by Allison Crosby-Thompson
(Boston, MA USA)
I'm a self-proclaimed shoe addict, and when it came to wedding shoes, I wanted something that made a statement…a big statement. My problem was that I was attracted to outrageous designer shoes, particularly embellished Louboutins, but simply lacked the budgetary freedom to go all-out and drop upwards of $3,000 on shoes! I resigned myself to wearing a perfectly lovely, though less-unique-than-hoped-for pair of shoes.
I poked around the internet for a nice pair, and one day stumbled upon a shoe forum that took designer shoes and altered them. One page on the forum was dedicated to the “strass” shoe – Louboutins bedazzled with sparkling sparkliness. As I clicked through pages of glittering shoes, I thought “I can totally do this!” – I was diy-ing a ton of other things for the wedding, what was one more project!!!
Before I get into the details of this “how-to” project, I want to warn readers that this isn’t necessarily a huge money-saving project, and might even be the type of project that people roll their eyes to and declare “excessive” or even “dumb.” I am OK with that “Strassing” your own shoes can be pricey, especially if you want to use Swarovski crystals, have big feet (like me), and/or have a lot of shoe to cover, so before you commit to DIY strassing, you’ll want to do your research. I will tell you that this was my favorite project of all DIY projects I tackled for our wedding, and though it was hard work, I loved the sparkly goodness of my shoes. If you have designer shoe taste without the designer shoe budget, you’ll love this project too.
I started with a pair of shoes from Payless. Yup. I paid a total of $15. I figured if I hated the results or messed something up, I may as well mess up on a cheap pair of shoes! I then relied heavily on Google to provide information and resources for undertaking this project. I decided to use hotfix Swarovski crystals – these are rhinestones with a layer of glue already affixed to the back. I purchased a hotfix tool at JoAnn’s Fabrics (with a coupon!) - this tool heats up, picks up each crystal, melts the glue on the back, and then it’s used to affix the crystal to your item. If I ever strass a pair of shoes again, I wouldn’t recommend this method, simply because I don’t think the hotfix glue is the strongest option, and rhinestones flew off my shoes all night long. I’d use E-6000 glue and tweezers to affix regular rhinestones instead – tedious, yes, but definitely more staying power. I purchased the hotfix rhinestones from rhinestoneshop.com. They had coupon codes on Facebook and carried the best selection of anyone I found online. I hear that you can get better prices if you shop around on eBay, or if you chose to use non-Swarovski crystals available at craft stores. I knew ahead of time that this project would cost at least $200-$300.
I chose to use Crystal AB, Crystal Moonlight, Crystal and Silk AB Swarovski crystals, because I wanted to give my shoes some dimension with the different colors. I also liked the rainbow shimmer of AB (Aurora Borealis in Swarovski-speak) crystals. I ordered four sizes, 20ss (largest), 16ss, 10ss, 6ss, and I ordered them in “gross” form – sets of 144 pieces, except for the 20ss, where “gross” equaled 72 pieces. I actually had to order additional crystals to finish my second shoe, and I spent a total of $275 in crystals, but buying everything in shifts made this expenditure a little less painful. The final numbers looked like this:
1 gross 20ss Crystal AB
1 gross 20ss Crystal Moonlight
1 gross 16ss Silk AB
1 gross 16ss Crystal AB
7 gross 10ss Crystal Moonlight
7 gross 10ss Crystal AB
4 gross 10ss Crystal
7 gross 6ss Crystal AB
7 gross 6ss Crystal
For a grand total of 5,040 crystals!
Honestly, finding the right tools and ordering the crystals was the hardest part of this project. Once you have your glue or hotfix tool, shoes, and rhinestones, find some good dvd’s or stream something from Netflix and go to it. I finished half a shoe watching televised coverage of the Boston Marathon. My process for covering each shoe was to place the 20ss rhinestones randomly, then fill around those with 16ss, then with 10ss, and finally, fill in all the blank spaces with 6ss rhinestones. It’s actually quite simple once you get going, and only a little bit mind-numbing! If you find at any point that you lack the inspiration to go on, bring your shoe outside into the sunlight, and stare into the sparkly-sparkleness. I promise it will bring back your motivation.
As cheesy as it may sound, you will feel really special wearing this one-of-a-kind, labor-of-love pair shoes on your wedding day. They might even make you a better dancer.