10 ways a cobbler can help revitalize your wardrobe


Aquatalia boots (old), similar JCF camel blazer in 00 petite, DIY leopard clutch – outfit from this blog post

I recently paid a visit to the cobbler for heel tip replacements (a simple fix), but it got me thinking of the many more interesting and lesser known services that a good cobbler can do! In addition to breathing new life into old shoes, an experienced cobbler can also help with fit and comfort, and work on leather goods and accessories beyond just footwear. Below I’ve rounded up a few useful services that either I or my friends have had done. I’d also love to hear some of your success (or not so successful) stories of work done by a cobbler!

How to find a good cobbler

Similar to tailors, it’s important to note that every cobbler’s skill set and pricing can vary greatly. Aside from checking Yelp reviews and looking at before and after pictures of a cobbler’s work online, another tip is to ask your local high end department stores or shoe retailers if there’s someone in town that they use and trust.

Also, similar to what I have suggested doing with tailors, when you visit a cobbler for the first time you can ask to see some of their handiwork at the shop waiting to be picked up. Inspecting some of the items they’ve worked on can help you get a better sense of their craftsmanship and attention to detail with glue, paint, stitching etc. I often get questions on cobblers and tailors in other major cities, so if you go to someone that you’d recommend, please lave a comment with their info and location!

useful services – footwear

1. Slim and/or shorten the calf of boots
The holy grail service for fellow ladies who can never find boots that fit. However, due to the complexity and cost, it’s a service I’d only entrust to very experienced cobblers, so definitely do your research. I have not had this done personally, but several of you have recommended it over the years. For lucky ladies living in the Toronto area, based on my online digging Leon’s Boot Alterations seems to be a reputable specialist in boot shaft narrowing, shortening and widening, and they accept some mail-in work for those located outside of Toronto. They also only charge $50 per pair of boots, which is lower than most other quotes I’ve gotten!

narrow the calf of boots
(before & after source: Leon’s Boot Alterations)

cobbler alter the calf of boots
(menu of boot adjustment services source: Cobbler + Tailor shoe repair)

2. Dye shoes (or bags) to the same or a darker color
For when you have faded shoes that need color rejuvenation, or shoes that you want to be darker (i.e. bridal shoes that you want to make more versatile). I have seen this done successfully on leather (both shoes and handbags), suede, and satin. If the shoes in question are expensive designer ones or especially precious to you, this is where inspecting a cobbler’s handiwork comes in to see how much attention to detail they give to their work.

cobbler services dye shoes darker
(before & after source: Derek’s Shoe Repair)

3. Stretch shoes or widen the calf of boots
If a shoe is too small, narrow, or if a certain part rubs an area on your foot uncomfortably, a cobbler (or the store where you purchased the shoe, like Nordstrom) can usually help stretch it out. Boot calves that are too tight can also be expanded either by stretching, or by having elastic gussets added in. For example, Leon’s Boot Alterations that was mentioned above also specializes in boot widening.I haven’t attempted this myself, but a DIY trick I’ve heard about often is filling ziplock baggies with water, placing them in your shoes and leaving them in the freezer overnight. As the water freezes and expands, it’s supposed to help to stretch out the toe area of your shoes. Just be careful to close the ziplock bag securely and don’t overfill the bag!

cobbler services stretching shoes
(image source: FootFitter)

4. Replace the tip of heels and patch up heel shaft
For your well-worn heels that are starting to click clack a little too loudly, a heel tip replacement is quick, easy, and shouldn’t cost you more than $8 to $15. Another common repair job is patching up scraped leather heels, as pictured below (this will cost a little more but shouldn’t be too bad). Living in a city of heel-eating cobblestone and brick sidewalks, I’ve had both of these repairs done several times on my heels.cobbler fixes for worn out heels

(before & after source: MyShoeHospital)

5. Add a protective rubber non-slip sole
This can be added to a well worn pair of shoes, or done preemptively before you wear a new pair of shoes. I had this done on a few of my Louboutins in red Vibram rubber, and the rubber soles are especially helpful for shoes with smooth, hard leather soles that can be very slippery on carpet otherwise.

resole louboutin heels
add a non-slip sole to heels

(before & after source: Cobbler Concierge)

6. Waterproof shoes
This is another common service offered at cobblers, and is a good idea to do before a wintry, wet season, or before you wear a pair of shoes for the first time. I usually spray my shoes myself at home and have tried two brands of waterproof spray recommended to me by high-end retailers – Apple Brand Spray and Cadillac Spray. Note that water repellant sprays are not designed to protect your shoes from being submerged under water or anything, it’s just to help repel water if you’re caught briefly in the rain. Also, most  sprays wear off with time and wear and it’s recommended to re-apply seasonally after cleaning your shoes (so you don’t “seal in” any dirt or grime).

