My relationship with Fluevog shoes got off to a bumpy start. I first learned about Fluevog from Rania’s blog at FashFaith.com highlighting some delightfully unique “Victorian style” shoes (check out her post here for some drool worthy shoes from a variety of sources). While quite enamored of many of the shoes shown, I immediately fell in love with the “Fluevog’s Daydream Spring booties” from her post. She lamented that unfortunately there were no Fluevog outlets local to her. I checked out the company and discovered, to my delight, that I DID have local options.
Not only that, but their site had so many unique shoes, not just in Victorian styles. Now, I’m not generally a huge “shoe” person. I don’t have a ton of shoes, and the ones I do have are not of the “court shoe” variety (this is what we called high heels when I was a kid). One of the reasons for that is I have enormous feet. You may have heard that Bigfoot inhabits the Pacific Northwest? Well, it’s true. At least I didn’t inherit the super-hairiness gene.
The upshot of this is most of the time when I see cute shoes for sale, they’re not in my size. Even in the event that the store happens to carry the equivalent size, they usually don’t fit, because once you scale up women’s shoes to the max they’re sort of a peculiar shape, like skis. Since my feet are proportionately large, not just long and thin, they usually still don’t fit, or are very uncomfortable (or look bizarre at that size since the style is no longer proportionate).
On the other hand, I fit men’s shoes pretty well. People will claim that women’s and men’s shoes are “equivalent” if you just go up two sizes on the women’s size, but sadly, this is not the case. The women’s shoes are usually cut very narrow. It’s as if someone thinks our toes are really a different, pointed, shape on the end, almost a different breed from men. Maybe if you spend a lifetime cramming your foot into that kind of shoe they get to be that shape, I don’t know, but mine are more flipper shaped, and considering that men’s shoes fit okay, and it does not appear that men and women are different species (persuasive arguments to the contrary notwithstanding) I prefer to think that the problem lies in common women’s shoe design.
More evidence lies in this direction in the fact that European shoe styles are cut considerably wider for women that the US equivalent. I still have limited options since my feet are just generally large, but European sizes aren’t nearly as narrow. So that does give me some more options in imported shoes sometimes.
Another factor and another reason I don’t buy shoes that often is, for me, the shoes have to be comfortable. Shoes that slide your foot into a point and force you to balance on another point are just not comfortable, and I prefer to spend the day without my feet going numb and my back killing me (though that still happens sometimes for other reasons). So comfort is top. Mainstream fashion is not (I wear Crocs or similar much of the time… not the women’s ones. And many people freely comment on this apparently horrific choice, though my feet are happy). However, I do like neat looking shoes, if they fit me, so I try to keep an eye out.
Fluevog Restores Faith In Humanity
With all that said, one of the first things I noticed on the Fluevog site was that they carried a lot of extended sizes. With many shoe stores, this is limited to a few styles, so that was encouraging. Also many reviews commented on the comfort of the shoes, which are apparently quite well-known in shoe circles (who knew?). I really don’t think I’ve seen any other store that carries this variety of unique and delightful (and high quality) styles in large sizes.
Also I was blown away by the many gorgeous styles! There were certainly a ton of unique options, not just the ones I had first seen but many others which made me want to think of up all sorts of scenarios in which I might wear them.
Unfortunately, they were also REALLY expensive. Perhaps not in the world of fancy shoes, but in my world of not very fancy shoes they were pretty expensive. Most ran in the range of $400. There were also some more “normal” looking shoes that weren’t as unique, but if I want normal everyday shoes I’m gonna get something cheaper, just saying. My ordinary everyday shoes go through a lot of mud and other insults. I wanted something nice and fancy and amazing. And on sale–no way was I paying $400 for a pair of shoes.
