Sunday 17 January 2010

Too Posh To Mosh

Summer’s here (well, we like to call it summer) and with the festival season upon us, we’ve as much of an excuse to rock out as we have to dress up, as the fashion world heralds, with look after look of “festival chic” dominating the press.  I mean what else would you wear studded and/or psychedelically printed wellington boots to?  That said, while it’s nice to see fashionistas giving it some welly in the pretty-but-practical department, not everything else I’ve seen recommended is quite so appropriate for braving the crowds and the elements.  I’m sure your mum would have plenty to say about trawling through the mud and furious jostling audiences in sequins, heels and colourful floaty dresses, and she’d have a point!  I nonetheless am taken with the black and be-studded “posh punk” look adorning many a style guide and starlet alike this season…

With this in mind, I was moved to find a similarly pretty-but-practical solution, to adapt for the Chic Cheat treatment… and failed miserably, after I fell in love with these tottering ankle boots by Alexander McQueen:

Image: Net-a-Porter

My eyes met them across a busy information super-highway.  There was something in the skyscraper heels, the skull zip detailing and the quirky biker jacket collar detailing that was truly shoe fetish at first sight - their only unattractive feature was the £575 price tag.  A Chic Cheat customising solution was very much in order.  By all means try this at home…

You Will Need

High-heeled ankle boots or lace-up sandals to customise.  I used lace up sandals from Deichmann, £14.99, prod. no:1 1695051 37 69 1, the brand is called Graceland

About 5 square feet of soft black leather. I managed to find a place in Birmingham which sold me a skin for £13, if you can’t find leather locally or cheaply, then fake leather will do.

2 metal zips, about 18cm (7”) long, about £1.50 ea. available at all good haberdashers

Skull-shaped pendant or beads – The Bead Shop in London do small skull-shaped beads at 80p each, product number 81-328-06. 21A Tower St, London, WC2H,    020 7240 0931  (

2 small metal beads and metal wires to connect the skull to the zip, again, The Bead Shop do both with metal beads starting at 15p each.

8 studs about a centimetre in diameter 25p ea. At Kleins

Sewing machine with a leather needle (available at all good haberdashers) and zipper foot.

Black thread

Contact adhesive about £2.50 per tube.

Masking tape

Long-nosed pliers (technical term – I’m not being rude!)

Smallish square of calico (about 2-3 square feet).


Sharp scissors

Ruler (if you have a graded setsquare or pattern master so much the better, but a ruler’s fine)

Pritt Stick or equivalent

Black pen and metallic gel pen

Total Cost

About £37.50 for the shoes, leather, zips studs, beads and contact adhesive.  It may be more if you don’t have some of the other basics and tools on the list lying around.

Save It!

While a bit on the pricey side by Chic Cheat standards, you nonetheless save a maximum of £537.50 with the Chic Cheat solution, making it about a fifteenth of the original price.  I suppose it’d be slightly less of a saving if you had to buy everything on the list from scratch – except for the sewing machine, in which case this exercise may prove something of a false economy!


It took me about 20, so a generous day’s work, each day for a couple of weekends.   It may take longer if you take extra care, and I personally recommend you are careful as the last thing you want to do is hash it for the sake of saving a little time.



I’ll be honest with you, this one’s a toughie, time consuming, very fiddly and requires a lot of skill and close attention to my instructions to be pulled off.  I’d personally, sooner recommend attempting them to someone fairly skilled and experienced, than to a beginner.  They’re not impossible (I should know, I made them!) - and TOTALLY worth the results – but don’t say I didn’t warn you!
So, Then, Here We Go….

If you are using lace up sandals, the first thing you have to do is remove the laces.

Then you need a pattern from which you can cut out your leather, and you need to do this using your calico.  Cut out a roughly rectangular piece that’s slightly longer than the length of the sandal from heel to the open toe.  Draw a straight line with your gel pen down the centre of the top of the shoes and the centre of the back.  Your next job will be to cover the entire area, on top of and between the straps in calico, up to the line on each side.  Fold back any excess fabric at the edge and secure in place with pins.  Careful not to prick yourself!

