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Building a Vintage Wardrobe: Shoes

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Shoes are an important part of a vintage style wardrobe. They really make or break the outfit. When it comes to wearing vintage, the magic is in the details so here are some details that you can be on the lookout for...

Shoes by Era
Studying a fashion by decade is a good way to figure out what style of shoe you're looking for. Here are a few selections of shoes from the 20's-50's
image source 1920's shoes

image source 1934 spring shoes


image source 1940's shoes

image source 1950's shoes
 Buying Vintage Shoes
Buying authentic vintage shoes can be both good and bad. On the good side, you have the real thing and it will complete your genuine vintage look. On the bad side, many vintage shoes are in pretty rough shape. Wearing falling-apart shoes can cause your feet, legs and back to ache. If a strap or heel breaks while you're out walking around, you could fall over and get hurt. A deteriorating shoe really doesn't look pretty either. That's not to say that all vintage shoes are junk. There are plenty pf beautifully preserved, high quality, wearable vintage shoes out there. Here are a few things I've learned about buying vintage shoes

Buying online
* Look at pictures carefully. Check for cracks in leather, lucite or rips in fabric.
* Ask questions. A good seller is more than happy to answer your questions and provide more images.
* Weigh the purchase price. If they're in questionable condition, don't pay more than you should. Your money can go a lot further on a nice pair of shoes.
*Make sure that they will fit. Vintage shoes tend to be small. If you're the daughter of sasquatch, like myself, trace your foot onto a piece of paper, measure the traced image and compare that to the shoe measurements for best fit.
*Etsy and Ebay usually have a good selection of vintage shoes. To find good deals, try shopping off season (winter boots in the summer, sandals in the winter)

Buying in Person
* Try it on. If you can't try before you buy, don't make the purchase. It's best to try a shoe on when you've been walking for a while. Your feet swell a bit when you walk around so this way, you will be sure to get a good fit. Walk around the store in the shoes to see how they really feel.
* Examine them carefully.  Check every inch of the shoe for signs of decay and damage.
* Test them out for durability. Carefully bend the shoe to make sure that it can withstand the natural movement of your foot as you walk, gently pull on straps to make sure that they are sturdy enough to not snap when you wear them. Press carefully on the heel to test for heel strength, check the sole to be sure that it's secured to the rest of the shoe and stick your hand inside the shoe to feel around for inner damage on closed-toe shoes.
* Thrift stores, flea markets, antique shops and vintage clothing stores are all good places to find vintage shoes.

And my most important bit of shoe advice is: Don't buy cruel shoes! A girl never looks fashionable when she's limping on painful shoes. Be kind to your feet.

Buying Reproduction Shoes
There are a few companies that make stunningly beautiful vintage reproduction shoes. Some are too expensive for my budget but if you want to splurge, you really can't go wrong with these beauties.
Rocket Originals- UK
Remix Vintage Shoes-US

They aren't based on original vintage designs but they still invoke that fabulous old fashioned style
Mod Cloth- indie designs, often inspired by authentic designs- check the sales page for bargains!
Anthropologie- If you want to really splurge on some awesome shoes, this is the place to go
Dance Shoes- can't be beat for comfort and quality
Amerimark- Comfy old lady shoes at a bargain price. Be sure to check reviews on some styles
Seychelles-I'm currently drooling over some of their designs- gorgeous!


A Basic Shoe Collection
I could go crazy with shoes but when starting out, I tried to stick to the basics. These shoes could easily mix with different eras.


basic black heels
Mine are a low heel with a t-strap. They go with everything and are comfortable enough to wear every day. I found these from Amerimark, but I bought them in black, not blue. A simple pair of black, low heels with a rounded toe is the perfect first purchase for your vintage wardrobe. I found some at Target for less than $20.



Flats 
 Good for grocery shopping, work (depending on your job) and daily wear. Black and brown are versatile basics that match with almost anything. You can find them for $10 per pair at Walmart. My black flats are thrifted and brown t-strap flats are from Charlotte Russe. I love them because when I'm in a hurry, I can slip them on and I'm out the door.

