Changing Your Clothes

Shopping, Sewing, Upcycling, Repairing: Make the most of your clothes!

Makeover Monday: Painting on my Dancing Shoes (Extended Version)


As promised, here is the full (if slightly belated) report on my dance shoes’ tripping the light fantastic into the CYC Day Spa! (If you want the seriously truncated version, look here.)

You must be wondering, “Lindy, why would you want to change your dance shoes??” Here’s the reason: I’ve not been active in ballroom dancing for a couple of years, but (fortunately) I’ve held on to my ballroom shoes, all of which are the usual gold-tone satin color. However, I wanted them to look more like fashion shoes, rather than dancing shoes per se. Hence the makeover!

A word (or several) about dancing shoes: First, in ballroom dancing (particularly for competition), women typically wear shoes that are more or less skin-tone, to visually extend the line of the leg. Second, shoes made specifically for ballroom are constructed differently than street shoes (and they’re never worn on the street, only on dance floors). They have suede soles to slide on the dance floor and make smooth pivoting possible. And third, in the case of shoes for the Latin dances ( cha cha cha, rumba, samba, jive, and paso doble), like the ones I’ve used in this project, the soles are extremely flexible, which facilitates toe-pointing.

My Latin dancing shoes before their makeover:

Dance shoes, pre-makeover

Dance shoes, pre-makeover: The classic ballroom gold satin is pretty, but it’s time for a change!

These shoes are still in reasonably good shape, although the satin is a bit worn around the little rhinestone buckles. (I have a theory that adding the fabric paint will actually help the satin last longer, since it is, in effect, like a protective coating.)

After determining that my shoes were indeed worth the makeover effort, the next step was finding my materials. Ideally, I wanted a deep brown/bronze metallic color, more like espresso rather than chocolate brown. Problem: I couldn’t find anything like a dark brown or a bronze metallic fabric paint at 2 different craft stores, so I had to go to Plan B— custom-mixing my color. Here’s what I bought:

Shoe-painting materials

Shoe-painting materials, clockwise from left: black fabric paint, brown fabric paint, fabric-painting brushes, glittery gold fabric paint. (Click the picture to find fabric paints at

Tip: At the stores I went to (JoAnn and Michael’s), there is a bewildering array of fabric paints, most of which are “puffy” paints or “textured” paints (I’m guessing intended for use on T-shirts and their ilk), all of which I avoided. I wanted a smooth look to my shoes, so I bought plain old fabric paint; this seems to be less popular, probably explaining the lack of color availability.

Another materials tip: I didn’t have the option of buying just one fabric-painting brush, so I bought this set, and, it turns out, that was a good thing. I used every one of the 5 in the set for doing color-mixing tests. Have extras on hand!

One last materials tip: I only used a small amount of the paints I purchased. I only did 1 coat (they suggest 1 or 2 coats), and mixed colors together. I’d say I have enough paint left to do another 2 dozen pairs! A little seems to go a very long way.

Since the deep, dark brown color I wanted wasn’t available, I bought the only brown they had, and also black, thinking that mixing some black into that rather dull chocolate brown would give it some richness. I also wanted at least a hint of metallic, but I couldn’t find copper or bronze (both of which I prefer to bright gold metallic), so I added the glittery gold paint.

Once I had my materials, I was ready to start the color mixing, but I also thought I should test the colors first, just not on the makeover-bound shoes. It occurred to me that I still had some very old ballroom shoes, completely worn to a frazzle, but which could possibly contribute to this project before being given a decent burial. Here’s what one of these poor things looked like before my color test:

Worn out dance shoes for color testing

Worn out dance shoe ready to give its all for my color testing: They’re the same color and fabric (polyester satin) so this was a perfect choice!

My color-mixing experiments:

Color-mix testing on old shoe

Color-mix testing on old shoe: you can see the difference that bit of black makes when mixed with the brown.

I decided I liked the third mix the best; with that small amount of gold mixed in, the brown seems a bit warmer, and slightly lighter too. The last sample, which is the same as the one before it but with an extra coat of gold on top, I thought I could use on the heels only; I really didn’t want glittery gold shoes, but a little extra sparkle on the heel never hurt a girl! (Plus it looks fantastic under the subdued lighting that’s typical at social dances.)

