web analytics

Posts tagged ‘Shopping’

Don’t Eschew The Vintage Shoe: What To Look For When Buying Vintage Shoes

By , 13 November, 2008, 11 Comments

While you can find unworn vintage shoes (typically sold as “New Old Stock” or NOS, as opposed to “New With Tags” or NWT for clothing), most often you’ll find vintage shoes that have been previously worn. But, like most vintage fashions, “worn” doesn’t mean “worn out”. And even vintage shoes which have never been warn should be checked for problems with the aging rubber, glue & leather. Here’s a guide what to look for when shopping for vintage shoes.

(If you need help with shoe terminology, here are some charts on shoe anatomy.)

As a general rule, the following are signs of quality shoes and are to be looked for:

Shoes made of (marked as) genuine patent leather, full-grain leather, genuine alligator, reptile or other exotic leathers.

Heels made of real wood, leather stacked heels (not plastic moulded to look stacked); cork & thick plastic are also good bets.

Shoes with extensive sizing information indicate custom and/or expensively made shoes.

Shoes made in Italy or Spain.

Shoes with a maker stamped in one insole and the shop that carried the shoe in the other insole indicates exclusivity & therefore quality.

How To Evaluate The Quality Of Vintage Shoes:


Perfect Black Patent Shoes Made By Miss Wonderful, 1960s

Perfect Black Patent Shoes Made By Miss Wonderful, 1960s

Vinyl and patent leather are always repaired with less certainty; so, a few scuffs aside, if it’s not perfect I leave my wallet shut.

Fabric shoes generally are at risk for more wear — and the older the shoe, the more likely there are to either be damages or fragile fabric ready to split & tear. Inspect both shoes carefully; I use my fingers as well as my eyes so that I can feel any weaknesses. Bending the shoe may also expose stress points on the vamp. Often there is fraying along the bottom edge of the upper on vintage fabric shoes. This can be halted with Fray-Check, but as this can also discolor vintage fabrics test it first. And you’ll need to be more gentle with these shoes; they are not for everyday & lots of outside wear.

Vintage shoes, like any cloth shoes today, can be dyed. Prices for dying starts at around $50 for vintage shoes, but is certainly worth it if a new coat of color hides spots and stains and makes the vintage shoes wearable once again.

Leather shoes with scratches or stains can also be fixed; before doing this as you would your modern leather shoes, test on a small inconspicuous area first. Leather can also be dyed, starting at $30.

As leather, suede and exotics like alligator snake skin age, they become dry & brittle — and more likely to tear. To test for this, gently but firmly bend the upper and listen for cracking — and look for the visual signs of cracks too. Bend the upper in several places to be sure it is supple. Leather can be revived with a Lanolin dip, but I’ve never taken that risk; if the leather seems too weak, I pass.

Be wary of suede which ‘dusts’. This is called crocking suede and generally indicates poor quality — although any suede shoes made prior to the late 40’s or early 50’s crocked due to the sueding process. If you love them, can live with the crocking, and accept that these shoes must be pampered during what remains of their shorter lifespan, then go for it.

Closely inspect the seams on the shoes. Fabric and leather shoes with fraying or tears at or along the seam can often be repaired (starting at around $25), but a tear off the seam is more problematic. In leathers, it may be a sign of brittle &/or weak leather. (Some say they’ve had patches performed, but again, I’ve just walked away from shoes which are that much work.)

Embellished Faux Buckle On The Vamp Of A Mod Pair of Herbert Levine Shoes

Embellished Faux Buckle On The Vamp Of A Mod Pair of Herbert Levine Shoes

Buckles, eyelets, beading and other embellishments on vintage shoes can usually be repaired — but they often mean repairing both shoes to have them match and I’ve never accepted that fiscal responsibility.

Shoe laces & buttons, however, are worth the time & the dime to replace.

Leather boots can have the zipper replaced; fees starting at around $36. And boots which are too-tight on the calves can have elastic gussets, stretch fabric or matching leather insets inserted to literally give you a little more leg room.

Shoes with uppers which feel sticky or tacky are bad news. The finish is ruined which means you’ll need to cover them up with new fabric. If you’re creative and skilled, fine; if not, don’t bother.


Many vintage shoes have heels that are covered in the same material as the upper, and it’s important to inspect to see that this material is intact and not fraying. If there are problems at the bottom of the heel (where it meets the heel tap) or at seams, these things can be repaired; but if it’s a problem with the general heel area, then it may be a darn shame, but you may have to walk away without them.

