Mary Jane shoes come with a strap across the instep or ankle. Typically, the shoes have a low heel and round toe. You can make any pair of pumps or even flat sandals into Mary Janes with a little leather — or your material of choice, thread and a button or buckle. The options for customization are endless. Attach your strap with hidden elastic and a decorative button, or use an adjustable leather strap with a buckle like more traditional character shoes. You can also add a third strap to make your Mary Janes into T-strap shoes.

Things You'll Need

Decide how wide you want your strap to be and where on the shoe you prefer it. If you would like it close to your instep, which is lower on the shoe, it will be shorter. If you would like it higher, close to your ankle, the leather strap will need to be longer.

Cut your leather strap according to the style you’d like. If the leather is raw, and you want finished edges, cut it approximately two times the width you’d like. Cut it length-wise based on a rough measurement on the shoe, leaving plenty of extra material for attaching the strap.

Fold each edge on the long side of the leather over, creating a hem, if the leather strap has raw edges. Thread the needle by pushing the end of your thread through the eye of the needle. Sew an even baste stitch, which goes in and out from front to back, across the top and bottom of the strap. Hem and sew down the outside edge of the strap if you’d like that to be hemmed as well. If the strap is thin, it’s customary to cut it off at an angle, leaving the edge raw.

Sew the inside end of the strap to the inside instep of your sew using the same baste stitch. Ensure the angle you sew the strap in will be parallel to the ground and perfectly perpendicular across your foot.

Insert your foot to measure where the strap hits the outside of the shoe on the other side of where the strap is attached. If you’d like a slip-on Mary Jane, cut a small 1- to 2-inch piece of elastic, and sew it in as an attachment point as you did with the other side of the strap. Sew the elastic first to the inside of the shoe, directly across from the attachment point on the other side of the shoe. Then, attaching the same side of the elastic to the strap, lay the strap across the top of the elastic, and sew with your baste stitch. The strap will hang slightly over the edge of the shoe, and the elastic will not be visible.


  • For a buckle attachment, buy a strap with the buckle and holes already made. Sew the buckle part to the outside of the shoe using the small piece of elastic as instructed above.