Wednesday, December 9, 2009

It's All About The Shoes



As promised earlier this week, today's post is all about shoes. This post is in response to a couple of reader requests; one for a tour of my shoes and another for ideas on how to break out of a shoe style rut. I figured that my own shoe collection is vast enough to provide anyone with ideas on building a shoe wardrobe, so I'm hitting 2 birds with one stone. As I take you through my own assortment of shoes, I hope to illustrate the strategy I've used in amassing my collection and show you where you might seek to add variety to yours.

The photos above show part of my shoe closet, but I can't stand back far enough to get the whole thing in at once. But you get the idea: it is literally a wall of shoes, ceiling to floor, and that doesn't even house all of them. The rest, mostly sneakers, hiking boots,and the like, are shoved onto a 3-shelf rack in a different closet. As I took them all out to photograph them for this post, it occurred to me that although no human really needs this many pairs, shoes for me are special in a way that other clothing items just aren't. They affect your height, the way you walk and stand, the wiggle in your behind and the proportions of your body. They can help you convey a powerful, sophisticated presence at an important meeting or take you strolling over cobblestones on the streets of Rome. There's also an engineering component of shoes that I really appreciate, because when you think about it, supporting the human frame comfortably on a small surface area is really not that easy to accomplish.

But also, shoes are the one piece of clothing that you can really get a good look at even when you're wearing them. Think about it; the way you see your own shirt or dress looking down at it is nothing like what other people see, and you can't see yourself from behind at all without the help of a mirror, and even then it's an imperfect perspective. But shoes are a different story; stretch out your leg and take a look! They are there for you every day in full view, and looking at them can make you feel like anything from a sexy vixen to a complete frump, depending on what you choose. So choose carefully, and they will delight your admiring eye. I spend much of my day in a chair, either at my desk or in meetings, and I often sneak a glimpse down at my fabulous shoes as a little pick-me-up. Oh, and they can also make or break an outfit -- let's not forget that little detail.

First I'll take you through my own collection, sorted by shoe type. I'll start with the boots and booties, since I have a whole hell of a lot of those. The first three categories are ankle boots, mid-calf, and tall. I'd say that most of these fall into the 'dressy' category, but I've made sure to get some casual pairs as well: in the ankle category I've got my sweater-cuffed Reikers and my dark purple Cydwoqs; in the mid-calf category I've got my combat style black Doc Martens, and in the tall category there's my workhorse brown Bata boots and my crazy plaid lace-up combat boots by Sugar. Then I've got the more specialized boots: cowboy and rain boots. Cowboy boots have a very specific look, and therefore I don't feel like I need to have many of those; likewise with rain boots, especially since I don't really have a need to tromp around in the rain all that much.

Now let's talk about the colors I have represented here. As you can see I have a bit more color variety among the shorter boots. This is really only because tall boots in interesting colors are difficult to find, plain and simple. And since I've been trying to get better about not duplicating things in my wardrobe, I told myself many months ago that I can only buy tall boots that are not black, brown, or gray (although admittedly, I could probably justify a nice camel-colored pair). And that doesn't leave much to choose from, I'm afraid. My strategy in building this collection was that I should be aiming to have at least one dressy and one casual pair in each of the colors I wear the most: black, brown, purple, and gray. And beyond that I should try to add interesting colors in either casual or dressy styles as I come across them. Examples of purchases that were aimed towards this goal have been the burgundy ruffled boots, the olive green 2-tone Fluevogs, and the blue Frye booties.

Finally, you'll notice that my rain boots are both in bright, fun colors. And why not? Rainy days suck; you might as well brighten them up a little with some fun boots. My red pair is a bit dressier and can be worn with skirts or dresses, while the flowered Wellies are relegated to casual weekend days when I'm kicking around in jeans. The bonus feature of rain boots is that they don't really change much year to year, so although neither of these pairs gets a lot of use, they'll still look stylish for years to come. If you live somewhere that gets a lot of rain, you may want to consider having one pair that has more neutral tones in it -- but I still maintain that rain boots should be fun, so how about a nice leopard print pair?

Next up are the mary janes. Remember how I talked about not wanting to duplicate things that are in my wardrobe? Well, go ahead and count 'em up -- I've got SIX pairs of black mary janes. Now granted, some are dressier than others and the heel heights and widths do vary, but still. No one, not even me, needs 6 pairs of black mary janes, and I therefore have a moratorium on buying any more until, well, a long time elapses and most of these are worn out and gone. Think of how much more interesting this assortment would be if I replaced, say 3 of the black pairs with blue, orange, and yellow. I'm far from perfect, and neither is my shoe collection. But it's getting there.

