Tuesday, 18 June 2013

More notes on shoe purchase and maintenance

My clean darlings, inside my shoe cupboard

I just finished cleaning and rearranging my shoe collection and I have some notes that I just need to jot down. These notes apply to myself, so feel free to ignore it. However, if you do find them relatable, I hope they are useful for you. The notes aim to increase my own appreciation towards my shoe collection and hence (hopefully) reducing my need to buy more shoes.

Okay, we both know that there’s no such a thing as too many shoes for women like me (i.e. shoeaholics), but we can still reduce the frequency of buying shoes. And if we eventually do buy that extra pair of shoes, we know that we are investing on a pair of good, beautiful, long-lasting shoes.

Shoe size

First thing first: Get your shoe size correct. What's the point of having a gorgeous pair of shoes if you can't wear them because the size is off? Here I have elaborated how to get the shoe size correct. But I summarise it here again in this post. I am comfortable with shoes with insole length 9.75” (24.5 cm) and width of ball of foot a tad over 3” (8 cm – which means it’s a medium width).

My own shoe size is as follows:

US 8 = EU 39 = UK 6 (sometimes AU 7. But be careful Australian buyers, the shoes sold in Australia might be following US sizing instead of AU sizing) for enclosed shoes and boots. This size includes booties sandals, like these pretty Zita Maria Many Road Booties (sold at Anthropologie a few years back). My Poetic Licence Whiplash and my Many Road Booties are EU 39 (US 8).

US 7.5 or EU 38 for sandals (including high heeled sandals) and peep-toe shoes. I have several pairs of EU 38 wedged sandals, so I stick with EU 38 for sandals. Note that my Poetic Licence Butterfly Love is US 7.5, instead of my usual US 8. I would have purchased US 8, but at that time, it was sold out in Modcloth and I got US 7.5 left. I managed to stretch the electric blue leather wedges with ice method, and I am able to wear them comfortably now. 

Heel height is also important. I know now that I can live with 3.5” heels, as long as they are big, sturdy heels, instead of stilettos. I own one pair of 4” Born wedge, but Born is different because of its comfort factor. I have a pair of 4.5” Seychelles heels, and that’s the first and the last > 4” heels I will ever purchase. For work, I restrict myself to 2.5” heels or below. With these rules, I know that if I see a beautiful pair that actually is okay to wear to work, but it’s higher than 2.5”, I’d skip it. It’s not worth it, for I will never wear it regularly. And to me, shoes that can be worn to work should be worn to work often.

Knowing your shoe width is important because we often didn’t realise that we’re purchasing narrow-width shoes. That actually happened to me twice during on-site purchase (!) instead of online purchase! I bought a pair of lovely red pumps, but they are actually a bit narrow. I was new to shoe buying then, I didn’t realise that the pinching feeling I experienced was because of the narrow width. Sadly, I realised it too late. I never wore the pumps again...

My recovered Luz da Lua sandals
The second narrow-width shoes I have (and I hope the last one!) is a pair of Luz da Lua yellow sandals. Very pretty, was on sale big time, and it was (again) the last pair on the shop. I bought it after coveting about it for two days. Then I regretted it, for I couldn’t walk in it without pain. It was too pretty tho, so I never sold it to eBay. Until yesterday when I started cleaning up my shoe collection and tried the sandals again. Amazingly, it stretched to accommodate my feet! It’s made of patent leather, that’s the only reason it stretched. So now I’m looking forward to wearing it again, thanks to the simple action of rearranging my shoes (and buying leather sandals that stretched over time). Which brings me to the next point...

Maintaining & displaying your shoes

Maintaining your shoes involves cleaning them regularly. Purchase shoe shampoo from your local stores and wipe your darlings with it, using soft cloth, regularly. Afterwards, I apply jasmine aromatherapic oil on the surface of my leather shoes (not the suede ones, tho) to give them more moisture and fragrance.  Your shoes will shine again and you will feel like a millionaire just by looking at them!

Arranging the shoes in a nice order inside a nice shoe cupboard is also worth trying. Wait. “Does it mean that I have to have a shoe cupboard?” I hear you saying. Well, no you don’t have to. But you need to have a storage to store your shoes in such a way that it’s easy for you to see. You can also put the shoes inside your box and attach a photo of each pair on the box to identify each. The point is, you have to arrange it so that it’s easy to access them, and so that you know that you DO have a lot of pretty shoes!

By doing so, not only your life will be a few degrees easier, but you’re also reducing impulse purchase! 

Another tip on display: Whenever you have your visit-the-mall session, wear a pair of nice shoes. Something really nice that wow people. That way, when you enter a shoe shop, you are not tempted to do impulse purchase, because you are already wearing a gorgeous pair of shoes! (okay, if you still want to buy that pair of shoes, wait for 1-2 days before returning. At least you have given it some thoughts)

Real or artificial leather?

I’m ambivalent in writing about this, actually. At first, I am not comfortable purchasing and wearing leather shoes. Images of the poor cows, lambs etc dying for the shoes just made me feel guilty. However, I do own some pairs of well-made leather shoes, and I have to say, they are still very sturdy, even into their third year. Heh, we can still easily find genuine vintage leather shoes in good condition at Etsy.com! That shows how sturdy leather can be.

I also have some pairs of shoes made of artificial leather. I’m sad to report that they are now failing one by one. The artificial leather just doesn’t hold against the weather. It peels off like ugly flakes and I cannot wear them anymore. The same holds for a beautiful pink-brown bag of mine, made of artificial leather. After several years of beautiful use, it was reduced to ugly pinkish flakes...

The point is, we either choose between participating in killing those cows or killing our planet because we ‘have’ to buy another pair of shoes to replace the flaking artificial leather. I don’t want to be a hypocrite here; I still eat fish (despite my vegetarian partner’s objections). 

