Finished Object: Two-Tone Red 23Skidoos

23Skidoos Tiramisu

At last! At long last, I have my two-tone red 23Skidoo shoes!  I noticed these shoes in an American Duchess teaser way back in January 2012.  Last November, I pre-ordered them with birthday money and was one step closer to the jewel toned oxford t-straps of my dreams.  Nearly a year later they’re finished, I think my 23Skidoo project must be fashion set to “tortoise!”

23Skidoos blank

The shoes arrived, carefully packed and pristine white.  I wore them a few times this way but decided I really wanted deep red/ “light” red coloring.  Blithely, I assumed I could take the shoes to a cobbler and have them dyed.  Not so much, apparently leather dyeing isn’t done in the same way one might have bridesmaids slippers dyed.

23Skidoos in progress1

Instead, I needed to paint the shoes.  I was really unsure about this process so I took my time, roughly six months, getting up the nerve to paint my lovely shoes.  After reading/watching the American Duchess shoe-painting tutorial, I bought two little pots of Angus leather paints- red and black.  I asked Lauren how to best achieve the dark red/”light” red effect and her suggestion was to tint some of the red paint with a few drops of black for the toe and heel caps.

23Skidoos in progress

Stephen and I settled in one evening to paint my shoes.  We’re both handy, painty people so found the work pleasant and different from other projects.  We started out wiping the shoes with Ethyl Acetate to remove any oils or finishing and to allow the paint to stick.

23 Skidoo Shoes in progress

Stephen chose a 1/2″ wide, flat brush with fine bristles.  When I saw how much better it worked than the coarser brush I started with, I switched.

23 Skidoo Paint

The first few layers of paint went on a little unevenly despite the change of brush and I was a little worried!  But after layer 3 or 4, I could see the colors would even out nicely and I relaxed.  Over a few weeks, I left the shoes out where I could see them and occasionally evened out the paint here and there.

23 Skidoo Finished

Then I varnished them with acrylic paint varnish and scotch-guarded for good measure.  I really love the effect of painted leather, I’ve had painted shoes before but didn’t realize it.  It looks like a picked up a tiny scuff!  I can tidy that up, I have my paints to touch it up and then I’ll re-varnish in a more aggressive manner.  I’ll gently roll the upper part of the shoe away from the base so I can paint away those flashes of white, too.  They’re not at all obvious until I wear the shoes…

23 Skidoo from above

I know American Duchess designs her shoes to be comfortable for all-day wear, and I tested it out myself.  I didn’t go to a re-enactment or a dance event (if only!), instead I wore these to work at a show on my feet almost the entire day.  They were great, really supportive and no blisters.  In fact they were great on day 3 after the other shoes I wore ate me up on day 2.  For reference, I have wider-than-average feet and a high arch.  The sides of the shoes are cleverly made so my feet don’t look like they’re overflowing, as can happen with me sometimes.

I’m really happy with the end result, though I do want to touch up a few places and varnish more heavily.  I tend to wear red as a neutral, so red shoes suit my wardrobe.  The two shades still read as a solid shoe while the tonality gives it a little more depth. I don’t think shoe-painting is on my list of “instant gratification” projects, but it is extremely satisfying to know I can paint shoes.  I’m already thinking about the next pair of painted shoes… What about delft-tulip patterned Gibons?  Like the shoes one might find on a delft-blue porcelain figurine.. ?

Here, I’m wearing the 23 Skidoos with my brand new Penelope Tiramisu dress and a Zebra Cuban heel seamed stocking.  Serious stockings, I love them and usually wear fun stockings for work.  The gallery, fabric specs and notes can be found on sewingcake.

I’d like to say many thanks to my local coffee shop Hallowed Grounds for letting us take photos!  Stephen and I had their delicious, refreshing iced cucumber-mint-apple juice that comes served with half a mint bush this time.  It smells so good!

What do you think?  Would you ever paint shoes, or have you?  How *great* is it to finish a UFO?  Who out there wears seamed stockings?

(I know I said before I’d be letting the blog go quieter as I work more on sewingcake, but I had to show you these, I’ve been harping on them for such a long time…!)


  1. Last time I painted a pair of shoes it was to wear on stage. Turquoise and purple to match a costume. I haven’t given it a go since. I have wanted to dye satin shoes before but I’ve never been brave enough!

  2. I never painted shoes, and it’s one of those projects where I’m thinking “Cool, but I don’t have the money for both the material (shoes in this case) and the technique (paint in this case).”
    These are certainly cool – I like how you made them two-tone solid, I think I like this effect much more than the more contrasting styles that are the default.

    • Well, mine were a gift, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to get them… And the paint is pretty cheap, acrylic for leather.. Thanks, Hana! :)

  3. How lovely! I love my 23Skidoos as white shoes, but I figure that whenever they eventually get too scuffed up (which will likely happen one day, as I dance in mine quite a bit) I’ll paint them. I have no idea what I color I’d paint them, though. Likely something in the red or mint green color family. Maybe black + a metallic.

    • Yes, knowing I can paint the shoes really opens up all kinds of ways to potentially prolong the life of the shoes… I like it. Ooooh green! That’d be fun! I also thought of doing something lighter, and as the shoes age getting progressively darker… But I opted for darkish instead… :)

  4. They are awesome! Red is one of my favourite colours and I would love a pair of shoes like that.They look like they have a good heel, not too high. Shoes that fit me are near impossible to find, (wider than average toe, high arch and narrower than average heel = shoe fitting disaster!) so I don’t think I would ever be brave enough to paint any shoes that fitted me incase I ruined them. So glad yours turned out so lovely.