Make sure your fabric is pulled taut and that the area is covered all the way to the edge.  Take your black pen and draw around the edges. Mark where the bottom of the laces slit is on each side – this is where the bottom of your zip should go.  Repeat this process with the other side and with the heel, which you will probably need to do it in two sections as it is curved.  Your shoe should now be covered in calico with the edges clearly marked in black.

DO NOT remove your calico from the shoes yet as you still need to build an extension onto it for the collar, but for future reference, your pattern pieces should look something like this:

Hint: If you have Photoshop on your computer and a printer, you could try printing this pattern off but you will have to adjust the sizing so that it’s the same length as your shoes (measure the distance on your shoes, from the centre of the back to the toe opening, and match it with the length of the pattern pieces by importing them into Photoshop and adjusting the scale.  Use the rulers at the side of the image to get your measurements accurate).  When you print, move the image to the centre of the page and DO NOT ask it to “scale to fit media” when printing as that will affect the size and therefore accuracy of the pattern.

You then need to start thinking about how you are going to put the “collar” design in.  This is where you need to add on an extension.  You need to add on a triangular piece of calico to both the outside and inside panel, the same size as the ones shown in the diagram below:

Once you have attached the triangle, with the two bottom corners exactly touching the two top corners of the inside and outside shoe pattern you are ready to lay them face-up onto the leather to be cut out.

Fold your leather in half and secure your pattern pieces in place with some thin, small strips of masking tape and draw around the edge with your metallic gel pen.  Then measure a centimetre from the edge all around the pattern piece with your ruler – this will be the seam allowance.  Also don’t forget to mark out the bottom of your zip with a notch.

Do the same with the pattern pieces you made for your heel and for the following:

Cut slits along the seam allowance, which go right up to the edge of the pattern but not beyond, and V-like shapes at the corners (your seam allowance should look like those shown in my diagrams) This is so that they don’t overlap or extend over the edge when you fold the leather back on itself.

After you have cut your pieces out, fold the seam allowance back on itself on the wrong side of the leather and secure it with your glue stick or masking tape.  Do not do this for the heel pieces, except along the bottom after you’ve sewn the two sides together.

You are now ready to sew the zip in.  Secure it with pins to the inside and outside panel for each shoe (zip should be on the wrong side of the fabric.) With the leather needle and zipper foot installed on your machine, sew the zip in.  If it is longer than the side of the pattern piece, simply fold it diagonally back on itself and secure it with masking tape.  DO NOT CUT IT.

Sew together the two sides of the heel.  Notice how, on the McQueen original, there’s a great ridge effect to contrast with the flat “collar” panels.  You can recreate this by cutting about 7 strips, each 20cm long and 1.5 cm wide.  Fold the strips in half, fix them with glue and stick them, row by row, along the heel, starting 1cm from the edge and working your way inwards until the heel is covered in ridges, all except for the seam allowance.

Glue the heels to the shoe, then the sides, making sure all the edges meet in the same place.  Use the glue generously and leave to dry for about ten minutes.

In the mean time, prepare the other triangular facets of the collars.  First of all, having folded the seam allowance back on itself and glued it down (make sure it’s in a straight line and accurate) sew two lines along the edges of the triangles, one 1mm from the edge and one 1cm from the edge.

Place and affix your studs on the outside corners.

Glue your triangular collar pieces down edge-to-edge, making sure you don’t glue too close to the zip.  It won’t fasten properly if glue or fabric get in the way of the teeth.

Finally, the finishing touch is to thread a small length of wire through the top of the zip, then through the skull and the round bead, and secure it by twisting it together and folding it back on itself with the pliers at the bottom of the zip.

Congratulations on having been put through your paces to strut your stuff in your fine new ankle boots, whether in the city, the bar or the whist, tranquil fields, of a sultry summer’s day, among many a daisy chain.  How very now, brown cow!

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