After spending countless hours browsing the site and narrowing down different options that I liked, I decided to go to the local Fluevog and try things on. With my enormous feet, I really have to try on shoes unless I have purchased that same style before, because they fit differently. For long distance purchases, sites like Zappos.com are very handy because you can basically try on and return shoes for free until you find something that fits, and they ship overnight so there is no long distance waiting. I quite like this about Zappos and have bought several shoes through them due to lack of variety in shoe stores in my size. However, it can take multiple trials to find something even then. With a local store, I figured I could isolate my “Fluevog size” and then order online, or even find my shoe choice in the store. I of course wanted to race down to the store that very night, but considering the lateness of the hour which would curtail the amount of time I would be able to spend browsing, I decided to put it off. This seems a simple decision but it was accompanied by MUCH hemming and hawing as to whether I should just go ahead and order the last remaining pair of that style of shoes in my size from the website, or if I should go to the store and try to be sure of my size first. The decision was quite tortuous. In the end I went to the store first.
The Fluevog Store Experience
Fluevog is a full service store, meaning you don’t get to pull out random shoes yourself and try them on; you tell the attendant what you want and they bring you shoes to try on. Normally, I find this kind of annoying. Especially in some other “full service” shoe stores I’ve been in, where they do things like 1) refuse to believe what size I want to try on until they measure my foot again themselves because they can’t imagine my feet are really that large 2) insist on trying to dress me in the shoe instead of me doing it myself, even though I have no desire for them to do so (I’m looking at you, New Balance. Arrgh.).
Luckily, Fluevog did not try to do either of these things. The customer service was probably the best I’ve ever experienced in a shoe store. First of all, the salesperson helping me happily brought me shoe after shoe in my size with nary a complaint, roll of eyes, or mysterious disappearance. Another bonus point: the store actually did carry large sizes of all their styles, not just on the website, so the large-footed can easily try things on in person. This is a problem I’ve run into in many stores… they’ll HAVE shoes in my size (such as on the website, if I’ve researched it in advance), but they’re never actually in stock in the actual store. “Ordering in” my size and returning to the store days later to try on an individual pair of shoes to see if it fits (probably not) is a hassle. This was not the case with Fluevog. I must have tried on practically every style in the store! They had almost every one in my size, and they happily hauled them all in and out and made recommendations on which styles fit similarly to which other styles, to help narrow it down.
An area where the customer service really went above and beyond was with my son. He was 4 at the time of the store excursion, while shopping with Mommy is not all bad (he has lots of experience), his idea of a good time is not really sitting around watching me try on different pairs of shoes. He usually expires after a couple of shoes in other stores. At Fluevog, the salesperson who was helping me involved my son in the process and kept him busy and exciting running in and out of the storeroom with her, helping carry out new shoes to try on, and showing him how to pack up the shoes that had already been tried (and I’m sure she had to repack some of the ones he did). He was super excited, whizzing back and forth and staying active instead of flopping around like a beached squid moaning “Let’s GO.” The salesperson also enthused over his help and told him she’d be happy to offer him a sales position should he decide to look for work :).
If the shoe fits…
Unfortunately, my master plan of finding my “Fluevog size” was not to be, because with a wide variety of different styles, they all fit differently. It was plain that some shoes were made on the same floor plan so to speak, because certain similar styles didn’t fit properly in the same way (arch in the wrong place, for instance), but others fit better. The styles were definitely unique, and I would even say that I probably spanned more than one size in different styles of Fluevog. On the plus side, this probably means that Fluevog shoes in general fit a wide variety of people, unlike some brands of shoe where it either works with your foot or it doesn’t and that can be said for almost all shoes throughout the brand. On the downside, it means that if a new style comes up that’s not already in a shoe family that you know fits your foot well, you can’t count that it will fit the same way but have to try it on. And at this price, trying on is a good thing if you can do it.
Another small disappointment was that they did not have the two styles I’d been looking at most closely on the website, nor shoes that were cut the same way (I’d been prepared for this, since the styles I was eyeing were on clearance and therefore a lot cheaper, but also with few pairs left). However I’d been hoping I could get a better idea of fit by trying on the other styles. I did find some shoes that I really liked in the store, however, I decided not to buy them since they were full price, and they were also fairly high-heeled boots, which I don’t wear that often, plus I already had a similar pair). However, I was very delighted with my visit to the store and resolved to order the pair I’d first found on FashFaith anyway, post-haste. This was the “Hope Daydream” style:
Waiting and Hoping
With this step, I hit the first major bump in the Fluevog road. I placed my order (for the burgundy color, which was on clearance) and waited. My order confirmation said it might take a million years, aka 2 weeks, for my shoes to ship, so I waited in anticipation. And waited. The initial confirmation email said I was supposed to hear back with in 5 days about which store my shoes would ship from, but I did not. After 8 Days (I decided to throw in the weekend, since they probably meant working days), I emailed them to inquire about the order and ask for a tracking number, since I hadn’t heard anything more. I didn’t get a response to this email. After another week, I emailed them again, since I still hadn’t heard anything or gotten a tracking number or shipping confirmation. The original email said that they usually took about 2 weeks from the order date to arrive, and that had already passed. Considering the price, even on sale, and of course my excitement looking forward to receiving the shoes, I was getting sort of antsy.