1943 Wedges and Espadrilles

Wedges and Espadrilles
If you love the 40's, you must have a good wedge or espadrille. If you're wondering what on Earth is an espadrille, read this article. I really love wedges because they give your legs the shapely look of heels but are easier to walk in. Look for cork, rubber, wood or rope wedges. 

image source 1930's Gaytees boots
Winter boots
If you live in a cold climate, a pair of winter boots is a must. Some vintage winter boots are designed as over-shoes so you can wear your favorite pair of pumps and slide the boots on over your pumps when you go out. Some are simply snow boots or fashion boots. Gaytees are a popular choice for an authentic vintage boot. I found my vintage snow boots on ebay for a song. They can be difficult to find in a wearable size so if you have bigger feet, try shopping for your winter boots in the summer season for less competition. If you prefer a modern, vintage inspired boot, check your local departments stores (Macy's, Kohl's, Penny's, Target, etc) for something with a vintage feel. For regular wear in the winter, I like a flat sole or a wide, thick heel for stability on the ice.

Galoshes

If you live in a rainy climate, a pair of galoshes is a good idea. My vintage galoshes are from the 50's by Rain Dears. They slide on over a pair of heels and protect my shoes from the mud and moisture. In my experience, these are fine to wear while walking on concrete but if I wear them into store while wet, they can be slick on the smooth floor. You can find modern galoshes similar to these vintage ones here. A pair of rubber rain boots is a really cute option. They come in many colors and patterns and even though they're rugged rubber, they always look adorable with a girly dress.


1930's Enna Jetticks brand shoes

Booties and Oxfords are great for all year wear but I really love them in the cooler months. Mod Cloth and Anthropologie have some oxford pumps that are to-die-for! These are the Cleary Heels from Anthropologie.
For a more affordable option, check places like Kohl's, Macy's, Payless, etc. You can make them fancy by lacing them up with vintage ribbon.  I found a pair of 1930's Enna Jetticks at a thrift store a few months ago.

Wish List Shoes
Here are some killer shoes from my wish list. I wear a 9-10 so it's hard to find things like this to fit my feet but a girl can dream, right?

Lucite heels- Since I was a little girl, I wanted a pair of glass slippers. When I was a kid, I had those clear, sparkly sandals (Jellies) and now I'm on the hunt for a pair of 50's lucite heels. Some are carved, some bedazzled with rhinestones but all are gorgeous!


Carved Souvenir Wedges-I love these 1940's carved wooden wedges. Many were picked up on vacations or by soldiers stationed on islands. Some have beaded uppers or are hand painted. Aren't they lovely?


1940's Alligator Peep toe Pumps- I once found a pair for less than $40, in my size and in gorgeous colors but the leather was in really bad shape. Pj is a leather worker and he was unsure that they could be repaired. It broke my heart to leave them behind because they were so wonderful but I have a feeling that another pair will cross my path one day.
currently for sale on etsy here

There are many modern companies that make vintage inspired shoes. These posts are very informative and helpful when it comes to finding those modern vintage look-a-like brands!
Sew weekly's New Vintage Shoes
Glamour Daze 1940s Shoe Shopping Guide

Happy shoe shopping, girls!

21 Responses to “Building a Vintage Wardrobe: Shoes”

  1. What a great collection of pictures and thoughts. Thanks for sharing! I love how the yellow 40s wedges look so modern. I´m sure I´ve seen shoes like that everywhere this summer. If I had known they were 40s appropriate I might have bought a pair... But I treated myself with a lovely pair of heeled brogues in chocolate brown for the colder season as they go with nearly everything.

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  2. I am such a fan of the 1940's shoe. Comfortable, versatile and reasonably priced. I never heard of amerimark until this post, so I looked it up and you are right,great prices and a range of styles.

    http://60yearslate.blogspot.com/

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  3. I live in the country where they make those souvenir shoes! I have ones with crocheted straps as well as heavily beaded ones. They are cheap (about 6USD), lovely and super sturdy as well!

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  4. The 20's shoes are my favorite :) I love the ones with the little bow on the ankle!

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  5. oh, I've also always wanted a pair of souvenir carved wedges! I tend to prefer the modern takes on classic shoes (like mina parika) b/c quite frankly, a lot of the 1940s and 50s shoes that are not heels can be... well, a little orthopedic looking.

