Finding shoes to go with vintage outfits

One of the most challenging aspects of making vintage dresses and suits is what shoes to wear with them. I wrote a whole post about this once.

I often keep an eye out for 1960s shoes in charity shops and on the internet but have rarely been successful with this. You need to get the right size and colour so it is very hit and miss, and I don’t really want to wear someone else’s shoes (I have bought new or nearly new though).

For ages I have suggested to everyone I know in the fashion world (I don’t know more than one or two) that a modern version of some of the classic shoe shapes would surely sell well. I have put together a couple of pictures to show the type of styles I believe would be popular.


Pattern Envelope art
1960s shoe illustrations

I am just being nostalgic for the type of shoes my Mum used to wear and that I associate with a more stylish age? Or is there something inherently elegant about these shoes? Unlike today’s monstrosities these have low heels. High enough to look feminine and elegant but perfectly nice to walk in. Foot shaped shoes in neutral colours rather than horribly uncomfortable shoes that steal the show. In the sixties the dresses, coats and jackets did the talking. These days the clothes are often bland and black; shapeless and unbecoming, so the shoe has become the centre of attention.

For me the use of a little fabric or metal decoration on the front, a squarish, or almond-shaped toe, and a low or kitten type heel make the foot and leg look longer and more elegant without much compromise on comfort.

Recently I was pleased to see some developments on the shoe front that made me happy. Both Office and Topshop have this season introduced some very retro type low heel pumps. Including in silver and gold. Made in Spain from very soft leather I tried on the silver ones and bought a pair. Worn with 1960s or 1970s outfits these shoes will go perfectly without hogging the limelight. In fact last Friday I wore mine with my Birkin flares and felt fantastic.




10 Responses

  1. patsijean

    I too have searched for decent, attractive shoes. I hate the current trends and remember the shoes of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s with a great deal of fondness. The 80’s were the last time I was able to purchase attractive flats. My pre free trade shoe size was a 6-1/2 B/C, but finding much that fits forces me into a 7. Many times I have left shoe stores in tears. I agree with you regarding manufacturers offering some retro styles. I would snap them up in an instant.

  2. Stephanie

    Kate, I actually know exactly what you mean. I do buy vintage shoes or I buy what effectively amount to a proxy (a low-heeled ballerina but with either a bow or a buckle in front) from a place called Gilardini in Florence. But what I wanted to tell you is that I have had an idea myself (for when I open up my little studio in Firenze of course) of having a line of shoes made with the vintage “angles” and selling them (the modern ones never get the heels or toe box right (intentionally, of course)). There are great little factories and artisans all over Italy who can make great shoes. There’s an American woman who has been exploiting this capacity in the centre of Florence, but with ballerina flats. She basically only sells to other Americans as she’s turned the shop into a destination spot where people can have their feet fitted and then she has 300-400 Euro ballerina flats made for them. Gianni always laughs as “no Italian would buy Eur 300 ballerina flats,” but I think she’s pretty clever. I’d do something totally different, i.e. not with the “bespoke” angle I think. I know exactly in what region I’d have them made, too.

    • fabrickated

      Thank you for such interesting feedback Stephanie. I think this is an amazing idea and I believe it would catch on. All women like to be able to walk in their shoes but they also want something pretty/elegant/fashionable. You can only go so far with brogues, loafers and trainers. Ballet flats are comfortable up to a point but there is a place for a sensible but beautiful court shoe/pump. I am not surprised that the American lady has a popular business – you don’t need many shoes if they fit and you well and look good. In the sixties, although coloured shoes and tights were the thing, most women would have worn brown, black or navy with beige or white for summer, and perhaps silver or gold for parties. They would have only had six or seven pairs and they would look after them – cleaning regularly, have them repaired, store properly etc. And in general I think there is a desire for less things but more useful and beautiful.

  3. del

    Clarks is my go-to as they’re so comfortable. But the UK get styles we across the pond never see, even in a Clarks shop! Whole different market over here, evidently. Still, there are places we can go via the internet… Happy hunting! del

    She’s having a sale ~

    sale here

    and here|sale|shoes

    for something more casual, i.e., your Birkin flares on the weekend:

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