Posts Categorized: shoes

Reader Request: Shoe Alterations

getting shoes altered

Hayley popped this question into the suggestion box:

I’d be interested in knowing if you’ve ever had any pair of shoes altered in any way, and if you have any tips. I’m considering getting a pair of leather boots taken in a bit at the top around the calf area.

Why yes, I have! Here in the Twin Cities we have two leather shops both owned by various members of the George family – George’s Hockey Repair in St. Paul, and George’s Shoes & Repair in Arden Hills. The latter is now my go-to – and the shop that helped with my fringe bag – since they do great work and aren’t as mobbed as the St. Paul shop. But I’ve had one pair altered at each shop. This first pair was done at the St. Paul shop.

tall boots shortened

These olive green Coclico boots were just a couple of inches taller than I’d have liked. The photos aren’t the greatest, but you can see how much more real estate that zipper takes up on the right (post-alteration) than it does on the left. And speaking of that zipper, its length and placement made these boots ideal for shortening: Since it doesn’t run the length of the boot, the zipper itself didn’t need to be lopped off at all.

boot alteration

Here you can see that the boot is lined with a different color/texture of leather. The original finish was fancy, with rolled edges on both liner and outer. I was happy to have a slightly raw-er finish for the alteration since very few people get super close-up to my feet. I believe this alteration cost about $30. These boots have been languishing in the closet for ages now, but I’m not quite ready to part with them now that I’ve shifted to a more neutral, subdued palette. We shall see.

mmm work mocs

These are a pair of Maison Martin Margiela Work Mocs that I stalked on eBay for YEARS and finally nabbed for a fraction of retail. When I ordered them they were tan. I swear they were more of a yellow tan than this, but I never remember to do “before” photos, so who knows?

work moc brown

I got them, drooled on them, and then spent several hours trying to build an outfit around them. And that’s when I remembered that tan shoes really, really don’t work for me. (Unless they are sandals. And these are definitely not sandals.) So I took them out to Arden Hills and asked if they could be dyed black. This shoe style was actually made in black, but the pair I found in my size and price range was tan and I was so excited that I bid before really considering the color. And, as it turns out, dyeing them was fairly straightforward.

can you dye leather shoes

But imperfect. I wanted the interior black, too, but with that raw, unfinished leather the experts told me I’d just end up with black dye rubbing off on my socks. And I was warned that the dye process was messy and some might end up on the soles. It did. No big, in my opinion. This alteration cost $45.

And these shoes, too, haven’t gotten much love. That heel is chunky but feels incredibly high, and I’m still tinkering with the proportions of these booties. And honestly? I’m starting to find that although I can generally get clothes and accessories altered more or less to my personal specifications, many of the ones that need drastic changes end up going unworn. Aside from a few simple shortened hems, I’ve ended up donating an awful lot of things that I’ve bought and had altered. Which isn’t to say that YOU will be the same way. Just something I’ve noticed about myself and am still mulling.

Now. In terms of having a tall boot taken in at the calf? It is possible, especially if you have a relationship with a truly skilled leather worker, but it will be costly and potentially imperfect-looking. I’ve asked for this specific change on several pairs of boots and been told they’ll look quite odd afterwards. I’ve also had leather workers just refuse to even attempt it. Curious to know if any of you have had tall boots slimmed in the calf. I imagine it will be easier on styles with lots of built-in seaming.

I also know that, in some cases, heels can be slightly shortened by a shoe repairperson. You can’t turn towering stilettos into kitten heels, but you might be able to make a 2″ heel into a 1.75″ heel.

Most of the rest fall under “maintenance and repair,” in my mind. Heel tips, resoling, replacement of buckles or eyelets, getting shoes stretched to fit, reinforcing worn-out bits of leather. But I’m sure there are things I haven’t even dreamed were possible! Have any of you gotten shoes altered in significant ways? How did they look in the end? Was it costly? What would you recommend and warn against?

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This Week I Love …

timberland shoe care

Timberland’s shoe care products.

