Closet 101 Style

What I’d Tell Myself: Shoe Edition

In my interviews, one of my favorite questions to ask those I’m featuring is “what they’d go back and tell themselves when they were building a wardrobe and buying this..or that….a decade ago.” I always learn so much from these answers and thought that I might start sharing some of my learnings, too. I tried to put them all down in one post, but…well I must have made a lot of mistakes and learnings over the years, because it soon grew too long.

Thus today I would like to introduce – what I’d tell myself when building my wardrobe..if I could go back in time. Shoe edition! The rest will be yet to come.


Some of my most practical shoes…

...and not so practical ones.

…and not so practical ones.

1. If the shoe doesn’t fit, you must…not get. OK, Johnny Cochran catchy rhyme creator I am not, but I think the message is clear. If there’s even the tiniest smidgen of discomfort when you wear the shoe around in the store, put it down. A little bit of pinching in the first few minutes of wear, for me at least, usually translates into excruciating agony just hours later. I learned this the hard way with some Manolo slingbacks that I was never able to wear. I finally gave up the ghost years later and gave them away to a friend.

2. Very high heels = dangerous conditions. I really am starting to believe that all shoe sections should start putting miniature staircase structures in so you can see what 5+ inch heels will actually feel like, as your descending down a flight of stairs. There’s been quite a few times when I’ve been very enamored with a pair of heels, and felt very secure in the store, walking around on the beautiful flat floors. But walking down a flight of stairs? I can’t think of many more dangerous situations I put myself in. I no longer buy heels that approach 5 inches…even if they have a platform. The total height is just too much for clumsy ol’ me.

3. If in doubt (at all!) put it back. Unlike with bags, clothes, and jewelry, for some reason I’ve never regretted not buying a pair of shoes. I think there are just so many great new pairs that come out each season…that it doesn’t matter if you miss one. Plus I’ve found the price hikes on shoes over the years to be much less than those of say, certain designer fine jewelry or handbags.

And finally…

4. Know your shape.  Yes, your whole body shape. I learned a long time ago that no matter how alluring basically all Alaia shoes are, they are simply not meant for those of my “shape,” which is commonly referred to as “the stump”. The high ankle straps and lace up details usually cut me off at the worst (thickest) part of my calves, rendering me even shorter looking. So as much as I love those types of shoes, I now stay away…and veer towards the classic pump and slingback shapes. If I could go back in time, I’d tell myself to put down almost all of the high ankle strap shoes that I ended up acquiring.

Anything that you’d tell yourself if you could go back in time..about what shoes to pick up, and which to put down?

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  • Jane @
    July 7, 2014 at 8:42 am

    So true about #1 and 3. I don’t know how many times I’ve told myself that the shoe will eventually stretch out because I was so enamored with the shoe and because it was also on sale.

    The other one that I’d tell myself is “don’t get it just because it’s on sale”. That really applies to everything from purses to clothes and shoes. I tend to get all caught up in the sales every season, but I am doing much better now after years of lessons learned 🙂

  • Natalie Gonzalez
    July 7, 2014 at 10:48 am

    What are the black pumps in the first (practical) shot? I am jonesing for some classic, comfy black pumps for work, and they seem to be elusive.

    • Anna
      July 8, 2014 at 9:53 am

      They’re the Louboutin simple pumps. Katherine did a post on the a long while ago, if I recall.

  • Ella
    July 7, 2014 at 11:49 am

    Great post. Here’s another shoe rule: Find a brand/designer that works for you – that is comfortable, flatters your foot, and fits your life – and stick with it. Even more than dress designs, shoe lasts seem to be very consistent. Also, and more importantly: don’t destroy your feet by wearing overly high heels throughout your 20s. Fortunately I learned this one soon enough to avoid permanent damage, but several of my friends were not so lucky, and now as 40 approaches they have major issues.

    • Sarah
      July 7, 2014 at 2:55 pm

      Sadly too many of us make that mistake. I pretty much only buy clarks shoes which are an absolute delight to wear. My mother & my aunt though, wore pointy shoes all their life ( not overtly high even, but pointy) and now they have back problems, knee problems and my aunt needs toe surgery as well. Tragic!

    • Oonagh
      July 7, 2014 at 6:56 pm

      I totally agree with this. Different designers use different lasts, so some designers’ shoes will not be comfortable for you, irrespective of the style, because the shape of your foot doesn’t work for their last.

  • Annessa @ Seeking Sunshine
    July 7, 2014 at 3:18 pm

    This is such a great post. I think many of us are guilty of buying shoes that don’t work with ourselves. I’ve recently purchased nude shoes that were way too light for my skin tone, and heels that are way to high for my clumsy self. Luckily I returned them before I had a chance to wear them! I don’t need anymore shelf ornaments than I already have.

  • Tabitha
    July 7, 2014 at 3:58 pm

    Totally agree with all the tips Katherine, the number of times I’ve bought a pair of shoes that were uncomfortable is crazy. I was wondering if you could do a comparison of the birkin 30 and kelly 28/32 what fits inside with the flaps opened and closed etc.

  • Cassie
    July 7, 2014 at 7:26 pm

    High heels do not make good office shoes. I know those 2-3″ heels make your legs stumpier than the 4″ heels, but buy them!

  • philip
    July 8, 2014 at 12:23 am

    Loving the Nicholas Kirkwood, Kath 🙂 Please make more of these! I love seeing your personal collection of shoes, bags, and jewelry. Of all the bloggers I know, I find you un-pretentious. You’re my favourite!

    • Katherine
      July 9, 2014 at 7:30 am

      Thanks so much, you are too kind Philip 🙂

  • Glenda
    July 8, 2014 at 7:59 am

    I was one of the last to buy into the 4+inch heels craze, and it lasted one spring-summer-fall, so I was one of the first ones out of it. I actually did have one pair of 4″ heels that I could walk around in easily 90% of the time, but I let them go when I purged my closet of all the rest. What do I have in my closet now? Classic ballet-flats I’ve had forever, and all the kitten-heel and 3″ heels I’ve had forever, all of which fit extremely well, and my feet feel as good when I get home at night as they did when I got out of bed in the morning: sanity once again reigns…

  • Iris
    July 8, 2014 at 4:44 pm

    Great article! Love to learn more from you!

  • Tracy
    July 11, 2014 at 9:26 am

    I like all my shoes but those high heels like 5 inches I barely wear them… I normally bought high heels during sale seasons because it was such good bargain. However, my advice is think twice before any purchase!

  • Tabitha
    July 19, 2014 at 9:49 am

    I’m getting rid of all my high high heels, I cannot walk in them, and we rarely go out to dinner – they have just been gathering dust.

  • What I’d Tell Myself: Clothes Edition » Feather Factor
    August 25, 2014 at 7:57 am

    […] share everything I learned about building a wardrobe over the years. My first post in the series was on shoes – today, I’ll be covering the biggest area of my closet: […]