Searching for the Perfect Vintage Casual Shoes
Time to do a little rambling about shoes!
(Partly because I like to talk about them, and partly in case my adventures can help anyone else in the same boat.)
Shoes make or break a vintage costume, in my opinion. In a period movie, I always watch the shoes to see how well the costumers actually knew their stuff, and it always bothers me to see an otherwise period perfect outfit at reenactments or on a blog spoiled by a pair of wrong decade or just "vintage inspired" shoes.
After years of collecting vintage and vintage style shoes (a few of which I consider close enough for costume wear), this year I finally branched out into actual reproductions by modern shoe companies, starting with the Miss L Fire heels I scored on eBay earlier this year for a lovely low price. Since then I have tried 3 of the more well known brands - Royal Vintage, Miss L Fire, and Remix.
Some of my reproductions.
I had not paid much attention to Remix initially, but that changed when I took a good look at my wardrobe and decided that I really needed some cute but casual vintage shoes that will go with my house dresses (since I wear vintage a lot for everyday), comfortable enough to wear when chasing a toddler. When I have a toddler, of course. I mean, I always gravitate toward buying heels, and while I love them the most, it's very unlikely if I were dressed up and at an all-day event that my feet wouldn't eventually be killing me. Sometimes that's not a big deal, but when you're about to be a mother of a young child, you don't have the option to be immobile because of your fashion choices. Practicality may need to take more of a front seat.
Now, casual 1940s style shoes are much easier to find modern that are really close to costume accurate, but espadrilles (one common variety - Ralph Lauren's Caprecia and Cala models are 1940s accurate, for instance) are strictly summer wear and almost always hurt my feet, I'm not really a saddle shoe sort of person, and I have yet to find loafers that don't make my feet feel like boats. And I certainly do not want to start wearing modern flats with my vintage costumes. I needed something comfortable but period correct, as versatile as possible, and fashionable enough that I will enjoy wearing them.
Also, true vintage wedges and walking/play style shoes are generally harder to find, more expensive, and often in worse shape than vintage heels. I have some 1940s heels that are actually comfortable, but so far the vintage wedges I have owned are stiff and unwieldy and stained - photo props only.
I looked over past blog photos and my floral cotton fabric stash, deciding what color of shoes I would be most likely to pair with each item if I had a choice. I tend to be attracted toward color combos but then there are too many things they don't coordinate with. Colorful shoes have to be paired with mainly solid color outfits, and most of my house dresses are colorful to start with.
With my wardrobe refreshed in my mind, I started hunting for reproduction shoes that would be comfortable and more casual. Miss L Fire's wedges are usually as high as their heels - more casual looking but not the comfort level I was looking for. Royal Vintage doesn't have any yet, though they do have oxfords with a low heel that are quite suitable for walking and more casual wear, especially for fall and winter. I thought about getting their white oxfords, but two things held me back - I didn't like the contrasting heel, and white is a summer color, yet oxfords are laced up and warmer to wear with their full foot coverage.
Now, Remix seems to specialize in wedges, so I did some browsing there. (Like Miss L Fire, they also have some rockabilly and vintage inspired footwear so you have to be discerning.) I liked some of their canvas wedges (also the least expensive of their line) but when I thought about it, how practical would that really be? If it got dirty, could I wipe it off? What about in wet weather? Would I really want to pay that much for a fabric shoe - how would it hold up? And the main thing is that while canvas shoes are great for sportswear and house wear, most really aren't dressy enough for anything more. When you are going to spend the money on a reproduction, it needs to be something as versatile as possible! White sandals I knew would go with most of my house dresses and be dressy enough for town and church, but by the time I saved up for them, it would be fall and not really white-sandal-weather.
I found the perfect answer when I happened on Remix's eBay store, where they sell their factory seconds at a discount. There I saw this pair of casual shoes and realized they would be a great blend of what I needed. Brown and white would go with almost as many outfits as just white, yet still be suitable for wearing into autumn. They are equally accurate for 1930s and 1940s costume wear. The brown heel and sole is more practical than all white since that is where shoes get the most marks and bumps, and often a white footbed can start looking dingy after a while. Besides, the discount made them more affordable than the white ones. They were half a size smaller than I usually wear, but it's a lot easier with open-back shoes to fudge a bit on the size. They are much dressier than canvas shoes, yet totally casual enough for wearing with everyday dresses. I could dress them up or down, and the heel height is the perfect balance between comfortable and fashionable.
The description said the ivory/white leather was wrinkled and that is why they were marked down, but after looking closely at the photos I couldn't see anything wrong enough to worry about and decided to risk it.
They arrived in the cutest 1930s printed box, and I loved them instantly. The leather is butter soft, and if they are factory seconds they look great to me. All the straps are adjustable, which is nice since my right foot is a tad thicker than the left. I put them on right out of the box and wore them all day around the house, doing my vacuuming and cleaning, etc, and they were totally comfortable. No breaking in pains at all! No discomfort from the heel height or anything. I was tickled pink.
The leather was described as ivory, but it's such a light ivory that it passes for white, and actually may be more versatile as a result. I'm pretty sure I can wear them with dresses that need either white or ivory accessories. So many times ivory leather turns out fairly yellow and won't match ivory on fabric.
I may still eventually get a pair of white ones during one of their sales for dressier summer wear (and of course, there's always a wishlist of styles I don't really need at all!), but until then these will answer very well and in some cases better, for less money. I'm sure they will show up a lot on the blog from now on with most of my house dresses!
I will say that one definite plus to these as opposed to the Miss L Fire repros is that just like true vintage there is no hidden elastic under any of the buckles. The main problem with hidden elastic is not that I'm a purist - rather it's always in a place of high strain and tends to wear out first. Time will only tell if the construction and quality of these is good enough to last through a lot of wear and make them worth the money; initially I expect it will be. They feels high quality. If they prove their worth, I would say the investment will turn out to be a good one and my search had a happy ending.