! I’m pleased these fit the HSF challenge.

Product links in this post contain an affiliate code, which provides a small benefit to my shoe fund. This does not affect my impressions and reviews of this product.

Project Journal: Versailles Sacque: Chameleon Shoe Progress

This month has been super crazy busy for me and progress on my Versailles Project has therefore been quite slow. Aside from thinking about my hair the only other real progress I have made is on my shoes, which have been painted with about 10 coats of paint as I’ve tried to make up my mind about what color I want them to be.

The process began after my materials were ordered and assembled: unpainted ivory Kensingtons from American Duchess, 3 colors of Angelus leather paint, and scraps of my changeable silk fabric. The plan was to go for dark turquoise/teal. (I did tape off the heel cap and the inside part of the latchets closest to the vamp with masking tape to keep things tidy. Then I got bored and stopped taping.)

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I’ve referenced two American Duchess resources during the process so far, which included prepping my shoes as suggested and mixing water into my paint for more even layers of color. (Well, I forgot to add water to the first coat, as you’ll see, but I remembered after that!) This blog post and this information page are the two resources I just mentioned.

Here was the first batch of paint. Lots of dark green with a small bit of turquoise and gift box blue.

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I was doing quite well taking pictures of my paint mixing as a record as I started, but then as I kept doing more and more layers and getting frustrated I slacked on the picture taking. I did make a sample card with little swatches of all my paint colors as I went along, though I didn’t take notes on how I achieved each color, so I’m not sure it will be very useful in the future.

Here are the results of the first two coats of paint. The shoe on the right was the first layer, for which I was so excited I forgot to add some water… oops! The color was more green than I wanted, so for the second coat I added more turquoise paint to the mix. The result is on the left.

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I stopped with the two coats of paint, but wasn’t sold on the color–too bright. Fast forward a week and I tried again, painting the shoes in multiple layers between paying attention to other house tasks, like cooking and baking.

First is the shoes after two coats, then after I tried a darker blue, then after I decided they didn’t match and tried a lighter blue, then after I decided they didn’t look like a plausible 18th century color and needed to be a bit more grey…

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(Oh yes, on the second day of painting I also used some white and black and dark grey paint to mix in as well). Unfortunately, after all that I still wasn’t happy!

I did one final coat you’ll have to wait to see and then put the shoes away to consider if they grew on me over time or not. That was about two weeks ago. I haven’t had time to work on them in that time, but I think I’m mostly happy with the color and frankly I’m running out of time, so the color they ended up with will likely be the color they stay. When I have time I will be applying a matte finisher as suggested in the American Duchess links and then figuring out attaching the buckles.

Product links in this post contain an affiliate code, which provides a small benefit to my shoe fund. This does not affect my impressions and reviews of this product.

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