Hence, wearing leather shoes doesn’t really disturb my conscious, compared to having to buy another pair of shoes to replace the peeled-off artificial leather. If faced with two options of shoes, one made of good leather, the other is made of good artificial leather, I might choose the latter. But if I don’t know how long the artificial leather would last, I’d pick the leather shoes. It’s more sustainable, tho morally can be questionable. 

Case in the point: I had to toss away my favourite red ‘Wonder Woman’ boots (well, it’s not WW really, I just felt like WW when wearing them!) in December 2011 (after two years of use) because the artificial leather cracked into horrible flakes. I also am thinking of tossing away a (used to be) nice black artificial leather boots for the same reason. In fact, my Chelsea Crew, very expensive, booties sandals made of caramel artificial leather starts to flake out! I just found it out today during the cleaning. It really disappointed me, for the sandals are rather cute (it’s EU 38 tho, so it’s very snug. I really just have to stick with EU 39 for booties sandals. Made of real leather, preferably).

These beauties are of no use now, cos the artificial leather is falling apart!

Commentaries on some women shoe brands

Last but not least, I’d like to make some comments on some women shoe brands that I own. Over the years, I have learned NOT to purchase heels from local stores in Indonesia. I love my country, and my country does produce lovely items. But sturdy heels and shoes are not her forte. After a failed attempt at a pair of cute black pumps, I decided that I better source my shoes from online stores such as Anthropologie, Modcloth, Irregular Choice etc. It’s not a matter of being snobbish. It’s a matter of purchasing good quality shoes that last long.
By the way, even if you do buy your shoes from Modcloth, you must be aware of the brands you’re purchasing. Not all shoes are born equal. Now...

Poetic Licence

Poetic Licence produces good quality shoes for business and pleasure. The leather they use is good quality, the stitches are fine, and the designs are very cute. Poetic Licence is a sister product of Irregular Choice, without the irregularity of size that IC has, and without being too baroque for daily wear. Poetic Licence US 8 = EU 39, and they are true to size.

I own two pairs of Poetic Licence shoes: the blue Butterfly Love and the yellow Whiplash (the shorter version of Backlash). I used to own the yellow Backlash as well, until I decided that I cannot wear them for work too often. It’s just too high for work (3.5” or 9 cm) for me. So when Irregular Choice sold the Whiplash online, I bought a pair and sold my Backlash to a happy buyer at eBay.

I cannot comment on the Irregular Choice product line, because I don’t have any. But I am eyeing a pair right now at Modcloth. Very expensive, but if I do get it, I will report back on the size.


Seychelles produce vintage-inspired heels made of good quality leather. I have two pairs of Seychelles I bought from Amazon: Trip the Light Fantastic at 2.5” height and Lauren Peep Toe at 4.5” height. Despite their beautiful design, this brand is not my favourite due to their weird habit of having the heels constructed at a weird angle. My Trip the Light heels were designed at almost 45 deg, which made the shoes wobbly for me. The Lauren 4.5” heels are okay for me, but it’s too high. I only wear them 3-4 times since I bought them in 2010. I have put Lauren on eBay twice, but it hasn’t sold yet.

Miss Albright

Miss Albright is everyone’s favourite at Anthropologie.com. I own two pairs of identical Ylang Ylang sandals, size US 7 and US 8. Both are made of good quality leather and still wearable to date. I originally bought US 7 from eBay because the seller didn’t have size 8. However, just a few weeks after size 7 arrived, the seller put on size 8 online. I was disappointed, particularly because size 7 was a tad too snug for me (despite using the ice technique to stretch it). So anyway, I brought size 8 and kept size 7, just in case size 8 starts to wear out.

Which was a good decision, despite the monetary issues. At the end of last year, I was able to put my feet into size 7 because it already stretched enough. I had to change the zipper of size 8 several times, also asked the cobbler to nail the insoles, but it’s really due to frequent wear. Hence, when size 8 was hospitalised, I wore my size 7 around. Nowadays, I wore size 7 more often because it’s already stretched and the leather hasn’t developed a patina yet, unlike size 8. I still clean size 8 regularly, though. I put a pair of plastic mould inside size 8 yesterday to keep them upright. It’s a good decision; size 8 starts to look fresh again. I think I need to buy more plastic moulds for my other strappy sandals.  

These US 7 Ylang Ylang were very snug, but they now fit my feet like a dream


Born is a good brand with good quality leather, good stitching technique and good padding. It also uses good packaging. The plastic moulds I used for the Ylang Ylang sandals above came from my Rosie Born sandals. I bought the last pair of size US 8 Born Rosie from Zappos.com. Because Zappos doesn’t ship internationally, I had to borrow the address of my US-based friend and ask her to ship the sandals to me in Australia. It was worth the hassle. It is still the prettiest 4” wedge sandals I’ve ever seen. It’s very comfortable too. I missed the chance to buy Born Hydrangea line, and I still regret it till now. I’m glad I have Rosie. 

Chelsea Crew

Not much I can say about Chelsea Crew other than that they had lovely designs (their oxford line is to die for) and good price (half the Poetic Licence price!). However, beware if you’re purchasing a pair of CC shoes made of artificial leather. Mine just unravelled after two years. For that, I don’t think I will purchase another CC, unless it’s made of real leather. Sigh. I guess you got what you paid for, right? Poetic Licence might be expensive, but their leather shoes are well-made and long-lasting. 

Bottom line: if you want to buy more shoes, buy those produced by well-known brands. If you want to buy leather shoes, make sure it’s real, or you will have to spend more $$ in 2-3 years to replace your flaky artificial leather heels.

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