7. Adjust or replace the straps on shoes
If the straps on your sandals or slingbacks are too long, a cobbler can shorten them so they fit just right. In some cases, they may even be able to add length to the strap if needed or completely replace the strap if it’s damaged. If you just need an additional hole punched in a strap, I’d suggest using a leather hole puncher at home!

cobbler sandal strap replacement
(before & after source: City Shoe Repair)

useful services – accessories + Belts

leather handbag restoration

(before & after source: Leather Surgeons)

8. Shorten a leather belt
Depending on how the belt is constructed, a cobbler might propose shortening it from either the buckle end or the tail end, and I’ve been quoted $15 to shorten a basic belt up to $100+ to shorten an Hermes belt. For designer belts, definitely also inspect the cobbler’s work beforehand as I have had a shoddy job (unevenly cut and finished, stitched using the wrong color) done on a designer belt. For belts that almost fit, I usually just adjust them at home using my handy aforementioned leather hole puncher and then my inexpensive diy trick to keep the long tail end from flapping around.

9. Clean, condition and restore handbags
A good cobbler can perform miracles on handbags that have wear and tear or outright damage! Though it’s important to note, any high end designer bags that need TLC should be taken to someone who is very familiar with working on that brand. I’ve heard great things about both Leather Spa and Leather Surgeons in NYC which accept mail-in jobs, and it seems like bigger cities such as LA have a plethora of options (i.e. this mom & pop shop in LA Koreatown is a hole in the wall but with good reviews for designer repairs and lower prices).

10. Replace a handbag strap or handle
Similar to sandal straps, detached or worn down leather handles on a handbag can be be repaired or completely replaced. In speaking with local cobblers, this is a more common type of job that can be done at most shops compared to a designer handbag restoration.

how to preserve leather bags
(before & after source: Purse Rehab)

louis vuitton chanel bag repair los angeles
(before & after source: Shoe Hospital)

Do you have a cobbler that you trust? Please share below to help out other ladies in your area!

Leave a Comment

40 Comments

  1. Melanie Rose wrote:

    Thank you for this blog post! As a petite lady, almost every pair of boots that I have ever tried on or bought has never fit me ‘right’. After reading your blog that something can ACTUALLY be done, I shipped my boots to Leon’s Boot Alterations (from New York) to narrow them and he did an incredible job. I feel like I can FINALLY buy any pair of boots that I want 🙂 Thank you for your help!

    Posted 9.3.20 Reply
    • Jean | Extra Petite wrote:

      Hi Melanie, that’s awesome I’m so glad you had a good experience!

      Posted 9.9.20 Reply
  2. Julie wrote:

    Jean – the first time I read this I was like how can peach cobbler change an outfit!! Now scrolling through old blog posts I read the title again, and again thought it was about dessert.

    Posted 1.22.20 Reply
  3. Samantha wrote:

    I came across your blog a couple weeks ago and I have to say it really changed my life!! Your posts are not only helpful for us petites but funny and thoughtful. Thank you so much for your content, you made me love my clothes and my body a little bit more 🙂 Happy new year to your hubby and Nori!

    Posted 1.5.20 Reply
  4. wise words! A good cobbler is a girl’s best friend.

    Posted 12.28.19 Reply
  5. Angharad wrote:

    This is an amazing post! Most of these I had never thought of, but definitely will seek out now.

    Posted 12.28.19 Reply
  6. Liz wrote:

    I love this post so much, Jean! A great cobbler is so underrated, and totally changed my wardrobe. What a great idea to compile everyone’s local recommendations here!

    I live in Richmond, VA and swear by Village Shoe Repair at Patterson/Three Chopt.

