How to Build A Signature Shoe Wardrobe

How to Build A Signature Shoe Wardrobe
Guide Alice's Signature Shoe Wardrobe
Guide Alice’s Signature Shoe Wardrobe c. 1900-1930. Photo by Alice Manfield (1878-1962?) via State Library Victoria

I’ve been preoccupied with shoes lately, or more accurately, the adequacy of them. And what a shoe wardrobe might look like. And what it would take to look after my feet better.

How far up does looking after your feet go anyway? I know what you eat can have a big impact on fluid retention and foot size. (Too much time on my hands I know).

The situation came to a head during the summer bathroom renovation when my feet were so swollen I didn’t have any shoes I could squeeze my Ugly Sister sized feet into After crying hot bitter tears, I had to make a special trip to get some ugly but comfortable shoes I could actually wear.

After a reasonable period (a few months), I felt it was time to look at it again, and there’s still a discrepancy between my foot size and my shoes.

So I had to ask – will I lose weight off my feet as well as my bum? And my dietician said, “it depends.” Losing weight will certainly help with the foot pain caused by the pressure of your body on them, and reduce swelling, in turn reducing the volume and size of your foot. And some people find that as they lose weight them slim down all over – hands and feet as well.


The Signature Shoe Wardrobe

Determining your shoe wardrobe (or capsule if you prefer), follows the same wardrobe planning process as your clothes.


Decide how much you can spend on shoes. And be ready to spend more money on shoes that are more comfortable, and you will wear often. Don’t blow your budget on works of art you will wear once in your lifetime.

You’ve already guessed that I have special foot needs, and while I’d like to spend as little as possible, I know I’ll spend what I have to. So my shoes will be on the expensive side and I will buy less of them. Thankfully, higher quality shoes last longer – I still have a pair of shoes I bought about 1992. (I suddenly feel old – there are pop stars younger than some of my shoes).


Are they the right shoes for the life you lead?

Will you give them the care they need (e.g., regularly polishing patent leather)? Can you wear them in your climate? Are they City shoes for the City, or Country shoes for the Country? Do they suit your job or leisure activities? Is your age-related dexterity sufficient to get them on and off? Are they leather or vegan-friendly?


Style relates to the colours and silhouettes of your shoes. Are you a low, mid, or high heel wearer? Do you prefer round, pointy, or square toes? Are smooth finishes your thing, or do you prefer texture? Lots or no straps? Solid colours or patterns?

In addition, do they call to mind your personality – are they romantic, classic, dramatic and so on?


And now we get to many pairs of what style of shoes you need.

In the early twentieth century, you had one handmade pair of walking boots (probably black leather) that you wore all the time. You may have had a pair of soft slippers for when you got home, but more likely. As hemlines rose, (and people saw your boots), shoes in pretty shapes and colours came on the market and women flocked to buy them.

At which point, you needed house shoes and street shoes. Plus a flashy pair for informal events and an even flashier pair for formal events. And then shoes for work on top of your street shoes. After a while, shoes for exercise, that were just the same as your street shoes only white.

You will also have some variation for summer shoes and winter shoes.

And while I was researching, I came across a list of the 15 (!!!) essential shoes every woman needs to own. Which seems like way too many to me. But I’m not getting paid to sell them either.


So let’s look at outfits as a way to gauge exactly what our signature shoe wardrobe consists of.

Each outfit requires a pair of shoes, and if you have several versions of the same outfit, (e.g., work) you may choose to have two or more pairs to match. In the old days of leather shoes, it was best to leave them to air out for 24 hours between wears, and I still recommend this for all shoes.

My winter 2018 wardrobe plan requires outfits for exercisehouse cleaningyard work, and five interchangeable work/errand/social outfits.

That means my smallest shoe wardrobe should include:

  • 2 pairs of exercise shoes (because I try to exercise every day).
  • 2 pairs of house shoes for house cleaning, and work. I don’t generally wear shoes in the house, except slippers when it’s cooler, so this will most likely be slippers. Or sneakers.
  • 1 pair of heavy-duty work boots for yard work (it’s rarely a sequential day thing).
  • 2 pairs of light garden work shoes (e.g. picking up pet poo) one summer and one winter.
  • 2 pairs of street shoes for errands and social events, one summer and one winter.
  • There is no provision for Princess (flashy formal event) shoes in my wardrobe because I don’t attend formal events. The closest I have is red patent mid-heel Mary Janes I bought in 2009 to wear to work.

In total, nine pairs of shoes to allow seasonal variation and shoe airing.

Though, if I was a different person (or wanted to get back to my roots) I could get away with one pair each of sneakers, street shoes and house shoes.

2018 Shoe Wardrobe Review

Ok, this is embarrassing. Having reviewed my shoes, I have 22 pairs…

  • Sadly (or not) six of those don’t fit and are going into storage. Even worse, one of them is my knee-high boots and I’m pretty sure I’m going to miss them a great deal if I can’t get back into them before winter really sets in.
  • Nine pairs including my yard boots and Wellingtons fit on a good day (and can stay).
  • Leaving eight that fit:
    • 2 exercise shoes
    • 2 house shoes
    • 3 street shoes
    • 1 yard shoe

At first glance, it looks as though I can get by.

But I confess that I was not in habit of planning purchases when I bought these shoes. While I could get by, it wouldn’t necessarily be appropriately or stylishly.

  • The exercise shoes are fine, though at least one pair will need replacing in the next twelve months
  • The house shoes are also fine, but one of them needs replacing now. I’ve been shopping around for a while, but haven’t seen anything I like yet.
  • One of the street shoes is a sandal, and the other two are suede. You can waterproof suede, but one is such a flat shoe that it can’t be prevented from touching the wet ground and this makes it more of a summer shoe. The other will probably be fine, despite its daintiness, but I’ll have to wear them on a cold wet day to know for sure.
  • The yard shoe is technically a summer shoe but can be worn with socks in cooler weather.

2018 Shoe Wardrobe Plan

So that leaves me with a shopping list of:

  • 1 pair of house shoes (slippers).
  • 1 street shoe.

And because I’m heading into winter, my pressing need is winter shoes.

Now I am in the fortunate position of not needing to leave the house often, or for long periods of time, so I probably don’t need to buy any new shoes. Especially if I can wear some of those “on a good day” shoes, like the yard work, and Chelsea boots. Though for the sake of humanity, I really should buy the slippers.

But when I factor in my changing wardrobe, it’s clear that the colours and silhouettes of my shoes don’t really match the colours and silhouettes of my clothes. This needs some attention.

I do have $250 of uncommitted winter budget, but replacement shoes didn’t make it to my plan, and I think I should try to find some savings before I buy any new shoes.

But this is something to look at in the 2018 Summer Plan.

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