Elevator Shoes

Here are two well-known bloggers with two extremely different styles. Now, what could possibly unite Nubby (left) and Jane (right)?

Both of them invest in quality shoes. And both of them often mix their fabulously expensive, fantastically eye-catching, and high-quality footwear with thrifted, cheap, or otherwise commonplace clothing.

Nubby is in Vintage lederhosen, Old Navy sweater, F21 scarf, and Dries Van Noten wedges. Jane is in a lace shirt from F21, green silk skirt from Anthropologie, vintage belt, Alex and Chloe deerhorn necklace with an old cross, American Apparel hat, and Givenchy wedges.

In both cases, these ladies have assembled chic and unusual outfits utilizing pieces from low-end stores and vintage shops, but anchored them with truly breathtaking shoes. And in both cases, the shoes serve to elevate the entire ensemble.

Nubby is in an F21 zipper dress, DKNY tights, an F21 scarf, and Marni wedges. Jane is in a thrifted polyester sundress, Lucky brand ombre cardigan, wrap belt by unknown designer, and Emanuel Ungaro branch heels.

Now, I buy a lot of shoes. And I buy many pairs of relatively spendy shoes. But I don’t own ANY actual designer shoes, and have never spent as much on any single pair as either Nubby or Jane. Nevertheless I am still delighted to take a page out of their collective book, and can advise you all to do the same: Interesting, beautiful shoes can elevate an outfit comprised of cheap, boring crap. Well-made shoes will last for years and years and years if you care for them properly,and can truly be a worthwhile investment. There are several wardrobe staples that are worth investment, but shoes will always top my list. A great pair of shoes will convince onlookers that EVERYTHING YOU HAVE ON is noteworthy, even if you nabbed it all from Goodwill for under a buck a piece.

I realize that few of you can afford Marni, Givenchy, and Dries Van Noten. Similarly, few of you can prance around in 4-inch heels or towering plastic wedges. Mistake me not! Your personal great shoes don’t have to be expensive, and they don’t have to be unwalkable or lifestyle-prohibitive. They just have to be interesting and unusual. And that can mean well-designed, eye-catching, made from unusual materials, in a dazzling color, with creative embellishments, or any combination of these. While well made shoes are worth the investment IF they are a style that you’ll stick to for ages, you may have other more pressing investments to make right now. If that’s the case, just err on the side of cheap-but-mesmerizing.

Next time you’ve got a few extra minutes in the morning, try swapping out the shoes you were gonna wear for your most outrageous, bright, unusual, or sexy pair. Compare the overall look and feel of your outfit as worn with each pair. Even if the shoes are catastrophically inappropriate with the outfit, you’ll get my drift: Most outfits hinge on shoe choice. So choose wisely.

And don’t be afraid to branch out! Next time you’re considering a new shoe splurge, seriously consider something that isn’t black or brown, isn’t flat or squishy-soled, and isn’t going to go with 90% of your wardrobe because it’s so plain and practical. Treat yourself to some elevator shoes, and see if they don’t put a spring in your step and a smile on your face.

P.S. If you check out Jane’s blog, Sea of Shoes, you’ll see that she has access to a mind-blowing array of designer duds. It ain’t all F21 in her world. But I’m still most amazed by her ethereal ensembles crafted from low-end clothes, and elevated by enviable footwear.

  • dapper kid

    My mother always tells me that “Only rich people can afford cheap shoes”, and I even read someone’s mother telling them the same in a book I recently read. I always feel that because shoes tend to have a far longer life span required than other pieces, you should always spend that little bit more for the longevity factor. Plus spending slightly more usually gets you slightly more beautiful shoes – win, win!

  • kittyscreations

    You know I agree with you on this post lady. I had another one of my dreams last night where I went to a Fluevog store and bought some orange Fiorenzas. I dream about Fluevogs way too often.

  • Sam

    This was such an informative post about shoes.

    As a student and huge lover of shoes – I find that some of the more expensive ones that I buy (after saving up for a month or two) do not always work as well as some of the less expensive ones. I guess thats what makes shopping exciting.


    Sam @PrettyLovely

  • chic

    On a grad student stipend the “investment” part of “investment shoes” is a relative term. But I have found that, overall, the more money I spend on a shoe the more of a “statement shoe” I want it to be. And I’ve surprised myself by how versatile those can be! I love the idea of getting dressed and then swapping shoes, slipping on something completely unexpected. That’s worked for me in the past and I think I need to do it more often! – e.

