Feb 09

Determining the Quality of your Clothing and Accessories

Determining the quality of your clothing and accessories will have an immediate and a long term impact on your selection of clothing and accessories and on your happiness with your overall look.

quality in clothing clothes rack

Ever since the 1990s, we have seen a marked decrease in the quality of clothing as fashion trends have accelerated and the manufacturers have tried to bring the runway showings to the market much quicker. The ready-to-wear industry has looked largely to man-made fibers to make this happen as we have seen that polyester dresses are now the new norm. This coupled with the offshoring of the fashion industry  leaves us with throwaway clothes and we are lucky to achieve more than 3 to 5 wearings of any piece before we see rips, tares, and other deterioration in our clothing.

So this section is dedicated to helping you in determining the quality of the clothing and accessories that you buy. I will be revising this offering as I continue my research.

Quality in Clothing

My first offering is from Justine Leconte on how to recognize poor quality from good quality in women’s clothing. Justine is a French fashion designer so she knows all the tricks of the trade. Her videos are down to earth so you have practical takeaways from every video.

This video explains how to spot (cheap) bad quality clothing and what high quality would look like. You don’t need to be a fashion designer to learn how to recognize poor quality! I tackle the following 5 points: –

  • Good fit / Good cut
  • Colors / Dyeing
  • Prints / Appliqués / Jacquards
  • Fabrics / fiber
  • Sewing quality / Stitching / Thre

Quality in Accessories

We follow this with another Justine video on how to recognize good vs bad quality shoes and deal with the following issues

  • Materials (leather, plastic, suede, fabric)
  • Construction (upper, inside, sole, edges, heel placement, arch, lining, cushions, etc…).

You can see Justine’s shoe collection here. and more about shoes in All About Shoes in our Library section

Now on to handbags and purses. I show you how to recognize a good value handbag and what poor quality looks like (fake vs real quality). This video tackles:

  • Materials (leather, plastic, fabric, coated canvas
  • Sewing (lining, elements, stitching lines…)
  • Hardware (closure, metal elements, zipper…)
  • Edge paint, finishing, handle, straps

Your Guide To Choosing the Best Handbags is here.





Feb 06

How Shoes Can Transform Your World

Let’s face it what girl can live without lots of shoes? They can make or break an outfit and mood in milliseconds. Surely they have to be our ultimate accessory!

Shoes hold a special power over women and we need little persuasion to purchase a new pair. No matter how many shoes we have, there’s always room for more.

If you’re not convinced take this simple test:

Put on any outfit and try it with high stilettos, then a low sandal, a Doc Martin like boots, a pair of classic pumps and finally a pair or thong/flip flops. Instantly you’ll see and feel how each shoe lends its personality to the outfit and how it dresses up or down your look and if it meets your personal style. Instantly shoes have the power to change your image, demeanor and mindset. The power of shoes is quite amazing, and once realized, can become a powerful image making tool.

every type of shoe makes a different impression


However, not all shoes are created equal and for that reason it is worth knowing a little more about the intricacies of shoes.

The Price You Pay

While expensive shoes offer a higher standard of craftsmanship and design, there are times when less expensive shoes have their place:

  • When comfort is more important than style. Especially if you are going to be on your feet all day. I have no hesitation in saying that I would rather wear my $89 pair of Easy Steps than my sky-high Prada stilettos if I’m set to walk the city in on a day long fashion reconnaissance mission.
  • When the shoes are for a special event and you have no intention of wearing them again. This could be anything from a pair of specially dyed satin court shoes to an extreme style for a special outfit.
  • When you’re doing the gardening or if the weather is bad.
  • When you’re wearing something on the cutting edge of fashion, and it’s not likely to stay around very long. Interestingly fashionable foot wear only came into vogue in the early 1960s with dramatic improvements in the manufacture of ready-to-wear shoes.

Cheap is Not All Right When

  • You’re aim is a great impression e.g., interviews and important occasions.
  • You’re about to purchase a classic style i.e. black pumps or knee high boots.
  • When you intend to wear them a lot. No matter what the style, value will always come from investing in quality for those items you intend to wear the most.

cheap is not alright

Ten Basic Shoes Every Woman Should Own

  • Good quality black leather pumps shoes with a medium-high heel.
  • Good quality black patent leather pumps shoes with a medium-high heel.
  • Sneakers
  • Casual shoes e.g., loafers or ballet flats
  • Flat sandals in black, white or tan
  • Flip flops/thongs
  • Nude heeled sandals or pumps
  • Black medium to high heeled boots.
  • Tan low to medium heeled boots.
  • Dressy evening shoes

ten shoes every woman should own

They’re Gorgeous (who cares if my feet hurt?)

