Skip menu to read main page content

Rehousing Shoes

By: Emily Bach

Depending on the style, shape, and condition of a shoe, the method of rehousing this accessory varies. This past week we dealt with two different styles of shoes, high-heels and flat slippers, and each style required its own variation of storing and preservation.

Regardless of style, the first step for both types of shoes is to carve archival ethafoam into a shape that resembles the shoe’s construction. Two pieces will result from this carving: one piece for the toe of the shoe and the other piece for heel and shank support.

Ethafoam Carvings Ethafoam Carvings

After carving these pieces, we cover the ethafoam blocks with stocking-net to prevent any damage resulting from the foam’s rough texture. The stocking-net also enables us to pad the carvings with polyfil stuffing. This stuffing molds to the shape of the foot and, therefore, offers natural support where needed. I avoid creating any bulk or unseemly bunching of the stocking-net when covering the ethafoam by sewing a clean seam on one end with a back stitch and turning the cover inside out. As seen in the photographs, this creates a smooth fit and prevents any warping of the shoe.

Once the shoes are properly fitted with customized ethafoam and polyfil supports, the style of the shoe determines what type of happy home we will create. High-heels require the construction of a box fitted perfectly to the shoe’s measurements. After recording the shoes’ height, length, and approximate width when both shoes are standing next to one another, we create a blueprint. From this blueprint, we cut the box from archival board.

The box itself is not enough to store high heels, however. Because high heels lack balance and will fall over in the box, we construct heel mounts to provide the shoes with even more support. Using ethafoam and hot glue, we create supports that will fit underneath the shoe next to its heel to ensure the shoe remains stationary. 

After we poke holes into the opening flap for the cotton twill tape ties and the glue dries, we finally place the shoes in the box.

Finished Shoe Box

Compared to the process of rehousing high heels, creating a safe storage system for slippers is relatively quick and easy. Because slippers are flat, they will move restlessly in a box, so we place this style of shoe in pre-made archival trays. We are able to semi-customize by adding or removing sections of the wall dividers to accommodate for shoe sizes and shapes. Once a tray is full, we are able to save space by stacking trays on top of one another.