    I’ve been using Lem for about 15 years and he has repaired bags/wallets, replaced soles and heels, dyed my leather, taken in my boot calves (many times), and – of course – all the standard repairs and maintenance for me. His prices are very reasonable and he’s always honest and straightforward, and never judgmental. I took my fair share of cheap Target heels to him in college and he performed the same miracles on them as he did on my grown-up designer pairs. He’s also great about teaching me to do basic upkeep at home whenever I ask his advice.

    Posted 12.28.19 Reply
    • Elisse wrote:

      Thank you for this! I moved to Richmond this year and have had a pair of destroyed heels sitting in my closet for months because I didn’t know where to take them.

      Posted 1.2.20 Reply
  7. Amanda wrote:

    Boston recommendation — M. Gemi sent me to Colonial Shoe Repair in Downtown Boston (financial district) to fix the leather sole of my flats, reinforce the point toes, and to waterproof their leather driving shoes, and I was extremely pleased with the service. I added rubber pads to the bottom of one leather soled pair and have since taken in my Blondo boots for refurbishing since the owner was familiar with that brand as well, and got them looking brand new without destroying the waterproof aspect that makes them so worth the money.

    Posted 12.26.19 Reply
  8. Elisse wrote:

    I find some of these photos hilarious. How does one get multiple HUGE rips through their Vuitton tote bag?!
    Great post. I never even considered taking my Goyard tote to have the handles replaced so it’s just been sitting in my closet.

    Posted 12.21.19 Reply
    • Tracy wrote:

      I was wondering what that LV tote has been through. Did it suffer at the hands of an aggressive purse slasher?!

      Posted 12.24.19 Reply
  9. Leslie wrote:

    You had me at shortening or slimming a boot! I have two beautiful pairs of boots that turned out to be a bit to tall for my short legs – okay maybe it was an impulse buy – but now that I could explore shortening! Game changer….and maybe two new boots to wear again.

    Posted 12.19.19 Reply
  10. Chantelle wrote:

    Jean this was a fantastic post! Thank you for mentioning that cobbler in Toronto. I had no idea they could take in boot shafts for those of us with small legs. WHAT!? I will definitely be going Leon’s a look. Thanks again!

    Posted 12.19.19 Reply
  11. Tracy wrote:

    If you’re in the San Francisco East Bay, try Dean’s Shoe Repair shop in Concord.
    He beautifully narrowed a pair of Ecco boots too wide at the calf. Because there were three buckles going up the calf, he had to open the seam and narrow the boots from there. Cost $100 but totally worth it and you get what you pay for.
    I also got rubber soles added to my Repetto ballet flats.
    Flawless work.

    Posted 12.19.19 Reply
  12. Esther wrote:

    I can attest that Leon’s in Toronto does excellent work – the alterations are not noticeable at all. I’ve had boots shortened and taken in and he replaced the ripped lining in a purse for me. He has pretty quick turnaround times too.

    Posted 12.18.19 Reply
  13. Falguni wrote:

    I love your posts!! They are so informative and useful. I’ve invested in a few pairs of designer boots and have had the calves shortened cux I love them so much . I have such a hard time finding boots that fit me that investing in a good pAir of shoes with a trusted cobbler is worth every $. Thank you for your great advice tips and guidance for Petite ladies!! I save all your posts like this….

    Posted 12.17.19 Reply
  14. Elizabeth wrote:

    This is so helpful Jean 🙂 <3 You always have such informative posts!

    XO, Elizabeth T.

    Posted 12.17.19 Reply
  15. Eli wrote:

    It’s amazing how some changes can make a garment look like new. I do have a cobbler and it’s amazing!
    xx

    Eli

    Posted 12.17.19 Reply
  16. Tricia wrote:

    Hi Jean, Useful tips here. I have also used a cobbler to refresh worn Velcro on a pair of sport sandals that were too comfy to part with, and they made my uggs look brand new!

    Posted 12.17.19 Reply
  17. Emily wrote:

    This is so helpful! Jean, where do you go in the Boston area?