I was a longtime Kiwi fan until I picked these up at a local Timberland store along with a pair of boots. The salespeople always push products like these, it seems, but sometimes that’s a good thing. I didn’t really understand what nubuck was at the time, but when I bought my Stratham Heights boots I knew I wanted them to stay in good shape. And I was told Renewbuck would help. And it DID. I’ve applied it to to all of my nubuck and suede shoes since. The company recommends a test patch, and I will say that the treatment darkened a pair of gray suede boots somewhat, so be prepared for that. Also this treatment won’t waterproof your suedes, and can’t do much for you if you regularly slog through enormous, muddy puddles. But you’ll no longer fear getting caught in a rainstorm or walking across a dewy lawn. The treatment keeps light moisture from seeping in too deeply.

I also bought that goofy shoe-shaped suede brush. Such a simple tool, but fabulous for keeping nubuck and suede nap looking clean and vibrant.

The Balm Proofer I bought later, having fallen in love with the Renewbuck. I will admit that I only wear a few pairs of my leather shoes out in the snow, so it’s a little harder to tell if this stuff is miraculous or not. I’m inclined to believe it will work better than cheapie drugstore options based on the results from the Renewbuck, but if I notice anything specific – bad or good – I’ll report back. The company says it’ll help protect against salt and oil stains … but I’d recommend spot cleaning if you see either!

Anyone else tried Timberland’s shoe care products? Thoughts or experiences to share? Other protectants to recommend?

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Reader Request: Low-vamp Shoes with Skinnies

flats and skinnies in winter

Reader Amelia left this question in a comment:

How on earth do I wear flats/Mary Janes and socks with skinny pants/jeans? Every style image I see of that combo involves no socks or boots. Sometimes I don’t want to wear boots (think fall or spring) but it’s too cold to not wear socks. How do I do it?

In my opinion, this question extends to all low-vamp footwear and all ankle-length pant styles. The real issue is covering the bridge of the foot and keeping it warm. So. Quick answer: I don’t know. This combination stymies me, too, and I can’t say that I’ve found a solution I feel is both aesthetically pleasing and practical. So I’ll throw out a few suggestions and work-arounds, and rely on you to offer your input in the comments!

Nude fishnets or nylons

This is the solution that most folks offer, and it has some merit. The idea is to give your feet a bit of coverage but perpetuate the illusion of no socks/hose. But even close-woven microfishnets don’t actually create much of a barrier between foot and elements. Nude-to-your-skin knee-high trouser socks are probably the easiest and warmest solution.

Foot liners or Key Socks

Neither of these solutions actually gives you full foot coverage, but you do get some padding and warmth for your footbed. Liners come in all colors, materials, and fabrics but they tend to peek out from most flats and heels. Key Socks are basically foot liners with part of a trouser sock attached at the top, leaving the bridge of your foot exposed. So, ya know, only slightly helpful.

Funky socks

I have a hard enough time working tights (and therefore colored legs) into my outfit equations, so I’ve never even dabbled in funky socks. But if your outfit is more casual, you can certainly let a cool striped pattern peek out from your Mary Janes or flats. So long as your feet fit and you won’t stretch the shoes too much.

Ankle boots

Yep, we’ve already arrived at alternatives. I’m happy to wear tights with my flats, Mary Janes, and heels all winter long because they offer uninterrupted coverage from knee to toe. But I just don’t do the skinny/ankle pant and low-vamp shoe combo once it gets cold out. Instead, I opt for higher-vamp shoes like ankle boots, which cover the foot up to a much higher point and can be tucked under pant hems or worn with cuffed skinnies and thick socks hidden underneath.

See what I’m saying? Nothing earth-shattering or truly elegant here. So, my dears, help us all out! Do YOU have the magic solution to wearing low-vamp shoes and ankle-length pants in cold weather? Any other suggestions besides these? Let us know in the comments.

Images courtesy Nordstrom (left) and Banana Republic (right)

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