Monday, October 1, 2018

The 1887 Lace Up Boot Refashion

I decided to re-fashion a pair of shoes. Boots to be specific. Why not? It sounded like a fun challenge.

I came up with the idea 2 years ago. I wanted a pair of late Victorian button boots. After a bit of thinking I figured I could probably refashion a pair of modern fashion boots into button boots - if I found the right pair of boots to start with. So, for months, I checked the shoe racks at thrift stores until I finally happened upon just the right pair of boots - the right general shape, real leather, no elastic, no zippers, and, most importantly, they fit me perfectly!

I had the boots, I had the plan, what I didn't have was the time. Like I said, these boots came home with me 2 years ago. Since then, they have sat in my sewing room, waiting. In that time, among other things, I have gone on a year long mission trip, and, after the trip, I bought myself a pair of reproduction mid to late Victorian button boots. The first delayed this project by a year, the second made the project feel unnecessary, thus delaying it again. Finally though, I decided I had these boots, and they needed to be refashioned, even if that refashion took a different look than originally planned.  

I have a book, published by Dover, full of of Harper's Bazaar fashion plates and such from 1867-1898. In that book, in the pages from 1887, I found just the shoes my boots were destined to become - a pair of lace up, open fronted, boots which looked ridiculously easy to make.

The front of my inspiration boot was mostly open, so I started by cutting away most of the front of each boot.

I cut out the front of one boot, then used the cut out piece as a template to cut out the front of the second boot. 

Once the front of the boot was removed, I attacked the lining. The boots were lined in a thin foam, bonded to a plaid polyester knit. Not historically accurate at all! Unfortunately, there was no way for me to replace the entire lining, but I could at least replace the most visible portion of it. So I cut off the foam lining right above the top of the heel, and used the leather I'd cut from the front of the boot to make a new lining.

I attached the new leather lining to what I had left of the old foam lining by laying the new lining right sides together with the old lining, pinning, then wrestling the entire boot through the sewing machine. I couldn't find the leather needles I thought I had for my machine, so I just used a size 14 universal needle. That worked fine. The machine sewed through the leather like butter. The only issue was the lack of room under the machine arm for the boot.

After lots of twisting and turning of the boot, I got the seam mostly sewn on the machine and had to do very little hand sewing! (hand sewing the leather was considerably harder than machine sewing it.) Once the leather lining was sewn to the foam lining at the base of the boot, I smoothed the new lining into place, then topstitched it to the pleather facing at the top of the boot. (No, pleather isn't historically accurate either, I just didn't want to attempt to replace the facing.)

With the lining in place, my next order of business was to finish the front cut-a-way edges of the boot. First, I trimmed back the lining so that it sat about 1/2" inside the leather outer of the boot.

Next, I folded the outer leather over the lining and top stitched it in place by machine. This gave me a nicely finished outer edge and left me with two boots looking like this - a good start on my inspiration image.

All I had left to do was set a bunch of grommets and somehow hide the messed up leather on the sides of the boots.

The original boots sported some criss-crossed straps and buckles. You've seen the type. Upon acquiring the boots, I immediately yanked the straps off because I knew I didn't need them. (Yes, this took place before the before photos.) The straps left some messed up leather in their wake. I considered fixing this with some sort of leather stain, but that would require me to some how smooth out the messed up leather first, and I wasn't sure how to do that. So, instead, I just hid the messed up spots by sewing black satin ribbon over them.

I did this by hand, which actually wasn't too hard - though I did bend one hand sewing needle nearly in half in the process!

The end result looks very nice and polished in my opinion!

Once the ribbon was sewn on, all I had left to do, was set all the grommets - 8 up either side of each boot. This took about one evening. 

I threaded black satin ribbon through the grommets, and that was that. My refashioned 1887 boots were done!

Just in time to be my first entry for The Refashioners 2018 - "Inspired By. . .", hosted by Portia Lawrie of Makery. Throughout September, and now October, the challenge this year is to refashion any item, any item at all, to resemble an inspiration image - a designer look, a style you love, a specific garment - whatever inspires you! My boots fit this theme perfectly!

There was a small strap of leather on the back of the boots to hold in place the original buckle strap. This works perfectly to hold in place my ribbon ties and keep them from slipping down my legs!

The boots take a little bit of time to get on and off, but no more than button boots do!

Now, because one sewing challenge just isn't enough, these new historical boots of mine are also my Historical Sew Monthly project for September - Hands and Feet.

What the item is: Lace-up boots
How it fits the challenge: They cover my feet!
Material: A pair of thrifted leather boots
Pattern: none
Year: 1887
Notions: Thread, satin ribbon, and metal grommets
How historically accurate is it? Well, the look is right, and the main material of the boots is real leather. The construction is not at all accurate and the other materials are synthetic. So maybe 30%?
Hours to complete: About 5 or 6
First worn: The initial try on after finishing, 9/29/18
Total cost: about $10

Now I just need to make a set of fancy show clips to really match my inspiration picture, then I can be a stylish 1887 lady!