How to make costume pirate boots

Pirate costumes have always been popular, but since Disney released the "Pirates of the Caribbean" films, they've almost become a party necessity.

The hardest part of the costume---unless you want the Johnny Depp hair and braided beard---is always the knee-high boots with the flap folded over at the top. Here is an easy way to make passably authentic pirate boots for your next dress-up occasion.

Start at the thrift store. Whether you are a male or female pirate, you need to find a pair of men's dress shoes that fit you---preferably black and leather. These will provide the sole and the foot covering for your boot. Remember, women need to go down two sizes for men's shoes to fit; for example, a woman's size 9 is comparable to a man's size 7.

Move to the fabric store. You will need to purchase 2 yards of black vinyl or "pleather." Black clothing-weight suede cloth is too light---don't buy it. You want something with the basic look and feel of boot-weight leather. Don't worry if the vinyl is too shiny for your look. You can "rough it up" later (see below).

Take measurements. Put the shoe on and measure from the bottom of the shoe to just below your knee---where the calf muscles stop. This is the "body" measurement of your boot. You will need a piece of your vinyl or pleather that long plus 2 inches and wide enough to loosely fit around your calf. Once you have this general rectangular shape or "shaft" cut out, stitch it up the back, right sides together, and turn inside out.

If you have the right type of needle and a heavy-duty sewing machine, you can then stitch the bottom of the boot shaft to your black shoe. Since vinyl and pleather don't unravel, you don't need to worry about binding the seam. If you don't want to use your machine, you can always hot-glue the boot shaft to your shoe. Or you can add a little shoe cover "hood" cut out of your vinyl or pleather and attach it to your shoe with some black elastic that will fit just in front of the shoe's heel.

Make sure your boot won't fall. You will be stitching two things to the top of your boot shaft---a piece of black elastic so the top of the boot will fit snugly under your knee and the requisite pirate boot "flap." The elastic will keep your boot from falling down around your ankles, and the flap is just for looks. If you can, cut the flap in one solid circle, cutting out a centre circle with the same dimensions as the diameter of the top of your boot shaft.

Make your flap as long and full as you wish. Originally, men's boots during the Golden Age of Piracy went all the way up to the top of the thigh. In time, the part covering the thigh would stretch and sag. Most pirates (and musketeers) probably couldn't afford new boots, so they had to live with the thigh covering flapping or flopping down over the rest of the boot like a giant cuff.

Rough up or "age" the boots if you want. Gently and artistically spray-paint some brown dusty-looking streaks in the creases of your new pirate boots or keep them pristine black. It's up to you. Arrr!

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