    • The heel is good, not too high, balanced. Your feet and mine sound pretty similar! :) The paint strips away pretty easily, so I figured if i made a big mess I could strip it down and start over…

  5. I have never painted shoes, but yesterday I fixed two pairs of boots with some glue. One of them I was initially planning to strip the fake suede off and cover with fabric but glueing it down was actually a quicker fix. I might still cover them one day though.

    It’s nice to have you back. Any chance you’re going to continue with your Three Graces project? It was so interesting!

    • Oh cool, that sounds interesting… :)

      You’re so lovely… I’m not “back,” I don’t have the hours in the day to blog here the way I used to but I thought maybe an occasional post would be ok? I have yammered on about these shoes quite a lot since I first wanted them… ;) You liked the Graces? I’m so glad. I might get a chance to write about them again, there were more I wanted to do but there’s just never any time… :/

  6. The shoes look fabulous, and so does your Penelope dress! Love the occasional posts! :) Hope you have a great weekend!

  7. I painted some shoes the other day to go with my Hummingbird but I only wore them once and the heel fell off! So new shoes for me – what a blob??

    Red Velvet pattern arrived last week so made a special trip to Albany for fabric on Fri. Looking forward to starting the sew along.

  8. gorgeous, love these in red even more than in white!! i dyed a pair of shoes before, from cream to black…worked well but not this well! also, you can label these for a #RedOctober make :)
    also, i LOVE LOVE LVE your stockings!!!!

  9. Your shoes look amazing. I love the heel, I have three pairs of boots with this heel and can wea them all day every day they are so comfy. Seeing your shoes I would so give shoe painting a go now.

    • Thanks, Sandra! The heel is just right, AD obviously pays attention to detail. :) Shoe painting is fun, it’s definitely not a single-afternoon type project though, so keep that in mind…

  10. I love these. I’m saving up for a pair or two or three, since I have so many ideas for how to paint them. I really want to turn a pair into flapper shoes in black and pewter with “diamonds” glued along the heel, but then I also want a pair for everyday. I was thinking blue. Or red. Or maroon. Or…

    • And they’re comfy… That’s the kicker! They’re wearable! AND cute! AND indie! AND I can paint them any color I want!! :) It’s very exciting to me..

  11. Ooo, thanks for the details! I love the slow fashion here, that you waited so long for the shoes to be made just for you, and then you spent the time painting them exactly how you wanted. Such a novel idea Now A Days, especially since it was how things were done Way Back When. They turned out gorgeous!

    • Yes… Most of the people I consulted about how to get this done thought I was crazy/weird so it’s nice to have them done and pretty and wearable! :) The cobblers I asked (even my steampunk cobbler with the top hat) thought it sounded extremely odd that I’d want to paint/dye my own shes… ;) But if I can buy good quality, solid “blanks” and paint them myself that really opens up all kinds of shoe possibilities… I *like* that… A lot..

    • I generally dont… I have a pair of black stilettos I wear sometimes as a prop but never in any serious kind of way… I stick to 2.5″ or lower, I just can’t/won’t go higher… My legs and toes wouldn’t stand for it… :)

    • I love that I did that! :) Go for it. Now that I’ve done it, I think I could strip away the paint if I was unhappy with it. It’s not like sharpie. :) I got some super duper varnish and I plan to have another go at perfecting these shoes over the weekend…

  12. I love the chevrons on your dress :)

    I’m a big fan of patterned stockings, but haven’t found a pair of seams stockings yet – I’m not looking hard enough!! I want a black pair with the seam down the centre of the back leg, shouldn’t be too hard to find, but its one of those things you forget :)

    Last year, I enquired bout dying my red suede heels, I was quoted approx $70. Pricey, considering I bought the shoes for $100.

    I ended up painting glitter on those heels last year for Halloween costume. Red glitter for “Dorothy” (blogged here:

    I did a really rough job cos I was going to through the shoes out anyway.

    • Thank you! The dress is a remake of a favorite that I couldn’t imagine facing the summer without… :)

      I found my stockings in a high end department store, Myer’s here has a pretty solid stockings section, with what looks like several indie brands and a kiwi designer… Very fun. I don’t often shop for clothing type things, so it’s a bit novel…

      Oooh I just found some red suede kitten heels on a deep sale. I love the way the suede seems to glow! Great idea about the glitter, I’ll have to consider it when the suede ones I bought eventually die…

  13. Steph, ages ago you said to let you know when I had organised a Brisbane Blogger’s Meet up… well finally I have. Open invitation to any Brisbane sewists who want to come. I don’t have a large readership so I hope you don’t mind me free advertising on your blog. It’s not fancy like the southern states one – I just don’t have the time and too close to Christmas.

    Brisbane Blogger’s Meet up
    Saturday 9 November 2013
    Foxy Bean Cafe
    Cnr Potts Street and Stanley Street East
    East Brisbane
    Bring fabric, patterns, notions, tools for a swap!
    RSVP 6 November

  14. These are awesome! I have another question though – did you line your Tira? If not, how did it not stick to your stockings?

    • Thanks! No, I don’t line knit dresses… I don’t find it sticks, either, it’s just not something that comes up… When I wear stockings, I tend to wear the ones that are really slippery, I don’t like “grabby” stockings fabric. (and sometimes, when I’m wearing seamed stockings I’ll lightly mist the back seam with hairspray so it won’t twist..) Hope that helps!

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