How To Own It: Personalized Fancy Keds

Hello beautiful, and welcome to How To Own It, where store-bought fashion meets DIY crafts. Each week I’ll be exploring an aesthetic theme, showing you some of the best ways to wear it and how to make it for yourself.


Hi, you probably don’t know me very well but if you did you would know that shoes are more or less the final frontier of my journey into presenting as a well-dressed adult. By that I mean, if it’s not comfortable I’m not going to wear it, and if it is comfortable I’m going to wear it every day until it has holes and scratches and scuff marks and I’m going to need you to intervene.
All that over-sharing is to say that I’m pretty sure my shoe-fearing days are over: Keds, my little kid self’s go-to, has paired up with designers like Kate Spade, Madewell, and Alice & Olivia to redesign their super comfortable sneakers to make them look like actual, fashionable oxford stye shoes! I don’t know about you but I fucking love oxford shoes. Especially when they come in floral print. Check it out!

DIY Fancy Keds

One of my mottos is “be the designer collaboration you want to see in the world” (as of right now, any way) so as soon as I saw these Keds I was dying to design my own. Do it with me!

You will  need:

Flat, white canvas lace up sneakers with laces removed (mine are actually City Sneaks, $14.99 from Payless)
Acrylic paint
Rub-on transfers (these are like temporary tattoos but for synthetic material, you can buy ’em at the crafts store)
Suede cord
Shoe waterproofing spray


1. Paint the entire exterior of the shoes a solid color. I mixed white, yellow-green and silver to create this misty pale green color. Let it dry completely.
painting sneakers

2. While it’s drying, plan the layout for your pattern. I chose rub-on transfers in an antique purple floral print because it’s all the things I love in life. Once you’ve planned it out and your shoes are definitely one thousand percent completely dry, begin to apply the transfers. You should do this by following the instructions on the packaging, which probably involves rubbing the transfer on the surface with a popsicle stick and then gently peeling it off. If it seems like the transfers are peeling up at the edges, dab some clear nail polish on the part that’s coming up and smooth it back down.

3. Use the suede cord as shoe laces. I picked brown to go with my earthy spring theme. Make sure your shoe laces are the same length.
4. Go outside or into a well-ventalited room and spray the shoes completely and thoroughly with waterproofing spray. You can buy waterproofing spray at most shoe stores. This will not only waterproof them but will help make sure the rub-on transfers aren’t going anywhere. Give it at least an hour to set.

5. Take pictures of them from every angle because you’re so excited about how they came out.

final keds

There are an infinite amount of ways to personalize plain white shoes, and I’m dying to see what you come up with! If you do this project or any other project from How To Own It, send me a picture. I want to see it!

Want to know how to own a look? Email [email protected] or tweet to @Gabrielle_Korn.

Header by Rosa Middleton

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Gabrielle Korn

Gabrielle Korn is a writer living in Los Angeles with her wife and dog.

Gabrielle has written 95 articles for us.


  1. These are adorable!
    I was just complaining about how I have to wear closed-toes shoes all summer at work. Now my plan is to buy a bunch of these shoes and decorate the crap out of them.

  2. I can’t wait until I can put away my boots and break out my completely work inappropriate shoes. My sister gave me a set of Vans with a handpainted horse manes and another set with monsters and aliens and I’ll never give them up.
    If you prefer a slimmer profile, see if you have a martial arts gym that sells kung fu slippers. They’re dirt cheap ($5 for me!) so you won’t swear too much if you fuck up. The only drawback is they have thin soles and no arch support. I actually like being able to feel the pavement when I’m a walking around, but I curse whenever I get to a gravel path.

  3. Does anyone have some suggestions on designing these shoes to be less feminine, but still appropriate for a high school teacher to wear? Design/dressing myself in workplace clothing is not my forte.

    • You could go with a less feminine pattern like stripes! Or just do some color blocking and paint the sections of the shoe different colors, maybe muted colors to make it work-place appropriate.

    • Try the old spatter paint with a toothbrush trick. Pick several colors of acrylic paint, thin them enough that the droplets will fly. Be sure to do it where the mess won’t matter.

  4. Just the other day I was thinking about buying Toms cause of the cute prints, totally doing this instead.
    I’ll send you a pic, along with the floral headband I made this past weekend!

  5. Because I look at craft blogs/Pinterest so much, I very rarely get super excited about most DIYs but holy shit, I just flipped over these! I can’t wait to make these!

  6. Alice & Olivia is awesome! I recommend everyone check out everything Stacey Bendet Eisner touches (She’s the woman behind the line). Their stuff IS VERY VERY pricey at retail, but you can find trickle downs and knock off pretty easily (plus ebay!). She also has a line for payless, and I am loving her involvement with this.

    THIS IS SO RAD! My cousin and I (along with my late grandma) used to decorate shoes with “puff paint,” when I was little. THis gave me major feels of nostalgia. I like that keds and toms (and basic vans) have been keeping their popularity (cause it means they stay affordable and have lots of variety). I am so on this.

  7. I hate cooking, and am not really a crafty kind of person. I’ve mostly come to accept that I’m never going to be a superchef or a craft goddess. But seriously, autostraddle, you’re making me start to doubt those qualities in myself. Especially these shoes, they’re tipping me over the edge! I might actually consider doing this!

  8. are the rub-on transfers specifically for fabrics? or is this the same stuff i use for paper crafts etc?

    gabrielle your shoes are so cute i can’t even.

  9. I am so excited to make a pair, but I should probably wait till summer when I’m not trying to get senior year over with. :( … and the anticipation begins.

  10. Nice idea! Must find rub-on transfers!!!

    I’m thinking of combining them with a dip dye technique on some old converse high tops.

  11. I usually mean to comment but then everyone else has already commented what I was going to say and better. I persevered this time because, even though all the other Hot To Own It’s look amazing, I was amazed at just how brilliant these look. This gives me hope that if I try this they will turn out okay.

  12. omgomgomg these came out so well! I love your design too, so cute, especially with those laces! Must now attempt these for my gf!

  13. Your article has really good reading, thought-provoking information. Especially information about the shoes are helpful.

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