The next assortment is sort of an 'everything else' category of pumps. I've got t-straps, oxfords, and peep toes in here. In this group I've managed to get a good variety of color, and even pattern. I guess my leopard print pumps are technically mary janes too -- that was an oversight when I was taking the photos. But regardless, between this group and the mary janes I do in fact have a lot of variety in shape, color, and style, which is what I was aiming for. Notice that I have some, such as the black Tsubo lace-up shoes there on the left, that come up quite high over the top of my foot, whereas others, like the leopard print pumps, that are cut quite low. This is another good sort of variety to have in your shoe collection, because depending on your hem length you may want to show more or less of your foot.

Next up are the sandals, of which I don't have very many (comparatively speaking) because sandals aren't really great shoes for San Francisco weather most of the year. But what you'll notice here is that I've stuck mainly to colors, and have only one pair each in black and brown. That's because sandals tend to be reserved for very summery outfits, when I want to use a lot of bright colors. If you're on a limited budget or are short on closet space and need to pick just one or two colors for sandals, I'd say you should own one fun, bright pair and one neutral that's not black or brown -- bronze and silver are great choices for summery shoes that still go with everything.

My assortment of flats and low heels is fairly paltry compared with my other styles of shoes, because frankly I tend not to like them very much. They are often uncomfortable and I feel like they make my feet look bigger. As a result, all of my flats are in basic, neutral colors -- silver and black, ecru, white, and bronze, because they'll work in a pinch when I really need a pair of flats.

Finally, here are the last 2 categories, the ultra-casual and the ultra-dressy. On the left are the shoes that get used mainly on weekends for running errands or walking the dog. On the right are the fancy shoes I only wear to weddings and such. There's not much to say about the fancy shoes since they're usually purchased to go along with a specific outfit (or, in the case of the red ones, a bridesmaid's dress). But for the casual shoes I'll just say that it's nice to have at least one pair in a fun color or with funky detailing, because it's a great way to jazz up a plain old jeans-and-tee sort of ensemble. I'm planning a post in which I feature a bunch of my weekend casual outfits, in which you'll see how those pink sneakers and multi-color bowling style shoes come into play.




There are many different ways I could categorize my shoes, but I just thought I'd include 2 additional ways: color and funkiness. Below are all my colorful shoes arranged together, so that you can see how many different colors I have represented in my collection. While it's not important to have every single style of shoe in every color, it's great to get some variety in there where you can. Sure, with many outfits you can 'get away' with wearing black or brown shoes, but a fun colorful pair will spice up any look, and in many cases the shoes can even be the only colorful thing in the whole outfit. Don't worry about matching a specific color; if your shoes don't match the shade of purple in your top, then throw a third shade of purple into the outfit and you'll have an interesting look with a lot more depth. Reds and purples in particular look better when several shades are blended together, so buy what you like and you'll find a way to make it work.



Lastly, I grouped my shoes according to the ones that are the most funky and one-of-a-kind. It's great to have a few of these in your collection, because they can give an outfit a lot more character. You might not feel comfortable wearing an avant garde jacket with big pointy shoulders and a bunch of hardware, but ANYONE can put on a really unique pair of shoes and make them work. Funky shoes look great on anyone, young or old, big or small. If you're wanting to take some fashion risks and are a bit apprehensive, shoes are a great way to start. One thing you'll notice about my funky shoes is that there aren't any in here that you'd really call trendy. A weird shoe that's following a specific trend is going to be a lot harder to wear once the trend has died down; I tend to look for shoes that don't look like anything else on the market. Fluevogs are of course a perennial favorite for funkiness, and now Eject shoes have been added to the list as well. These are investment shoes that will stand the test of time; my advice for buying the really trendy styles is not to spend too much on them unless you've really got money to burn -- or unless you like wearing outdated styles, because that's exactly what you'll be doing in 6 months' time.



In closing I'll talk a little about details, because those are almost always what sells me on a pair of shoes. I tend to scrutinize potential purchases very carefully and look for at least one thing that really makes the shoes different. Buttons, studs, laces, and contrast topstitching always grab my attention, as do interesting heel shapes and the use of multiple colors. A great pair of shoes should go beyond functionality and really bring some beauty to your outfits. Why buy a plain pair of brown booties when you could get a pair with little silver skulls and studs on them?

I'll leave you with close up shots of some of my favorite details on my own shoes. And as always, I'd love to hear from you! What little details do you look for in shoes? Do you employ any strategies in building a collection? Am I a complete fiend for owning this many pairs?







