It's worth it to spend respectable dough on leather accessories—a great bag or pair of shoes can carry an otherwise bargain outfit. But how to you protect your fashion investment and ensure that it can carry you through several seasons?
Have a (Rubber) Sole
Before you take that first step, go directly to your shoemaker. Get rubber tips and soles put on your smooth-soled new shoes to protect them from wear and tear, especially if you're a city schlepper. Rubber tips and soles, which should run you no more than $15, will not only reduce slippage, but will prevent the toes and heels of your shoes from getting scuffed up and worn down. This alone should significantly extend the life of your spankin' new leather shoes.
You Know What They Say: Waterproof, Waterproof, Waterproof
Not only your shoes, but belts, bags, and jackets, as well. Besides protecting from weather, waterproofing helps your leather items resist dirt and grime. Unless your leather product specifically states that it has already been waterproofed, assume that it hasn't. A can of waterproofing spray only costs around $10 and will cover several pairs of shoes, but you'll need a well-ventilated space to apply the spray. If you'd rather have someone else do it, a shoemaker will waterproof a pair of shoes for around the same price, though you may have to leave them overnight. Pay attention to the different types of waterproofing products on the market: They'll specifically state whether they're made for smooth leather or suede/nubuck. If you have a question about waterproofing your leather, it's best to go to a shoemaker.
If you're looking for shoes in wide widths or boots with wide shafts, you might be disappointed by the small selection and/or higher cost. If you need a shoe widened by just a size or two (for example, to go from D to EE), any competent shoemaker should be able to stretch your shoes for a nominal cost (around $10). If the shafts of your boots are too tight, ask your shoemaker to insert an elastic gusset or leather insert to widen it (usually this costs between approximately $10 and $50 dollars, depending on the material). If you're not sure whether your shoes or boots can be stretched, make sure you take them to a cobbler for a consultation before taking off the price tag!
Guarantee Your (Leather) Investment
Most women who invest in high-end bags (i.e. an investment of several hundred dollars) expect at least several seasons of use to recoup their investments. If this describes you, then it's important to pay attention to whether your bag comes with a warranty. For example, all Coach bags come with a lifetime warranty for normal wear and tear (frayed edges, broken zippers, etc.), but Gucci canvas bags are only covered for one year.
Don't Let the Years Get Your Leather Down
If your high-end bag is looking a little bedraggled after a few seasons--or if it needs a new look--bag refurbishers like Lovin' My Bags can get that annoying greasy stain out of your leather handbag strap, clean and deodorize the interior, and re-dye and/or re-gloss your investment for just a few hundred dollars. Of course, if you've only paid a small amount for your bag, get the zipper replaced at your shoemaker for $15 or simply buy a new bag, which may be cheaper than the cost of repair. New season, new style? Most shoemakers like American Heelers will re-dye and re-sole your shoes and boots for a nominal cost ($20-$60).