Having shoes that perfectly match the dress was the ultimate touch of luxury for the fashionable Victorian (and Edwardian, and quite a few other eras!), so of course I needed a pair of Emily pink shoes to go with Emily’s pink dress.
This is how you dye fabric shoes.
Start with your plain, undyed dyeable fabric shoes: (yes, they really do need to be undyed, and uncoloured – shoes that are already coloured/dyed have almost certainly been treated with a surface finish which will make it very hard for them to absorb a new dye, plus the colour that they already are will affect the colour you want to achieve.)
I’m using a pair of 90s bridal shoes that I paid a whopping $8 for.
Try to determine if your shoes are silk, or synthetic (or, less likely, cotton or linen). If your shoes are a natural fibre like silk, linen, or cotton, use a natural fibre dye. If your shoes are a synthetic like polyester, you will need a synthetic dye. Remember that satin is a weave, not a fibre, and satin can be either silk or polyester.
My shoes are silk, so I’m using the same iDye silk dye that I used to dye the fabric for my Emily dress, a 3/1 mix of iDye Pink and and iDye Sunny Yellow.
If you are lucky, your shoes will come with trial swatches, for you to try your dye colour on. If they don’t, have a few swatches of similar fabrics for you to try your dye colour on – a selection of fabrics will give you a good idea of how your dye will look on a variety of surfaces (and hopefully your shoes!).
Mix your dye according to the stovetop instructions. I filled my dyepot with water, brought it to a boil, added 3/4 a cup of vinegar, and then added the dye. I stirred and simmered for 10 minutes to ensure that my dye was thoroughly mixed.
DO NOT mix dye in a pot that you will ever cook food in. There are lots of chemicals in dye that you do not want in you! If you don’t have a dyepot, pick up a cheap one at an op shop.
If you want to dye your shoes a very dark colour, only use a small amount of water to the dye powder, to ensure that the colour will be saturated enough.
With the dye ready, try your sample fabrics and check that your colour is right.
As I was dyeing dress fabric at the same time, that got to double as my test.
My first dye mix, pure pink, was too blue pink, so I added a bunch of yellow to achieve a more coral pink.
You may want to blow-dry your fabric sample, or run it through the dryer to see exactly what it will look like, and to speed up the drying process so you can get to your shoe dying quicker.
With the correct colour achieved, I got to start on the fun part: dyeing the shoes!
Now, for fabric, you want to throw your fabric in the pot and stir like mad. This is NOT how you dye shoes.
Nope, you paint the dye on.
Fill your shoes with wadded up white tissue paper. I do not recommend using newspaper or coloured tissue paper as the printing ink & dyes can run and stain your shoes. You don’t have to do this step, but it does help to keep the dye from seeping into the inside of the shoes (I skipped it).
If you want to paint your heels a different colour, mark them off with painters masking tape, slipping the tape as far as you can into the join between the heel and the shoe. You will still need to be very careful as you paint not to get too much dye near the heel.
Using a wide, high quality brush, dip your brush in the dye, and paint your shoes using long smooth strokes.
Paint each shoe with two full coats of dye. Ensure that the dye colour is even across the shoe.
With two coats on each shoe, it’s best to let the shoes dry.
Save your dye – you don’t want to switch colours between coats – unless, of course, you decide the colour isn’t quite right in the first two coats, and need to adjust the tint just a little.
Once your shoes are fully dried, they will probably be just a little paler than you want them to be.
Heat your dye solution up again, and paint another two layers on.
Set your dye solution aside, and let your shoes fully dry a second time.
When your shoes have fully dried from both coats assess them. Are you happy with how deep the colour? Has it fully covered and seeped into the shoes? If so, yay, your shoes are done!
If not, continue to coat and dry until the colour is deep enough to make you happy.
When your shoes are fully dried, you may want to spray them with Scotchgard or a similar product to fix the dye and protect them from spotting.
Update: Thanks to all the people who are finding and using this tutorial! If you have a question, please read all the comments as it has almost certainly been answered there.
Please note that it is very difficult to dye an already coloured and dyed shoe, and that you CANNOT dye a shoe a lighter colour than the one it already is. Nor can you dye a shoe or bag a colour that is across the colour wheel from the one it currently is. A blue shoe cannot be dyed red – it will come out purple. A green shoe cannot be dyed pink, it will come out grey or brown. Do not attempt to bleach your shoes to remove a previous colour. Bleach is a very harsh chemical and will seriously damage the materials of your shoe, significantly shortening their lifespan (if not ruining them immediately).
UPDATE #2: I am no longer able to answer questions on this tutorial, or respond to messages about it. It’s a tutorial: take it, experiment with it, trial a few cheaper pieces, and figure out it what you want is going to work 🙂