Heel Taps On Vintage Lucite Heels With Roses

Heel Taps On Vintage Lucite Heels With Roses

Missing or damaged heel taps are easily & inexpensively repaired &/or replaced by a shoe cobbler (not with those cheezy heel tap covers). It costs about $4 or $5 per shoe for this service, but it’s well worth it when you consider that any further wear can result in damage which will require a cobbler to build up the heel to make it level, costing $20 or more (and may require that both heels are done to make sure they match).

Heels that are worn unevenly, rounded or otherwise appearing damaged may be rebuilt, as mentioned above. But damaged Lucite or other fancy glamorous heels may need to be be completely re-heeled; ask yourself if the rest of the shoe is worth it. (In the case of these fantastic 1950s Lucite heels with roses inside, I’d just cry over the heel damage and delicately dab at my eyes with a hankie as I pass them by; those heels are the shoes.)


A sole pulled away from the shoe can be repaired for between $20 and $50.

Worn or cracked soles can be repaired with a partial or half sole replacement (sometimes called “fill-ins”) for as little as $25. You can also have the entire shoe resoled. That ranges in price from $35 to $80 — which may sound expensive, but having that done gives vintage shoes decades worth of new wear.

However, if the welt (the piece between the upper shoe and the sole) is worn, it’s not worth the investment.

Inspecting The Soles On Vintage Italian Shoes

Inspecting The Soles On Vintage Italian Shoes

Even if the soles seem fine, like on these vintage pumps with leopard print accents, bend the sole and listen for cracking. Cracking indicates that the rubber &/or glue is aged and ready to part (either the sole from the shoe, or the sole crack).

Vintage shoes can also be ‘updated’ with rubber treads to prevent slipping for around $20; highly recommended.

Insoles & Linings:

A deteriorating lining — the cloth sewn into the shoe — is technically repairable, but unless we’re talking museum quality shoes (and then you aren’t going to wear them, are you?) they are not worth the investment.

Some just cut the lining out as best as possible, but I find that simply unacceptable. Not only do you often find a unsatisfactory powdery substance sticking to your feet, but without a lining your sweat will soil and deteriorate the uppers; so what’s the point?

If the lining is tacky or sticky, run away! You can disinfect shoes, but you’ll never remove the ‘ick’.

(Regarding disinfecting shoes, even if you are only intending to spray the inside of the shoes, the spray will, well, spray. So I cover the shoes with plastic saran wrap just to be sure no discoloration occurs; and spray evenly, but lightly so as not to make the shoes wet.)

The leather or leatherette inserts may be curled, damaged or missing entirely; as long as the lining is fine. These insole inserts can be replaced or merely have new leather or other inserts placed over them. (And you may wish to use arch supports etc. anyway.)

A Few Final Words:

Retro 1970s Floating Heel Wedges Inspired By 1950s Shoes

Retro 1970s Floating Heel Wedges Inspired By 1950s Shoes

While shopping at vintage stores and thrift shoppes means you can readily test for conditions, don’t let this prevent you from shopping for great vintage shoe deals online. (Otherwise, you might miss gems like these floating heel wedges!)

Dealers and sellers who specialize in vintage fashions & shoes know that conditions are important and will answer your questions; those who are unwilling are best to be avoided. If leery, ask the seller to put it in writing (in the email or seller notes at the auction site etc.) that if you find the shoes in conditions not as stated that you may return them.

And don’t forget to see my tips on buying vintage shoes in the proper size.

Note: It is important for any shoe repairs that you must establish that the person doing any repairs on your vintage shoes is indeed familiar with vintage shoes. New glues, dyes etc. may react with the vintage materials, creating new problems. That not only means more money for more repairs, but in fact may ruin or ‘total’ the shoes.

Now, go put your best foot forward and safely buy vintage shoes!

Silver Slip Worthy Of The Silver Screen

By , 12 November, 2008, No Comment

I’m a huge fan of vintage lingerie, but I’m awfully thankful that modern makers also follow the vintage glamour because then there’s far less heartbreak over single pieces in the wrong size. A fine (and thrilling!) example is this swoon-able silver silk slip with black lace from Secrets In Lace.

Silver Slip With Black Lace By Secrets In Lace

Silver Slip With Black Lace By Secrets In Lace

If this doesn’t make you feel like a screen siren, what will?

All you need with this Dominique Slip is your own leading man. (Let your man know you have one of these full slips and I’m sure he’ll beg to co-star!)

