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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for alreadypretty.com. See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details.