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Building a Shoe Wardrobe from Scratch (Almost)

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As part of my Fall capsule wardrobe planning, I realized I needed to sort out my footwear situation. 

I like shoes, but I don't looove shopping for them, so when I find ones that I like, I wear them OUT. I typically like to have just a handful of pairs that get frequent use - maybe 5 daily-use pairs plus one pair of heels for major dress-up.  In winter, some of those 5 are boots, and in summer I trade them out for a couple of pairs of sandals and flip-flops.  Not particularly high-maintenance.

After two pregnancies, my feet grew half a size and are a bit wider, so I'm now either a 7.5C or an 8 regular (B) width, depending on the style. This means I no longer fit in ANY of my pre-pregnancy shoes. I had a few pairs I could make-do with as long as I wore thinner (or no) socks or didn't stay much on my feet, but that's not a good long-term solution.

So I had some shoe shopping to do. With two little kids, it's close to impossible to do leisurely shoe shopping, and I don't blame them. It IS boring to watch someone else try on a million pairs of shoes. So I decided to tackle this task online instead.

I knew roughly what I wanted for Fall/Winter- my "season" is going to be the next 6 months. The ones in italics I have purchased in the last year and actually fit well. 

  • two pairs of tall boots - black and brown
  • casual sneakers in a bright color 
  • black "everyday" shoes (Dansko, etc) 
  • comfy platform or wedge for business-casual 
  • pair of rainboots so I can stomp puddles with my girls (doesn't count for my capsule)
  • nice high heels for fancy occasions

Narrowing it down by type helped my shopping immensely. I tackled each type of shoe in a separate online session, making liberal use of my Amazon Wishlist and my Zappos Favorites  to bookmark the ones I liked.  Reviews have been super-helpful when trying to avoid quality issues.

For the past two weeks we have had a LOT of boxes coming to the house. I've tried them on at home and sent back the ones that didn't fit or had defects. The local UPS store now recognizes us and our piles of return boxes.

The nice thing is that I can relegate the trying-on to when it's convenient for me. With most online shops offering free returns, it's not hard to print out a label and tape up the box to ship it back, and drop it off at UPS on one of our many round-trips to preschool and daycare.

Here are the winners.

My everyday shoe

I was all set to purchase a pair of Dansko, Ariat or Allegria "comfort shoes" which are very popular among my peer group here in Seattle. Definitely not fashion-forward, but ridiculously comfy and the platforms make me feel tall :). However, each pair I tried was just UGLY. Maybe I am re-developing my fashion sense.

So I chose this pair of low motorcycle boots from Too Lips, inspired by this $500 L.A.M.B. pair I swoon over. I love all the buckles and hardware, and the reviews indicate that the Too Lips pair are sturdy and comfortable. I know my preferences will change so I didn't want to spend hundreds of dollars on something so bold-looking.

Fun casual sneaker

I wanted either kelly green or yellow, and knew I had found exactly what I wanted when these yellow and grey Pumas came up on Amazon. They are really nicely made and sturdy, so I think I'll be able to wear them for a long time. I'm still debating between the grey laces, the yellow laces, or buying a pair of fat white laces.

Business casual wedges

I adore sparkle but I also require comfort. So when I saw these cute pewter Cole Haan Nike Air wedges with a million awesome reviews on Amazon, I had to order them. The first pair they sent was unbearably squeaky. The second pair is perfect.

Puddle-stomping rainboots

I've lived in Seattle for 15 years and have never owned a pair of rainboots. It's time for that to change. Rainboots are perfect for wet days at the dog park, or playing outside with my girls in mid-winter. Oddly, these were the hardest to get right.

I ordered a GORGEOUS pair of Kamik tall boots that were so tight I couldn't get them off myself. I returned those for a pair of bright green Jileon "wide calf" boots that were large enough for me AND three of my friends to fit inside each one. Those were exchanged for a pair of lovely metallic silver Tretorns that made my feet look enormous, and if rainboots were going to be that unflattering, I might as well order a cheaper (but well-reviewed and sturdy) pair from Sloggers. Made in the USA, cute polka-dot pattern and shiny. I'm excited to try them out with T in her Hello Kitty boots and M in her froggy boots.

Tall black boots

This one is still in flux. I ordered these gorgeous expensive floral-embossed David Tate leather boots from and they fit beautifully, but had a giant scratch on the buckle and clearly had been worn judging from the scuffs and wear on the soles. Supposedly another identical pair is on their way, so I hope it works out.

I'm sad that I had to buy these at all. My very expensive Sofft boots from 2007 were a size 7, and I just can't make them work, though I still LOVE them. One friend told me her feet got smaller several YEARS after her pregnancy so I'm holding on to them just in case.

The wild card

During my extensive online shoe search, I found these grey boots and fell in love. They're not cheap, so I put them in my Favorites. But I kept coming back to them, daydreaming about them, and wondering if I should buy them. I love grey and it's one of the staple colors in my fall wardrobe. 

I finally decided to order them.  While I was waiting for them to arrive, I discovered I needed to buy new tall black boots as well, and tried to cancel my order. But it was too late. When they arrived, I was just going to return them, but I thought I should at least try them on.

I pulled the boots out of the box, and the first thing 23-month-old BabyM said when she saw them was "pretty boot". Hilarious.

She's right, and I had to keep them.

Here's my Capsule Wardrobe Pinterest board with shoes and clothes for "Fwinter".

I'll probably do another couple of posts about it, because I LOVE this idea of making deliberate choices of what to wear and planning it all so there are outfits instead of disparate pieces bought willy-nilly. 

If you're doing the Capsule Wardrobe thing, as written about by Unfancy (my new favorite blog!), I'd love to hear about it!

See related posts at The Papercraft Lab