Tip: One thing I did not do as part of the testing process (and which I should have) is to let the test colors dry thoroughly before proceeding to paint my shoes. I still love how they turned out, but the color is definitely lighter than I had expected. I can’t definitively say that all colors will dry lighter, but I think that’s a pretty safe bet.

Another testing tip: I assume most of you won’t have beat-up shoes just lying around for this purpose, so what should you use to test your colors? If you’re painting fabric (as opposed to, say, leather), you could find remnants at a fabric store; these are usually marked down by as much as 75%, and come in small quantities. Just make sure that the fiber content is the same as the fabric you want to paint.

My final preparatory step was to unfasten the 2 little buckles on each instep, and to remove the long strap; this strap pulls completely out of the casing at the back of the heel, once the buckle is removed:

Preparing the shoes

Preparing the shoes: I removed the long strap (after taking off the buckle), and unfastened the 2 instep buckles.

Finally—I’m all set to start painting my shoes! Since I’m not enough of a juggler that I can hold the shoe, paint, and take photographs simultaneously, I had to settle for this:

Starting to paint

Starting to paint: I started with the strap, to get a feel for how much paint to load on the brush.

Tip: You can see in this photo that I’m not wearing gloves; in retrospect, it would have been more sensible to do this, but I simply didn’t think at the time about the fact that, because shoes are 3-dimensional, I’d have to be holding the shoe at the same time as painting it, which of course meant that my left hand got a substantial coat too! And it only came off with a combination of soap and scrub brush. If I can find gloves that fit closely, I’ll use them next time. Maybe rubber gloves, dedicated for these kinds of projects.

After painting both shoes completely, I added a top coat of the gold glitter paint to the heels only:

Heel with extra glittery coat

Heel with an extra coat of glittery gold: still subtle (all things considered), but sparkly!

One shoe after painting, before drying:

After painting, but before drying

After painting, but before drying: I really like the way the new color makes the satin fabric more matte; it almost looks like leather now!

The paint instructions say to let dry for 4 hours. Here, you can see the difference that time makes to the final color of my shoes:

Before and after drying

Before and after drying: the brown is noticeably lighter after 4 hours.

And now, my shoes are ready for their Really Big Dramatic Reveal!

The Really Big Dramatic Reveal

The Really Big Dramatic Reveal: My dance shoes go from “meh” to mahvelous, dahling! Notice how much more the rhinestone buckles stand out against this dark color?

Epilogue: After my dancing shoes had a good long post-spa rest, I took them out dancing last night! It was the last night of ValenTango, a huge Argentine Tango festival held here in Portland every year (and which draws dancers from around the world), and it was so much fun— especially with “new” shoes!

Author: Colormusing

I'm a writer, color palette creator, and designer of fashion, lingerie, graphics, knitwear patterns, and yarn.

7 thoughts on “Makeover Monday: Painting on my Dancing Shoes (Extended Version)

  1. You’re brave . . . and they turned out SO pretty! 🙂

  2. The brown gold is a warmer and richer looking color – great results! Bravo!

    • Merci, Kim! I like them so much better now. By the way, I haven’t forgotten your comment about organizing your closet— I’m working on another post about that, and if you’re willing, it would be great to use you as an example. Let me know if you’re interested, and we’ll figure out the details. (I’ve always wanted to see if this could be done via long-distance— I’ve organized closets, but only in person. And I do a lot more than just organize; I’ll come up with a plan for how you can actually use the things in your closet, not just know where they are. I do color palettes too, etc., etc. Heck, I could do an entire blog/book/Movie of the Week just on this topic.)

  3. Wow! The updated shoes look gorgeous! You are so creative! ~Thea

  4. I’m here like a year late, but I’m looking at redoing some shoes for an upcoming show, and I’m wondering if you had any troubles with the paint cracking? I won’t be dancing this number *frequently*, so the shoes won’t get a ton of wear, but enough that I don’t want to waste my time painting them if they’re not going to last.

    • No, I haven’t had any cracking happen, probably because I used fabric paint, and also I painted it on in a thin layer; I think cracking is more likely to happen if you apply too much. If your shoes are a light color, and you’re painting on a much darker color, 2 thin coats will likely give the coverage- and durability- that you want. Let me know how it goes! : )

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