You will. It only takes about an hour of walking in an uncomfortable pair of shoes and your face will take on a tortuous scowl and your disposition will quickly follow. Uncomfortable shoes are not worth their cost, no matter how little you paid for them or how prestigious the designer’s name on the label.

For the sake of your health, disposition and those who have to work or live with you, buy shoes that are comfortable.

Here are a few of my favorite tips to ensure comfort:

  • Buy shoes in the afternoon when your feet have expanded somewhat through being upright and walking.
  • Know your size if buying online; like clothing sizes differ from country to county and even label to label. Have you feet measured years after you turn forty because your feel flatten with age.
  • Purchased lower heels the older you get. After fifty the pad under the front of your foot loses its depth of fat making standing in high heels more painful. TIP: You can try adding gel inserts such as ‘Party Feet’ to help.
  • Look for shoes made from soft, high-quality leather or suede as these tend to stretch to accommodate your foot shape.
  • Don’t get caught telling yourself the shoe will stretch, it may a little if it’s leather but on the whole it’s better to buy shoes that are comfortable at the time you buy them. Shoes that have top stitching around the outside of the mouth (vamp) of the shoe will never stretch in that region.
  • Stick to heels no higher than 8cms / 5inches.
  • Sturdy heels: those that have plenty of purchase with the ground i.e., stacked, classic and wedges cause much less foot strain than heels such as kitten and stilettos.
  • Pointy toed shoes are less comfortable than toes that are wider.
  • Sturdy soles: Ultra thin soles can be torture because there’s little between your feet and the street. Solid soles act as shock absorbers. TIP: You can also ask your shoe repairer to add rubber soles.
  • Go with higher cut vamps: the closer the vamp is cut to your toe cleavage the likelier they are to be uncomfortable – mid height vamps are best.
  • Shoes that encase your foot rather than allow in to just sit on the insole will ensure your foot stays in correct alignment and can prevent arch, ankle and knee pain.
  • Arch supports and at least a heel of 2cms / ¾” will also aid in the comfort of the shoe.
  • Comfort also comes from good fit and quality workmanship, so it’s wise to know the signs of good workmanship.

high heels place 7 times your body with on front of your foot

Signs of Good Workmanship

  • Back height and heel pinch. Hold the backs of the two shoes together and check that they are equal height. Then put each shoe down to make sure the sole sits flat on the floor.
  • Toe spring. The tip of toe should sit off the ground to allow for flexibility when moving forward.
  • Synthetic or leather. No quality shoe has an upper or lower in anything but leather. The material in the shoe should be clearly stated on a label or printed on the inside of the leather upper. Leather soles are always better than resin. Resin soles will make your feet hot due to greater friction on contact with the footpath. Leather inner soles provide more structural support, insulation and greatly add to the life of the shoe.
  • Top line. Look at the inside of the heel to check that the shoe’s outside rim is straight.
  • Top stitching. This should be straight and well machined.
  • Sole bonding. You should not be able to pull the insole away from the base. There should be some cushioning material under the innersole for comfort.
  • Sole stitching. A leather sole should be stitched or welted, to the upper. A channel is cut into the sole, the shoe is stitched together, and then the channel is put back to hide the stitching. You should clearly see the welt mark running all around the sole.
  • Heel attachment. Press your finger inside and around the innersole and feel for any bumps caused by the size or type of nail used.
  • Heel position. The center of the heel should be placed directly under the center of your heel as it sits in the shoe (not pictured).

checkpoints for quality craftsmanship

Teaming Comfort and Quality with Style

Selecting the right shoe for your outfit/garment means covering off a few key aspects however, keep in mind that fashion is constantly changing and pushing the boundaries, which means that you will see outfits parading the catwalks that do not follow my guidelines. In addition individuals with strong personal styles can also pull off looks that the rest of us may not be able to.

  • Unless you’ve been blessed with long lean legs, high vamp shoes and boots are best with teamed a similar coloured opaque hosiery or worn long skirts/dresses or pants.
  • The more open the shoe the better sheer hosiery will coordinate with them.

ankle boots 1

ankle boots 2

Image sources: Wardrobe Oxygen  and Girl with Curves

Flattering or Frightful

If I were to liken my legs to that of a breed of equine, it would be a Shetland pony. Because of this I have always used shoe strategies that will help give me the look of possessing longer, leaner legs.