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  6. Ohh! what a nice post, I love the 40's shoes you show in the picture here (3rd picture)!
    I would like to have at least some vintage inspired like those they sell in MOdcloth.

    I notice those shoes from the 30's looks like mmmm I donno the word in english, but they look kind of uncorfortable, like the "arch" very up, also I have seen this in some 40's films, the women look like they are walking on toes.

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  7. Hunting for vintage shoes is fun, I love this overview too! Really helpful for matching decades! One shoe company i bought from recently that do a lot of neat vintage style shoes was Chelsea Crew, i got these from them and I love em! http://pupe.ameba.jp/item/VY9CKNGUlkuH/KAUcUdawflS1/

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  8. I have several pairs of Rocket orginal shoes and Iris Allen dance shoes and always get comments.
    Both makes are great value and wear really well.

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  9. Oh, thanks for the link, Viv! Those are amazing!!!

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  10. I want a pair of lucite shoes too!

    I was lucky enough to find a pair of reproductions of rainboots from 1939.

    http://www.brandos.se/viking/grace-lo-1-274-2-black/a3645

    Very useful when you live in Sweden :)

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  11. I'll take 2 of everything!I'm nuts about vintage shoes.

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  12. I want most of those shoes now! lol! I adore those souvenir shoes and that 40s ad makes me want to say, "one of each please!" Most of my shoes are repro or vintage-inspired. I have two pairs of vintage shoes; one is a pair of black patent kitten heels from the late 50s and the other is pair of 50s deadstock black and white saddles. I see so many pretty vintage 40s platforms on Etsy here and there but wow, are the good condition pairs expensive! For now, I will stick to Remix Vintage shoes, Aris Allen, and Betsey Johnson (only on sale!) Also, Bass still makes a peachykeen penny loafer and Madden Girl shoes often have vintage-looking styles.

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  13. Lovely post! Remember to keep an eye on what is in fashion, often retro-style shoes will pop up in major stores due to the way trends are swinging. That's how I got most of my oxfords and brogues - they are all the rage right now, apparently!

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  14. My 6 year old and I would both love cinderella glass slippers please - probably easier to find in her size! Lyra - will you grab a hep of those souvenir wedges and sell them - I am a 9!

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  15. SHOES.... one of my bigger problem... I bought several shoes from Ebay but they never fit perfectly!!! 7.5M US size is not easy to find!!! I own Remix and Rockets repro but it's always summer shoes...
    About all my vintage winter shoes are made of suede so I quite never wear them when snow and rain are here!!!

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  16. I LOVE SHOES!!!! I LOVE THIS POST!!! I LOVE YOU -oops getting carried away.....
    1940's shoes my fave!! I am printing this post and doing some SHOPPING (when I have money!)

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  17. Very informative, a great post! I tend to buy up vintage look-alikes when I find them ... had to resist insta-buying a pair of white "nurse" heels with a 30s feel to them, from Modcloth, tonight. I get myself into trouble, lol. I do have a pair of brown faux alligator slingback peep toes that I found at Payless years ago. Glad I didn't pass those up, even if they're just crappy Payless, lol :-)

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  18. LOVE the lucite heels! So glammy and rare! This is a great guide!!! Thanks for sharing. I've found a lot of shoes by combing Remix Vintage Shoes and even mainstream stores like Urban Outfitters!

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  19. How funny, I'm preparing a "building a vintage wardrobe" series of my own and I was just thinking today I should do one for shoes - you may have saved me a job! :)

    xx Charlotte
    Tuppence Ha'penny Vintage

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  20. Hi! Me too! I wear a 9-10 medium width. I can't wear the dreamy high heels any more - more's the pity there! I found some round toe pump black shoes on eBay with a semi block 2 inch heel. I think the seller is still selling them from overseas. I still can't quite walk in them however as in person the heel is a little thinner than I can use due to my left ankle problems. If the heel were just a tad wider at the bottom they would be perfect. Sigh. Hope you find many good shoes! Kathy

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  21. Don't know how I found your site, but it is Awsome

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