  • Christina Lee

    great post- it takes someone with greast confidence to wear lederhosen though 😉 the swap out idea is a good one-sometimes we reach for th same matchy boring shoes…

  • Claire

    It is very true that a good pair of shoes does raise the outfit. They’re worth investing in – you only get one pair of feet, may as well treat them with respect!!!!!

  • mbahawk

    It’s true that your statement shoes do not have to be unwalkable or designer-level expensive. My current ‘elevator’ shoes are bright red patent Mary Jane flats from ecco.

  • Alison

    Great post. I’m looking forward to reading each of the blogs you featured. I LOVE shoes and have since I worked in a shoe store as a teenager. I still have trouble with owning quantity over quality, but since I’ve started thrifting I’ve been able to get a few pair of more expensive shoes for a lot less. But, I’ve also been only buying special cheaper shoes with cool embellishment or fun colors and weeding out the boring in my collection.


    All my gratuitous spending aside, I've been very good this year…I'd like to break the habit of buying the same old style & colors… As usual you give good sound investment Sal!

  • futurelint

    While my most expensive shoes are a few pairs of Michael Kors and Charles David, I still hate cheap heels and refuse to buy ones that cost less than $100 (that’s full price, I can often get $200 shoes for only $30 at the end of the season and cause well, I’m lucky in shoes). However, I’ve been wearing big heels all week and going on long walks downtown during my lunch break, and I gotta say… I’m wearing flip flops this weekend! I forget how I have to get used to my crazy sandal heels before I can wear them all day without blisters and pain! While I’m so ready for winter to be over, I’ll miss all my comfy boots and wearing socks to prevent blisters!

  • The Seeker

    Well, my mother has always told me that "a good pair of shoes and a good hairdo makes the perfect outfit". And I share her thought.
    Despite I buy most of my shoes on stores like H&M and Zara, because they've "the clones" :)
    It's the price of a low budget…

    Great post, beautiful you.


  • pretty face

    And you can always fit into a pair of shoes!

    On the other hand, shoes provide pain quite unlike any other fashion item…

  • oh lady e

    Oh, god, shoes are my biggest weakness… my Achilles heel, if you will (har har).

    But, yes, a good pair of shoes can make or break an outfit! :)

  • saturdayjane

    Good post! It is pretty amazing what shoes can do for an outfit. This past summer I was living in a very snooty part of California, and I had a lot of fun pairing my high heels with my casual capris. :)

  • CrankyOtter

    Shoes absolutely make the outfit. I’ve advocated this for years. It’s why I take special care to buy cool/funky “everyday” shoes.

    I once had lunch with a frustrated gay friend who, as a college senior, said no one would take him seriously as a date. I told him to look at his ratty sneakers and imagine his khaki’s and button down with some nicely buffed loafers or other well kept shoe. His love life picked up with his shoe wardrobe, I kid you not.

    Shoes anchor the outfit. And kind of like nice underwear, give you a mental confidence even when no one else is looking at them. I’ve not yet spent more than a hundred dollars on a pair of shoes, but have realized that if I found a stylish, comfortable pair that I would rotate through my daily-wear work shoes (closed toe, closed heel, non-cloth with heel height/width restrictions), I would gladly pay that much. So worth it.

  • casey

    This is just the kick in the pants I needed to stop buying “basics”. I have a horrid habit (I blame it on my New England Yankee ancestors. haha) of thinking that fun shoes are just going to sit in my closet because they are “frivolous”. And yet, when I’ve purchased a truly fun pair of shoes, even if I don’t wear them more than a few times a month, they certainly add a bit of zip to my outfits! :)

    I’ve been amazed lately at some of the really snazzy shoes I’ve seen at the lower price range (Steve Madden, etc.). Because I can drool over those designer shoes ’til the cows come home, but it ain’t happening. hehe!

  • ♥Jozee

    So true… doesn’t really matter what you have on (within reason) as long as you have a quality pair of shoes and bag.

    anddddd it should be noted that not all gorgeous shoes cost an arm and a leg. i have found awesome deals at Nordstrom rack on brands like Marni, Dries, Miu Miu, etc. and have most of my footwear from there.

    $200 for a pair of statement, quality Marni heels? Yes, ma’am.