Vintage Shoe Buying By The Numbers: Finding The Proper Shoe Size

By , 6 November, 2008, No Comment
Vintage Carved Lucite High Heels With Rhinestones

Vintage Carved Lucite High Heels With Rhinestones

There are few things which can make a girl’s heart sing more than a pair of sexy vintage shoes.

Not only do vintage shoes complete your vintage outfit and offer unique styles and amazing details not seen today, but they are of incredible quality.

Most shoes made prior to the mid-1950s were handmade (hand-lasted & hand-stitched), something you are unlikely to find unless you are purchasing modern shoes at several hundred dollars (or more!) per pair. In other words, buying vintage shoes are a great value for the money, making vintage glamour girls incredibly smart & economical as well as stunningly fashionable.

1940s Peep Toe Shoes

1940s Peep Toe Shoes

But there are also few things which can make a girl’s heart sink more than a pair of sexy vintage shoes which don’t fit.

Finding the perfect shoes to compliment your outfit (vintage or otherwise) is made much more difficult by the matter of size.  Most of us who buy vintage fashions are aware that the label’s stated size is rather irrelevant compared to today’s sizing, but with shoes it seems even more difficult. The best way to avoid trouble is to know the size — in inches — of your own feet.

How To Measure Your Foot

How To Measure Your Foot

Start by measuring your foot the good-old-fashioned way with paper and pencil.

  1. Stand with the foot wearing the proper hose (socks, stockings etc.) for the style of shoe you are interested in purchasing firmly placed on a piece of paper. With your pencil snug against your foot and at a 90 degree angle to the floor, trace the outline of your foot.
  2. Draw a horizontal lines at the heel and toes, vertical lines at the widest points at the ball of the foot, as shown here.
  3. Measure the height, the distance between the line at the base of the heel and the line at the toe tips. Measure the distance between the vertical lines to calculate the width of your foot.

If you know you have problems with proper shoe fit (narrow heels, for example) measure those areas too. If one foot is slightly bigger than the other, repeat the process on the other foot.

Next, compare your foot measurements to those of a pair of comfortably fitting shoes in a similar style (high heel to high heel, etc.), silhouette (pointed toe to pointed toe, rounded toe to rounded toe etc.), and of the same heel height.

Brown Suede 1940s Platform Shoes

Brown Suede 1940s Platform Shoes

You can use a measuring tape; or you can cut out your foot tracing and place it inside the shoe. If the shoe is larger, use the shoe measurements as the primary guide. If the shoe is smaller or much-much larger, something likely went wrong with your tracing &/or measurement taking.

Many vintage shoe purchasers will insist you only use measurements from your shoes, but if you are new to buying vintage shoes &/or do not have shoes in similar silhouettes, having your own measurements is a safer starting place.

Compare your measurements with those of the shoes; if the seller does not offer measurements, ask them to. If a seller is unsure of just how to do that, be a little wary — but don’t discount the seller with a bargain who is unsure of what to do. Just ask the seller to use a tape measure and measure the inside of the shoes across the ball of the foot, and from toe to heel.

Now that you know your proper foot measurements, shopping for shoes will be much easier — as long as you don’t ignore those numbers, ladies!

Next week: More tips on what to look for (and avoid) when buying vintage shoes.

Stunning 1920s Red Silk Shoes

Stunning 1920s Red Silk Shoes

You’ll “Fall” For Vintage Suits With Fur Collars This Autumn

By , 4 November, 2008, No Comment

This vintage black wool suit with fur collar is extremely fitted, and features fine tailoring detail. To assist in your movement, both the jacket and the skirt have an inverted kick-pleat in the back.

Fitted Vintage Black Wool Suit, Fur Collar

Fitted Vintage Black Wool Suit, Fur Collar

Another very fitted vintage suit, this one is of flecked wool. The padded shoulders & over-sized collar with mink trim above the nipped-in waist really emphasizes the hourglass shape.

1940s Flecked Wool Suit, Mink Trim

1940s Flecked Wool Suit, Mink Trim

This light cocoa colored wool suit with a dark, rich colored mink fur collar has a fitted skirt and a more boxy jacket with bracelet sleeves — very Jackie O.

Fabulous Fall Fur-Trimmed Vintage Suit

Fabulous Fall Fur-Trimmed Vintage Suit

This vintage suit has a large, fluffy black fox collar — but don’t worry, the bold pattern and texture of this curly wool & mohair blend suit isn’t lost in the collar’s shadow.

Dramatic Vintage Mohair/Wool Suit, Black Fox Collar

Dramatic Vintage Mohair/Wool Suit, Black Fox Collar