Quick Tips for Collecting Vintage Shoes:
- Shoes older than those from the Victorian era are hard to come by these days. Even Victorian high button shoes can be a challenge to find in antique shops today.
- Upscale designer footwear is eternally popular with both shoe collectors and those who follow the trends of numerous fashion houses. Even vintage sneakers and running shoes by famous makers are collected today.
- Many people buy vintage shoes to complete a vintage clothing ensemble from a particular era. These vintage footwear buyers often look for bargains at thrift stores and estate sales.
- New designer shoes are widely collected by fashionistas the world over. Some current styles mimic those of the past, but are rarely exact copies of older shoes.
A Look Back in Time
Way back when in my mother's antique shop, I remember taking a good hard look at a few pairs of Victorian high top shoes. Mom bought them, along with some old hats and other dry goods, from the former owner of a long forgotten general store way out in the country.
These shoes looked uncomfortable, even more uncomfortable than the pointed high-heeled pumps my Aunt Billie wore when I was a kid. The Victorian shoes were not only narrow; they came all the way up the ankle and had lots of tiny buttons that were so difficult to fasten they needed a special hook. That made me really appreciate the ease of wearing Keds at the time.
Well, I couldn't understand how people wore those shoes back then. And to tell you the truth, I still can't quite imagine it now. Nevertheless, they did wear them, along with a never-ending variety of styles marked by each decade since then until the present day.
Shoes as Collectibles
While we donât generally fumble around our closets each morning looking for collectibles, the fact is that many people do indeed collect old shoes. There are actually a number of good reasons to collect footwear, starting with functionality.
Around the country historical reenactment societies enjoy getting together for an afternoon of vintage finery. When these groups meet, the members dress true to a certain decade, right down to the accessories. This includes vintage footwear when itâs available.
Others prefer dressing in vintage clothing as more of a fashion statement. When I set up to sell at City Wide Garage Sale in Austin, I often see young people who look as if they stepped right out of a time machine. Whether it's a '30s, '40s or '50s look they're trying to achieve, they don the appropriate shoes to match their apparel of choice.
But there are other collectors who buy shoes purely for their unique style or decorative appeal. Footwear encrusted with rhinestones is always popular with fanshion-conscious collectors, for instance. And shoes with fancy buckles, ornaments or embellishments appeal to this crowd as well. Displaying these types of shoes in a boudoir can make a beautiful conversation statement.
What Collectors are Willing to Pay for Vintage Footwear
One of the most important factors in shoe collecting is style. Stylish footwear clearly representative of a particular era appeals to both collectors and those buying shoes to complete a look. Designer brands also add value to vintage shoes in many cases.
For example, a pair of peep-toe platform shoes from the 1940s, complete with ankle straps, might sell for $250 or more. A pair of Chanel flats from the â60s or â70s will usually bring at least $200 to the bargaining table. Even Nike running shoes from years past can be worth a pretty penny today.
But most of all, vintage shoe buyers want their footwear to have some life left in them. They need to be in good to excellent condition to bring such high prices. Of course, the nature of shoes being worn until theyâre pretty much worn out makes them harder to find in pristine condition when compared to other vintage accessories.
By and large, however, those who plan to wear their vintage footwear look for reasonably priced shoes. That's part of the appeal. Putting together a stylish vintage outfit can often be much less expensive than purchasing a comparable new one. And if frugal shoppers hit the right thrift stores and estate sales, they can usually achieve that goal with fun persistence that ultimately pays off.
Decorating with Vintage Footwear
Don't think you'd like wearing a strangerâs used footwear? Itâs not everyoneâs cup of tea. But thereâs good news - shoes make interesting decorative accents so donât pass up a reasonably priced pair you like just because you donât intend to wear them.
When completing the look of the vintage boudoir, having a pretty cocktail dress hanging over a door or outfitting a dress form with a colorful frock can be a nice touch. The matching shoes make the display complete.
Even those old high button shoes I remember from my momâs shop look great perched atop a chest in a bedroom decorated in high Victorian style. Decorators with a more modern view of life can find funky boots from the '60s and platform disco shoes of the '70s that make quite a statement in the right atmosphere too.
As a go-with collectible, advertisements featuring everything from wingtips to saddle oxfords taken from old magazines can make a nice addition to a bathroom wall when appropriately framed. Not to mention the conversational value of these ads, especially for young members of the family who don't remember the fashionable styles worn by their grandparents.
Other Shoe-Shaped Collectibles
If none of these ideas sounds appealing, how about a few glass or porcelain shoes to liven up your home. Back in Victorian times, these items were called "whimsies" because they served no useful purpose. You can still find a few older shoe-shaped whimsies here and there in antique shops.
If amassing more dust-catchers doesnât appeal to you, items shaped like shoes have taken the form of most everything you can imagine from brooches to telephones over the years. Some were bigger than the real thing, including incredible chairs shaped like bombshell high heels in leopard print fabric. Others were fashioned in miniature including salesmenâs samples carried from shop to shop long ago. All were produced in a variety of materials, including plastics.