Painted 1920s Shoes

I can’t believe I never got around to posting about these shoes back when I was making the rest of the outfit! Okay, so these aren’t really 1920s shoes. They’re actually ballroom dance practice shoes– specifically, these:


I’d been looking for a pair of Oxford-style shoes that I could wear with my white 1920s dress to a lawn party, since it appears that the style was popular at the time.


I’d had my eye on some ballroom dance shoes because I liked the shape and the perforated leather and thought they’d look great with my outfit, but I couldn’t justify spending the money to get a new pair. Then, by sheer good fortune I found a used pair at my local Goodwill for $6 (basically a 1/10 of the original price), and they were exactly my size! I knew they’d be perfect, if not for one thing– the color.

I didn’t want black shoes– they wouldn’t go well at all with my summery white dress, and I was looking for something light and sporty. But they were so cheap and comfortable (can’t beat ballroom dance shoes for flexibility) that I decided that I would give paint a shot– after all, the shoes were inexpensive, they were leather (which meant they ought to be paintable), and it would only take an evening to finish the project.

I decided to go with white as my color, which would be a big change from the black, but would give a nice, casual look to my outfit. I had originally intended to use  Jacquard Neopaque paint, since it’s made for textiles and has good coverage over dark colors, but when I got to the art store I realized that they had Angelus Leather Paint for about half the price. I could tell from the bottle that it was thinner and would flow better than the Neopaque, so I got it instead with a bottle of satin finishing medium.

Here’s the tutorial I followed (generally) to paint my shoes.

After removing the laces, I took some rubbing alcohol and gave the surface of the shoes a good wipe to remove any oils or extra finishes on the shoe that would keep the paint from adhering. A little of the black coloring came off too, but that wasn’t a bad thing.

Next, I stuffed the shoe with newspaper so it would keep its shape while painting. Using a soft fan brush I painted a thin coat of paint onto the shoe, brushing from toe to heel.

After it dried completely, I painted another thin coat, brushing from heel to toe, just to even out any brushstrokes from the first coat. (not sure if it made a difference but it was worth a shot) Finally, I did a third coat– necessary to really keep the dark background from showing through unevenly. After that dried I did a final layer of the satin finish to seal the paint in.


I painted the tongue of the shoe as well, but ended up cutting it off entirely because I liked the look better without it. I was originally going to paint the heel, but decided against it in the end.

Finally, I replaced the laces with some white ribbon, just to pretty them up a bit. They weren’t really functional laces anyway, so it didn’t matter what I used.


Overall the paint worked very well– it went on easily, was the perfect consistency for making an even coat of paint, and dried flexible enough to avoid any cracks. I’m a little worried that the “Flat White” color I chose is a bit too glaringly white– I would’ve been happier with a warmer winter white since my dress is a little antiqued, but I suppose it’s better to have the shoes be a bit too white than to have them look dingy.

On the other hand, the white shoes remind me of nothing so much as nurse’s shoes. I think I may end up painting them brown at some point, if I ever wear them again. As it is, they were inexpensive enough that I don’t mind using them as a one-off accessory. Hey, you win some, you lose some!


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