38 comments:

Melrose said...

oh wow. closet love <3

i love how every pair has a quirky or intricate detail. you have a great eye for shoes! thanks for he walk through!

Chandra said...

I'm a brand new reader of your blog, and you're so much fun to follow.

My concern is about the every-changing style of heel width.

I have a pair of black mary-jane style heels that I bought in winter 2007. I spent nearly $100 on these shoes and would like to keep them in rotation. But I notice that when they sit next to the shoes I bought this season, the heel is a good half to a full inch thicker.

Now I want to donate them to Goodwill and move on.

Yes? No?

Kacie said...

Chandra -- if your issue with those shoes is simply that they're getting worn, you can take them to a cobbler to get them re-heeled, if you still like everything else about them.

Audi -- This was fantastic! Since I'm tall, I tend to avoid shoes with a high heel. Anything more than 2" is way too much for me, but more often than not, I'm in flats.

I'm starting to branch out and I'm adding some wedges to my collection since they'll look a bit more flattering on my foot than some of the flats.

I have noticed that most of my shoes are black or brown. It's time to branch out and add some color and pattern to my feet!

I used to be a competitive runner, and when I was doing so, I only wore shoes that were supportive and comfortable. So mostly, I was wearing older running shoes for my day-to-day, and newer running shoes to actually run in. I couldn't afford a foot injury or blisters or other problems that I tend to have with other types of shoes.

I'm definitely looking forward to your weekend wear looks.

Audi said...

Chandra: Personally I don't give a fig what the latest width of heel is; it goes back and forth and eventually wider heels will be 'in' again. I prefer a wider heel because it's more comfortable and stable, and that'll trump the current trend any day. I'll also add that currently there are plenty of shoe manufacturers who are still offering loads of wider heel styles; brands like Chie Mihara, Frye, and Camper have loads of chunky heels to choose from, so I don't even think your wider heels would qualify as being out of date at all. So if you relly love them keep 'em, and if they don't feel current enough for you right at the moment then wait a season or two and they'll fit in quite comfortably next to your newer acquisitions.

Audi said...

Kacie: Don't assume that just because you're tall you can't wear higher heels. Work that beautiful height, lady!

Hannah said...

They are all extraordinarily beautiful! You are always so inspiring!

Emily Kennedy said...

He he he, yes you are a fiend.

But, also, growing up I was a walker. In SF I was a walker. In Kansas, I'm a walker. I live close enough to work and school that I can walk there, rain or shine. And this is a thought that I have ALOT:
"supporting the human frame comfortably on a small surface area is really not that easy to accomplish".

Good shoes are one of the few things I'll happily spend more than $100 on. My favorite brand is Born. And I have a thing for wedges. I really want to get a pair of Geox. Good shoes rock my world. Thank you for posting this!

Alison said...

I LOVE shoes. I don't have the money to spend a lot and for years quantity was much more important to me. But, I have so many pairs that even the cheapies have lasted. But, I have been trying to get better quality shoes from time to time. I probably have more that most people too. I tried to count, but quit counting when I hit 80 pairs. So, I don't think you are crazy for owning so many pairs of shoes. And I totally understand your need for the funky. They can make a crappy day better when you can look down and your shoes make you smile.

cwhf said...

What a beautifully curated collection.

If I had the closet space, I would love a collection as large and diverse as yours. I recently did a major shoe purge and now have 12 pairs, 7 of which are Fluevogs, to which I admit an addiction.

I also agree with the wonderful pick me up shoes can give the day. When I wear my red Fluevog Toda boots and am having a bad day, I can just look down to lift my spirits and know that I am an ass kicker, as I have the shoes to prove it.

WendyB said...

What a collection and so beautifully photographed!

Oranges And Apples said...

Ohh, you make me envious with your wonderful collection, and I'm not even that big a shoe girl! All the storage I have is one shelf in our cupboard so I'm on one in one out!

notSupermum said...

That's an amazing footwear collection Audi, I've always had a weakness for boots personally and I love some of yours. Great post.

Kiki said...

What a lovely collection! I always wonder "What shoes will Audi wear today?"

You are not crazy for owning that many shoes...I have just as many, if not more! I look for comfort and longevity in an expensive shoe and trend and color in an cheaper shoe.

I've learned my body and feet are a lot happier in quality shoes, but I like variety, so I often buy a top quality shoe, in an odd color on clearance. And don't mind forking over the dough for a classic shoe in a nuetral color.

Perhaps I'll share my shoes on my blog sometime.:0) Thanks for sharing!