  • Heel Height:  Medium to high heels will visually elongate your legs and beautifully shape your calf. Low heels can visually shorten and thicken legs.
    • Women with busts greater than DD are best to wear heels no higher than the mid heights as their center of gravity is different to other women and the chance of falling over is increased.  Likewise with a breast reduction comes the increased risk of a fall until their sense balance is restored.
    • With advancing age high heels become increasingly difficult to wear due to aging feet which includes the loss of fat in the pad under your toes (can be fixed with party feet gel inserts) and deteriorating joints in the foot. Wear high heels for the important events and lower heels the rest of the time.

heel heights

  • Heel Shape: This is the area that dates quickest, so do not select a fashion forward heel if you want the shoe to last for many seasons. As for what a heel can do for the leg:
    • Thick heels make heavy lower legs appear heavier and very thin legs and ankles look even thinner.
    • Very fine heels may look as if they will collapse under the weight/thickness of heavy/swollen ankles.

common heel styles

  • Soles: Soles can be thick, medium or thin and the rules are pretty much the same as for heel thickness.~ Thick soles and heavy stacked heels will make heavy lower legs and thick ankles look thicker and are best replaced with medium to thin soles and classic or lighter looking stacked heels. Women with heavy lower legs are also best to avoid stiletto heels as they result in an ungainly gait and often appear to be in imminent danger of breaking under the weight.

typrd of shoe soles

  • Toe shape: The toe shape is very important to the overall look of your legs and therefore your total appearance.
    • Very square or oblique toe shape will make most legs look shorter and heavier.
    • Round toes are associated with mature age and vintage looks. They are also the most comfortable and the least flattering, making most legs appear shorter and heavier.
    • Almond, square-round or tapered are great for every leg.
    • Point shoes are sexy and very elongating to both the foot and leg.
    • Peep toe shoes become increasingly uncomfortable the higher they are. The opening should also not be so large as to allow your toes to extend over the front of the shoe.


common shoe toes

toe hang

  • Vamps: The vamp of the shoe (aka mouth) is where you put your foot into the shoe, low vamp style are court-like styles and high vamp styles are mules, boots etc. Simply put, the more foot you see the slimmer and longer your legs will appear to be and this also goes for strappy sandals.One word of warning though – low vamps when they expose toe cleavage tend not to be comfortable after about 30 mins of wear.

shoe vamp

Ankle Straps: Any item that interrupts the visual length of the leg can make you appear shorter and your legs a little heavier.  If you are short, have heavy/chunky legs or wish to keep the attention off your legs then choose straps that are as low on the shoe as possible e.g, Mary Janes

every heel and toe combination changes your attitude, mood and image

Coordinating Shoes with Outfits

  • Garments made of heavy looking fabrics or textures are best teamed with shoes with a similar look for harmony and vice versa.
  • The proportion of the heel height in comparison to your garment hem length is also important and a good rule of thumb is (though not set-in-stone) is, the higher the hem, the lower the heel and the lower the hem, the higher the heel.
  • A patent leather shoe is youthful, will lighten the look of, and dress up an outfit.
  • Medium to high heels are seen as more formal/dressy and as such are perfect coordinates with corporate attire.

balance the style of your shoe with the outfit

Heels for Sex Appeal

Author Jena Pincott sifted through hundreds of scientific studies in order to explain what’s behind many sexy truths in her book, Do Gentlemen Really Prefer Blondes?

When it comes to high heels, Pincott says “The stuff you strut is more sensual when you’re up on your toes. …Heels force your pelvis to tilt so that both your rear end and chest stick out.” One study showed that leg lengths 5 percent longer than average are the most attractive, so for most women, a 1.5- to 3-inch heel would create the ideal leg length. “This attraction might be evolutionary, because long legs are associated with better long-term health, which would appeal to a mate,” says Pincott. “Plus, much like a peacock flaunts his feathers, which are really quite heavy and a nuisance, a woman teetering in heels can show off her fitness and coordination.”

sexy but impossible to wear for more than 60 minutes

I have Feet Issues!

I can’t wear heels, I have bad feet/bad knees/bad back…I have heard this many times over the years.  The simplist way to combat this is to keep your feet quiet.  In other words wear the shoes you need to and ensure they blend with your legs and/or hemline then, add a high placed attention grabbing feature or accessory high on your body.

feet issues

Taking Care of Wear and Tear

No matter what item you own, you need to care for it if it is to last and look as good as possible.

Shoes, especially those made of leather need to be rested and not worn every day. Cleaning, and in the case of leather, polishing, should be a regularly practised with a quality polish or cream and protected against water damage.

Another significant area of wear and tear on women’s shoes is to the back of the heel, caused by driving. For any trip more than ten minutes I suggest you wear one of your older, less important shoes and change into your good ones when you’ve arrived at your destination.

Shiny shoes have a more ‘polished’ image. The shinier a shoe the more dressy and formal it will appear. Therefore polished leather shoes are more dressy and professional looking than matt/dull leather shoes and the shine of patent leather will up the ante to a sophisticated or evening image every time.

To clean leather shoes:


Step 1: Place a small amount of a gentle, moisturizing soap on a damp cloth and bring it to a light lather.
Step 2: Rub the damp cloth on the leather without putting too much water on the leather.
Step 3: Wipe away lather with a fresh damp cloth. Don’t rinse the leather in water.
Step 4: Polish leather with a dry towel.
Step 5: Treat leather with a leather conditioner after it has dried completely.


