Inside Sally McGee’s Closet

Sally McGee knows a thing or two about compromise. In order to fit her size 13 feet, the Stamford, Conn., resident had to wear men’s shoes throughout high school and most of college.

“I would either buy men’s sneakers or a men’s unisex style from J.Crew,” McGee recalled. “[Back then], if you were over a size 10, you had to choose the least ugly pair, or try to find a men’s unisex shoe.”

In the early 1990s, when she discovered Shoecraft, a now-defunct catalog that offered extended sizes, she was finally able to buy the pumps she craved. By graduation, the footwear world had opened up to her, with Nordstrom stocking a selection of trendy looks in her size. And about four years ago, she uncovered even more options through Barefoot Tess, an e-tailer that caters to extended sizes. Today, Barefoot Tess has become her main footwear source, and McGee, who works in the financial sector, is able to pass on her wisdom to her 16-year-old niece, also a size 13. “She’s totally hooked up,” said McGee.

Pairs owned: “More than 100 — too many if you ask my husband.”

Brands owned: 80%20, All Black, Barefoot Tess, Bernardo, Matt Bernson, Blowfish, Corso Como, Delman, Dolce Vita, Re-Mix, Tashkent by Cheyenne and others. “I just got an amazing pair of kitten heels from Poetic Licence.”

Collecting since: “Most of my collection has been purchased over the past five or six years. Prior to that, there really wasn’t much of a selection.”

Personal style: “Casual. I try to mix basics with great accessories that still allow me to keep up with two kids.”

Most comfortable pair: “Bernardo Blizzard flats. They’re really unstructured and mold to fit your feet. As a bonus, they’re lined in shearling.”

Most uncomfortable pair: “Four-inch wedges in royal blue with a black ribbon trim by Corso Como. I bought them because they’re beautiful, but I have never worn them.”

Most expensive pair: “Amazing Tashkent by Cheyenne boots with a zipper up to the knee. They fold over to [reveal] a pink suede lining. I bought them at Barefoot Tess. Let’s just say, they were a lot of money.”

Least expensive pair: “Orange flip-flops with a big flower I got at the grocery store.”

Sexiest pair: “Amazing fuchsia peep-toe wedges.”

Favorite work styles: “My office is casual, so I typically wear ballet flats year-round, or tall boots in the winter. It’s freezing in my office in the summer, so I don’t wear my sandals too often. All Black and Delman make beautiful everyday shoes. All Black always has fun detailing such as fish scales on a flat or a two-tone wedge, and Delman is always top quality and classic style without being frumpy. I also live in my French Sole and Bernardo flats for work.”

Favorite weekend looks: “Flip-flops and sandals in the summer, and Ugg or Australia Luxe boots in winter. Matt Bernson makes amazing gladiator sandals, and you can’t go wrong with Havaianas or Reef flip-flops. I also have some fabulous sandals from Corso Como and Bernardo. I just got a pair of Bensimon sneakers that I have been wearing a lot.”

Favorite pair: “My Bernardo patent leopard ballet flats. They sound really cheesy, but they actually aren’t. They’re my go-to pair. A close second would be my Bernardo Blizzard flats. I have them in black, brown and leopard. They were the only flats I could get my swollen feet into when I was pregnant. I have even bought them as gifts. I still miss my favorite pair of silver leather Georgina Goodman ballet flats. I wore holes in my first pair, but was lucky enough to get another. I’m more careful about wearing them [now], which sounds silly, but I can’t bear to think of not having them. [I wish Goodman would] make large sizes again.”

Biggest gripe: “I wish more designers would realize their shoes can look just as good on a large foot as they do on someone with an average or small foot. For so long, the only choices available were so dowdy that my grandmother wouldn’t have worn them. If designers knew just how many women wear size 11 or larger, they’d realize they’re missing out on a huge market.”

Hardest won shoes: “I wanted to get a pair of wellies in a fun print, but couldn’t find them anywhere. I kept in touch with Karen Williamson, owner of Barefoot Tess, who said she’d find a company interested in making them. It took almost two years to get a company to manufacture them. When they finally did get made [as private label for the store], I got the first pair. The funny thing is, they sold like crazy.”

Dream shoe: “I would love to own a pair of Chie Mihara shoes — hint, hint.”

Advice to extended-size consumers: “Keep asking for stylish shoes. It’s also important to let young girls know that having a size 11-plus foot doesn’t doom you to a life of clunky, unfeminine shoes. I remember how hard it was to find shoes in high school — and even for my first job interview and wedding.”

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