At this point I received a forwarded email that the shoe I had ordered was sold out in that size and had only remained on the website due to an error. According to the original email data it had been sent earlier, but I’d never received it. I suppose if I had received it earlier, I wouldn’t have been as disappointed, but after all the build up and no word about the shoes, nor any communication in response to my other emails, it was a big let-down (also I think I had been planning to wear them to some upcoming event, I can’t remember what it was anymore). At first I was put out enough that I didn’t really want to try dealing with them again online, but I did have a very good experience at the store, so I decided to give it another shot and get on it right away if I did not receive a shipping notice.
One More Try…
I am happy to say I did give it another shot, in part because another style had caught my eye when I was shopping earlier that I also liked. My original choice, the “Daydream” style, had won out initially because as a practical matter I could wear it more often, however, I also quite liked another style which was a Victorian boot with a lot of buckles and a hexagonal heel. It was not quite as versatile in where I could wear it (I wear “clog” styles a lot more, and I don’t wear heels as much… plus I tend to dress fairly casually most of the time). However, it looked like a lot of fun and I didn’t really have anything to wear with nice dressy occasions. After vacillating between the burgundy and the grey (I ended up going with grey to fit more of my wardrobe), I ordered the ” Baroque: Vermeer” boots.
Here’s the color I didn’t get. I absolutely love this color, but… I don’t really wear a lot that it would “go” with so I went with grey, which is also gorgeous (also, my other aforementioned high-heeled boots are basically the same color reddish-brown, though all leather and a completely different style). Burgundy and Black are both still available on their site though.
This time there were no glitches and in fact they shipped from my local store (even though they hadn’t been there when I was there in person) so I received them super fast, and was soothed :). They also fit perfectly and felt SO comfortable.
I had hoped due to the multiple buckles on the front that the size would be easily adjusted for my feet, and it was, they are probably the most comfortable footwear with heels that I’ve ever worn. Since then I’ve worn them to the theater several times. I keep thinking they’d be great to wear to something a little steampunk too, should I have the guts to dress up for a convention sometime :). I did see some people in compatible outfits at a comics convention recently, though all I’ve managed in the “cosplay” department is to make my son an ElfQuest outfit, at his request. I don’t think these would go with an elf costume, but maybe I’ll think of something :)
Here’s the package when it was first opened. Very nicely packaged, with a storage bag for the boots, a shoehorn (unneeded for this style, but still nice), pin button, and a sticker that said “Embrace Peculiarity.” Apt.
Oh, and this one. Also apt. I think the word most universally used to describe me is “weird.” I don’t mind anymore, I’ve given up trying to be normal :P (not like it was gonna work anyway!).
When I first took the shoe out of the box, I thought, Awww… this is too small. It’s not gonna fit. It just LOOKS small compared to most of the shoes I wear.
But it fit perfectly!
Made my feet look less gigantic too. (No, I don’t normally wear them with this kind of pants, it’s just handy for the photo so you can see the tops).
Detail of the embossed suede.
Even though they were heels, they felt a lot more stable than most heels I’ve worn. (I’m fairly clumsy…). The added stability might have been due to the flared shape of the heel, but whatever the case, they are certainly easy to walk in. I forgot to take a picture of the sole, but it’s not slippery either.
With a skirt (which is what I would normally wear with these boots).
If you want to check out some Fluevogs for yourself, you can sign up for email notifications on their site to find out when the sales are :) (they also have clearance options, and even a link on their site to people who want to resell their used Fluevogs!). Their Facebook page also has promotions. In fact, they have a sale going on right now, so what are you waiting for? :)