Step 1: Use a damp cloth or sponge to rub saddle soap into the leather; work soap into a light lather.
Step 2: Wipe away lather and allow to air dry.
Step 3: Oil leather with a leather preservative such as mink oil.

unfinished leather shoes


Step 1: Spray a recently purchased or recently cleaned suede item with one of the many products that protect against water damage and other stains. As with any fabric, test a small, unseen patch first.
Step 2: Store suede items so that they can breathe. Avoid plastic bags, which prevent air circulation, and opt for a pillowcase instead to protect clothing from dust. When traveling, store shoes in cotton flannel shoe bags instead of plastic bags.
Step 3: Keep suede away from light, which will fade the color, and damp conditions, which can encourage growth of damaging mold and mildew.
Step 4: If suede clothes or shoes get wet, soak up excess moisture with a clean towel. Then allow the suede to dry naturally; do not use a heat source to speed up the process. After the item dries, restore the nap (the raised fibers typical of suede) with a suede brush.
Step 5: Use a nail file to remove dry mud and scuff marks on suede shoes. Gently file away the stain with delicate strokes. A suede brush also works to remove dirt on shoes and clothing.
Step 6: Remove oil stains on suede by rubbing talcum powder or cornmeal directly on the spot. After several hours, brush off the powder. Repeat if necessary.
Step 7: Keep in mind that major stains will probably require professional care. Take your suede item to someone who specializes in leather and suede; inexperienced dry cleaners or cobblers can cause more harm than good.


Step1: Use a shoe brush to get out any bits of dirt from between the stitching. A shoe brush has soft bristles, which makes it the perfect candidate for cleaning patent leather shoes.
Step 2: Wash your patent leather shoes in a mixture of mild soap and soft water. Use a soft cloth made of cotton to wipe down the shoe, inside and out, until it is cleaned. This will prime the shoe for future steps, but you must do this first. Allow to dry at room temperature for two days before moving to the next step.
Step 3: Use saddle soap with a soft cloth to clean your patent leather shoes inside and out. Make sure you clear off any excess saddle soap. The leather will absorb only as much as it can.
Step 4: You can also apply a leather conditioner to the shoe inside and out. This will not only finish off the cleaning process, but will soften your patent leather shoes a bit for maximum comfort.
Step 5: After cleaning and drying, you should apply a wax or polish to your patent leather shoe. This will protect the leather from future dirt, but it will also help to waterproof the leather, making for greater longevity.


Step1: Remove the laces.
Step2: Use a brush to remove any mud or dirt and don’t forget the sole.
Step3: Put a low-alkaline detergent in lukewarm water, and soak the shoes and laces overnight. Rub vigorously with a stiff brush to remove dirt.
Step 4: Get rid of excess water by placing shoes on a rack in your clothes drier. Alternatively, lace up the sneakers and dry them by hanging them out in the sun on the clothesline by their laces.

More Hints to Keep Shoes Looking Great

Water stain protector and waterproofing: Leather water proofer will prevent water from staining the leather of your shoes in addition to keeping spots off. Application is a snap — you simply spray the product and let it dry. It’s also a good, inexpensive investment, especially if you live in either a tropical area or someplace with lots of rain or snow.

Quick shine wipes: These handy little wipes (similar to the ones in a seafood restaurant, but made with shoe-cleaning stuff) won’t come anywhere close to the result you’d get with a real hand shine, but are good for quick touch-ups when you’re running to a meeting and short on time.

Leather conditioner: Try Kiwi’s Leather Cleaner and Conditioner, which uses jojoba oil and coconut oil as active ingredients, and keeps your shoes and other leather items soft and supple. Olive oil straight from the kitchen is great too.

 Terminally Ill Shoes

As much as we have all have our favourite, most comfortable shoes, there comes a time when mending is no longer going to bring the shoe back to a satisfactory appearance. Like your favourite outfits, old, worn out shoes must be allowed to die with dignity. Place them in a satin lined box and send them on to shoe heaven.

Shoes RIP

Clever Storage Ideas

Shoes thrown in the bottom of a wardrobe will soon show the neglect. There are many ways to store your shoes depending on the size and shape of your wardrobe.

If you are short on space, consider buying an under-the-bed storage box or shoe racks designed for the bottom of your wardrobe. Hall cupboards with a hanging rack are great place for canvas shoe closets, where the shoes hang from the rack in compartments. I keep some of my shoes on an old bookshelf placed in a hall closet. For shoes that you may not wear very often keep them safe in their boxes with a label stuck to the outside indicating which shoe is in the box. Sandals, thongs and athletic shoes can be stored together in a wire basket.

shoe storage closet