Sara said...

I bought my first pair of Audi-inspired shoes recently! They're Miz Mooz Allie Mary Janes with a funky-shaped heel, and I got them at a ridiculously good price; $25 down from $150, and they're leather! I was also happy to find that they fit my wide width well. (Go, go, alliteration).

Audi, I love how you own your style. You inspire me to be daring and interesting in my clothing choices more than any other blogger or any magazine ever has!

Jenny said...

Your shoe collection is so inspiring and so vast! I love eclectic, risky style, and I love how you've organized your shoes too. Thank you so much for sharing :)

xo Jenny Fashion for Writers

anotheranon said...

Long time reader, first time writer:

Love but LOVE your shoe collection! I've learned more about covetable shoe styles than I ever needed to know from your blog...

I've noticed you have a lot of light/white shoes - being a child of the south, I grew up with white only after Memorial Day unless you're a bride, nurse, or athlete. Any tips on styling outside that pesky rule?

Sal said...

I remember peeking inside that shoe closet and being in absolute awe.

Unsurprisingly, you've offered some great tips for keeping your shoe wardrobe from becoming staid. My strategy has been similar: Get pairs you love in each category in your most-worn neutrals, and then gradually add colors.

Also, I buy very few Mary Janes because I've totally OD'ed on them. I think I own three or four pairs myself. Yikes.

Lorena said...

WOW this is apt for a museum.... what a singular and great taste -

ambika said...

Your boots alone are making me die with envy. Just wow.

Maria said...

Although I usually don't wear colorful pairs, I find your collection really inspiring. Especially your Fluevogs look great! :)

Oh, and...I adore that shoe closet. I'm jealous!

Eyeliah said...

What a collection!

Chelsea said...

oh I just looooooooooove your collection! I especially love your mary janes and your "everything else" pumps. I would totally rock any and all of those!

this post is quite inspirational... I have been having trouble amass a good shoe collection that adds sass to my wardrobe without breaking my feet (or the bank), but I really feel like I know what to look for now. Thanks, Audi! This blog has quickly become one of my favorites because of you awesome, unique, and personal style, and your great tips!

wardrobeexperience said...

wow! wow! wow! what an amazing collection of shoes...!

Gina said...

HIlarious! A few days ago, I was pondering how polite it would be to ask you to show all of your shoes and tell us how many you own. Like you, I feel that shoes are both a basic and an accessory.

I dress with less color and pattern than you do, but my shoes are the featured piece in most of my outfits. I jazz up a classic tan outfit (for work in a retail environment of classic & bland-colored clothing) with a pair of wowza shoes.

Thanks for sharing. I envy your closet space. Mine is hideous. http://alturl.com/npbp

Elissa said...

Love this post! I especially like the funky shoes collection-- those yellow tstraps are yummy! And I guess I never did consider that shoes are the only thing on your body that you can see as other people see them... I suppose besides jewelry.

Audi said...

Sara: Wow, thanks for the compliment -- I always love hearing about other people finding inspiration on my blog.

anotheranon: I'm not much for arbitrary rules like 'no white after Labor Day' and generally just ignore them. But if you're really worried about it, then use your white shoes for a 'winter white' look, keeping all the colors pale and washed out for a sort of snow queen look.

Julia Debarri said...

I love your blog! Not just for the clothing creativity, either; you're a very witty and entertaining writer. I admit, at first I did wonder "but why the passion for layering?" and then I noticed that you live in SF...ah ha! (And you make such an art form out of it!!) But yeah...I learned long ago: do not go to the City unless you have LAYERS on. No matter what season it is. ;-) I have one question about your magnificent shoe collection...who made those boots with the skulls on them? They are un-freaking-believable. LOVE. I'd wear them till they fell off. They remind me of my 80s Goth days, which really, I quite miss. Thanks so much!

Audi said...

Julia Debarri: The skull boots are by Jo Ghost. I found them randomly on super clearance at Amazon.com last year. Ghosts can be very pricey, but are really well crafted and are made in limited runs; it's definitely worth keeping an eye out for sales on these beauties.

Jessica Orr said...

GAH! Your shoe collection is inspiring!

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Livinia Redlips said...

What are the pair of short boots in the front row w/buckles - sort of reddish black?

Audi said...

Livinia Redlips: They are the Cydwoq Future-W: http://www.cydwoq.com/miva/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=CYDWOQ&Product_Code=WCY-FUTURE-W&Category_Code=WCY-BOOTS

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I would like to buy all those shoes.It's Soo amazing Collection. Thanks for sharing.

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