  • Nadine

    Wow, all four of those outfits are amazing! I like your point about trying your most outrageous shoes . . . but I fear the impracticality of heels.

  • Winnie

    Oh man, this makes me want to go shopping so bad!

  • Courtney

    So true! I go through shoes quicker than most because I have incredibly sweaty feet, but I’ve never regretted buying quality. Even if I destroy them in a season, it’s still worth it. And buying shoes off of Ebay is the best thing I’ve learned in the past 6 months. I’m getting shoes that would cost me $100 in the store for $20, INCLUDING SHIPPING. Up to this point my shoe destroying tendencies have kept that part of my wardrobe pretty small, but thanks to Ebay now I’m finally getting to branch out some and it’s amazing what that’s done for my outfits! Thanks for another great post Sal!

  • Mrs. MK

    I do like this post, but I have to mention my fav, What I Wore, Jessica Schroeder, and the way she ROCKS Payless (yes, PAYLESS!) black patent oxford booties! They are statement shoes at the lowest price point!

    But, all that said, I can’t wait to own my own pair of designer shoes!

  • Nubby

    Any post about shoes always wins me over and you made it so informative and fun. And, thanks so much for the mention!


  • Iheartfashion

    I’ve found good shoes to be a solid investment. I’ve been wearing my favorite Tod’s black boots for 10 years now. Same for a pair of Prada sandals that finally bit the dust last summer after literally thousands of miles of walking. Both were well worth the money and gorgeous shoes to boot!

  • Vanessa

    Agreed, though I do think it’s possible to find cute shoes that will last a long time that are inexpensive. Most of my shoes are from Kohls and the like, and I’ve never had any problems getting loads of wear out of them. Someday if I have the money to invest in a couple of pricey pairs, though… oh my yes I will.

  • ATeaLeaf

    I love shoes! My husband thinks I have too many. But I strongly believe that nice pair of shoes does help the outfit.

  • Ally

    Oh, girl, you know how I love a good shoe. I totally agree with you. Not only do you look more fab, but your feet will be MUCH happier!!

  • Melissa Dominic

    i’m always interested in finding great shoes. not all of mine have ever cost so much, but, i think the idea that they can truely elevate an outfit is spot on.

    even if i can’t wear heels cause of bad ankles 😀

  • Brittney

    That’s so true! Also, working at a store that sells many a-knock-off, I find that the more expensive shoes are more well-made and actually more comfortable than their cheap counterpart! So there’s that.

    My #1 problem with buying/wearing hawt shoes is that I don’t have human feet, I have duck flippers. It’s true!

  • Annie

    I love how my 80%20 shoes /look/ more expensive than they are.

  • Sharon Rose

    Hi there-fab post my dear, I agree a great pair of shoes is a worthwhile investment. I’m still a bag lady, but shoe love is certainly growing on me, LOL!

  • lopi

    Elevator shoes, the exact opposite of elevator music!

  • Missa

    Oh my, these shoes scare me… but in a good way 😉

    P.S. Planning to send your package out on Monday 😀 and something tells me I did good on at least one item!

  • Tina { Luphia Loves… }

    If i had the money it’s expensive shoes, bags + highstreet clothes all the way :)

  • craftyminx

    Fluevogs are expensive-ish, but not quite designer-level expensive (except in the case of some of their boots, which are priced around the same range as, what is it, 10 Corso Como?) I’d recommend them to people who aren’t familiar with them, but the style might be too eccentric for some. They don’t tend to the sleek side of things.

    The cost of making a pair of super-cheap shoes wearable and comfortable can often make them… not as super-cheap as something that would have been better for your feet to begin with. Example: I have cute ballet flats that I bought at Target last year, but all the padding and heel-grips and so on that I had to put into them doubled their price.

    That said, the least comfortable pair of shoes I’ve ever, ever tried on was by Marc Jacobs. I have an Enzo Angiolini knockoff of the Jacobs “mouse shoes” from earlier in this decade, and the knockoffs are MUCH more comfortable than the genuine article.

  • Alicia

    Aha I left a comment echoing this exact sentiment on Nubby’s blog a few days ago! It’s one of the reasons I really admire her style.

    Great post!

  • Harmonica licks poadcast

    If you wear elevator shoes in an elevator – wont that be crossing the streams?

    Owner of Don's shoes

    (Please, please, may I have the link. I'm desperate)

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