I've been meaning to right this post for two and a half years now. A couple of days ago I read this thought-provoking and inspirational post by Morgan from Crab & Bee in which she lamented forgetting to write about her aims to live a more sustainable life (of which sewing forms a part) in favour of almost exclusively blogging about sewing in recent times. I realised I have been doing the exact same thing.
So I want to go back to a topic that is close to many women's hearts: shoes. When I took the Wardrobe Refashion pledge (remember that?!) in about 2007 to stop buying new clothes in favour of buying second-hand, making or refashioning them instead, I kind of feared my previously entrenched retail purchasing habits would be transferred from cheap mass-produced clothing on to shoes and accessories instead. Thankfully, that didn't turn out to be the case. I think the lessons I learnt through acting out that pledge, about how I didn't need to purchase mass-produced stuff to communicate who I am to those around me actually extended to include footwear and accessories, although I didn't stop buying them entirely like I did clothing.
A few years later in 2010, enough time to be able to assess my behaviour, shopping habits and thoughts and feelings on both, I decided I wanted to extend my efforts and reduce my reliance on mass-produced products even more and declared I would not be buying any new shoes for a year until July 2011 (as documented in this post).
Well, July 2011 rolled around, no new shoes had been purchased and I realised I hadn't missed shopping for shoes at all and my existing footwear was still going strong so I continued onwards. I've kind of being doing it ever since with two notable exceptions (which I'll get to shortly). To clarify, I do allow myself second-hand shoe purchases. If I see some I like in my size in a charity shop, I'll get them (often sending them back there when they don't actually get worn!) and if I really have a craving for something particular (like my green vans), I'll hunt some second-hand ones down on eBay.
Now I know the thought of second-hand footwear creeps some people out, in a way that second-hand clothing doesn't tend to as much. I guess that's because they aren't as easily washed as a thrifted dress or skirt. But I only buy second-shoes that show very little signs of wear (our society's 'disposable' attitude to cheap mass-produced goods means it's easy to find unworn or virtually-unworn footwear out there these days) and I always put new innersoles in all my footwear so I have a 'barrier' if you like. I would never buy a pair of second-hand shoes if they had begun to take on the shape of the former owners feet! Bleurgh! I also understand that second-hand shoes aren't for some because they have awkward shaped feet, or bunions or other conditions that make buying footwear tricky at the best of times. I'm lucky (toca madera) that my feet are a fairly standard shape and size.
So not allowing yourself to buy new shoes (or other products too I guess) for a period of time is a really good way to find what you do and don't actually use and need. Over a couple of years of not adding to your collection of shoes and boots, you can really see which ones get worn down and will need replacing, and which ones (embarrassingly) just collate dust and continue to look box-fresh. With this knowledge I'm pretty sure I've figured out more or less what items of footwear I'll probably ever need. The footwear in these photos (plus a pair of skanky running trainers that I didn't want you to see and a couple of pairs of Winter boots that are I couldn't get a decent photo of) is more than I actually need. All of them were either bought pre-my 2010 'no new shoes' pledge and I've attempted to look after them well, or they have been purchased second-hand (aside from my nautical sandals pictured bottom left which I MADE MYSELF!!!). I could probably live without a few of thee pairs as well, but seeing as I am happy with their acquisition, it would be silly to get rid of them on principle.
So now I need to confess about the exceptions. I've bought two pairs of new shoes since I have been trying not to do so. The first was the black ballet pumps I got to wear at my wedding reception when my heels inevitably started to hurt (I wore my black heels for my wedding, no new shoes for me there). The second pair was the white adidas trainers I got this January a few days before going to Iceland once I realised that none of my current footwear selection had both grip and were waterproof. If I'd thought about such things in advance of both my wedding and the trip to Iceland I probably could have sourced some suitable second-hand options for both occasions. However, I had a lot on my mind before both and had to rely on shop-bought shoes instead. You may it a little mental of me, but I feel a bit guilty about those purchases.
But in general I'm really happy with my relationship to footwear in a way I wasn't before. Not buying new shoes has helped me learn the following:
- I NEVER wear heels in the daytime unless I'm at a wedding.
- Heels have to have a round toe if I have a hope in hell of keeping them on for longer than an hour.
- I hate ankle straps.
- If I find pair of UK size 7 emerald second-hand shoes, they will be MINE! Whether I 'need' them or not.
What about you? Has altering your clothes shopping impacted other areas of your retail habits? Does the thought of second-hand footwear gross you out?! Have you made a conscious decision recently to slow down or sep buying anything? How do you feel about it?