The Psychology of Shoe Shopping

If Our Footwear Could Talk…

(Reprinted from Today’s Chicago Woman Magazine, September 2007)

Meet Jackie Walker, the self-proclaimed Doctor of Closetology. Jackie firmly believes that every morning when you go into your closet to dress yourself, you’re not looking for a new outfit, but rather, for a dose of self-esteem. Recently, Jackie moved to Chicago, and is making it her mission to show Windy City women how to find confidence in their closets!

As a little girl I was entranced by the thought of Cinderella placing her demure foot into that glass slipper insuring that Prince Charming would be hers. My love affair with shoes started with that tale! Shoes have always been the finishing touch to a polished look and now more than ever the choices are astounding.

For years our pairs for corporate wear were the simple and functional “PUMP!” We could select heel height and color but those were our only available styles. Casual shoes were “sneakers or keds” along with a few kinds of sandals. The high fashion array was sometimes “Too Too” and we were never quite sure what was appropriate.

Over the past five years there has been a focus on the shoe industry. Some of my have made shoe shopping an emotional hobby and talk about their shoes as if they’re their best friends. And why wouldn’t they? Sitting in a shoe salon the other day one of my clients commented that she was never intimidated by trying on shoes. When she has to “size up” in her clothing she gets depressed and feels as if she’s gained weight… But when she sizes up in her shoe purchases it never bothers her. “It’s just fun to try on shoes” she shared!

There’s a definite psychology behind this “shoe business,” so let’s take a new view at some of the ways we can add that all important punch piece to our image.

The first thing you must do is to figure out your fashion persona (see sidebar), then you can tackle common shoe woes.


Buy for Your Wardrobe

Cynthia called me to her closet one day last fall. She was having trouble putting her outfits together. The clothes were no problem but she couldn’t seem to get the right shoe for the look she wanted to achieve. After analyzing her choices the answer was very clear. Her clothes were one fashion persona and her shoes another. She was a very “Classic” persona and yet her “Shoe Hobby” made her splurge on very “Dramatic” styles. She couldn’t complete the look. An hour later of playing in her closet we had put together the right persona pieces. Off we went to the shoe boutique with a list of classic… with a punch… pairs that would work with her business attire

If you have trouble putting your wardrobe pieces together with the right shoe? My suggestion is a dress rehearsal. At the beginning of the season take one morning for yourself and start putting the pieces together with the right shoe and even your jewelry and handbag. Take a picture…polaroid or digital so you can remember your choices. You can create your very own fashion catalog…especially for you.


The Wrong Fit

Jeanne went shopping with me and went crazy over a pair of black boots. They only had a size 7 and she wears a size 8! After pushing and pulling her foot eventually went into place. She stood and limped around for a minute and said, “They are so wonderful.” I asked if they hurt and her limp was the answer. The 50% off ticket made her decision. “My feet will shrink in the winter, she sighed as she handed over her charge card. One year later those boots took a trip to the consignment store!

Comfort and style is the key. If you are of petite stature select a shoe style that is not too heavy. Thick soles and lots of leather all over the foot tends to weight you down and make you look shorter. Many of my clients cannot wear a higher heel. Today there are many styles with a shorter heel that still give you a pair of punch instead of a pair of pain!


Shopping tips

  • Never buy shoes in the morning! As the day progresses your reality size will occur. Afternoons are the best to shoe shop.
  • Make sure the persona of your clothing matches the persona of your shoes.
  • One focal point per outfit.
  • When shopping for sale shoes ask yourself if you would pay regular price for the pair! If not..Put them back on the rack.
  • Review all of your shoes before shoe shopping. You may tend to duplicate.
  • Sizing up a half-size insures comfort.
  • If you find one pair that supplies comfort and style, purchase a second pair in a needed color.

So my modern day Cinderella…If the shoe fits..Buy it!


What is your fashion persona?

The Classic will wear a pump, loafer, sling back basic, basic Keds or tennis shoe.

The Natural will wear comfortable shoes: Birkenstocks, Easy Spirit, Mephisto or clogs.

The Romantic will wear ballet flats, floral pattern shoes, any shoe that has a bow or pastel colors to match her outfits.

The Dramatic will wear designer shoes, stiletto heels, lots of adornment like jewels, the latest trends.

The Mood Dresser will wear everything… but sometimes can’t quite match the shoe to the outfit.