    Posted 12.17.19 Reply
    • Jean | Extra Petite wrote:

      Hi Emily – so for re-soling, heel repair, and louboutin soles I have gone to Rinaldi’s in the park square plaza at the Arlington train station on the green line. They are fine – nothing to rave about, no disappointments either. I have also gone to George’s in the South End who came highly recommended, and I think he does good work on basic shoe repair but would not recommend him for high end items because he kind of botched my belt shortening. For high end items, David’s shoe repair downtown seemed the most knowledgeable and detail oriented by far out of the cobbler I’ve spoken to in the Boston area and works with a lot of designer items, but they do charge a lot more accordingly.

      Posted 12.17.19 Reply
  18. Laura wrote:

    So good to see all the Boston area recommendations, I am very grateful! I had a much loved, and very worn pair of heels completely revitalized (Heels, soles, interior lining, toe tips all repaired) by Leather Spa in New York via their mail-in service. Was it expensive? Yes. About $350 total, but I had had the shoes for over 10 years and they are very unique, so it was worth it for me. Their service was TOP NOTCH I would definitely recommend them for any project where top quality is a priority.

    Posted 12.17.19 Reply
    • Jean | Extra Petite wrote:

      Good to hear about your Leather Spa experience, Laura! I’ve been keeping them in mind for work I need done on a designer bag. I knew they were VERY pricey so it’s good to hear that you were happy with their work.

      Posted 12.17.19 Reply
  19. Rachel K wrote:

    I’ve had a cobbler shorten and narrow the calf of tall boots and it was worth every penny!! It wasn’t cheap, I think I paid around $80 for it but I bought the boots on sale and now they fit perfectly!!

    Posted 12.17.19 Reply
    • Jean | Extra Petite wrote:

      Hi Rachel, I’ve been too chicken to have that done since the cobblers in my area are less familiar with that alteration! So glad to hear you’ve had success. Would you mind sharing what city your cobbler is located in and their name for any other readers who might be interested?

      Posted 12.17.19 Reply
  20. Renee wrote:

    It never occurred to me that boots could be narrowed. The number of times I’ve been disappointed with the width of the shaft and had to return boots is uncountable! You just changed my life!

    Posted 12.17.19 Reply
  21. Beplot wrote:

    Boston tip: My husband and I have been going to Santa Cross for cobbler services for about a year. He’s had 3 soles replaced on designer men’s work shoes and I’ve had a few boots repaired. I recommend them.

    Posted 12.17.19 Reply
  22. Janine wrote:

    Wow, this was so informative! I am now very inspired to let a cobbler dye a pair of my shoes haha! But seriously, I should try to refurbish my leather accessories way more than just purchasing new ones.
    Thanks for Sharing!
    Xx Janine

    Posted 12.17.19 Reply
  23. Mireia wrote:

    So useful!

    Mireia from TGL

    Posted 12.17.19 Reply
  24. Jade wrote:

    Have you tried out all of these businesses with your shoes and bags? 🙂

    Posted 12.17.19 Reply
    • Jean | Extra Petite wrote:

      Oh no! Definitely not, so I am not vouching for them from personal experience. I used them as image references and linked them just to credit the photos.

      Posted 12.17.19 Reply
  25. Love this post, Jean. Yes! And I agree that the workmanship varies, as it does with alterations. I learned a lot from Bedo’s videos (will paste link below) and then found that not all cobblers can do everything he does. Shoe repair was one of the things I invested in this year instead of buying new shoes. A well made pair can last quite a while with good care, and you don’t have to break them in!

    https://www.youtube.com/user/BEDO412

    Posted 12.17.19 Reply
  26. Allison wrote:

    Pelham shoes in Newton Centre is amazing! They’ve fixed zippers and replaced heels on my boots at an affordable price. They’re also accessible by public transportation on the Green line.

    Posted 12.17.19 Reply
    • Jean | Extra Petite wrote:

      Good to know, thanks Allison!

      Posted 12.17.19 Reply
  27. Nicole wrote:

    Hi Jean! Just an FYI, it looks like the link to the JCF Blazer is linking the Nordstrom Boots. Thank you for your great posts!

    Posted 12.16.19 Reply
    • Jean | Extra Petite wrote:

      Thanks for the heads up, Nicole! Just fixed : )

      Posted 12.17.19 Reply
  28. Anna FE wrote:

    I love your fashion posts but what really drew me to your blog were posts like these about altering and maintaining your clothes and accessories. I really liked your tutorials on tailoring clothes to fit you because it helped me understand what to look for when judging how clothes fit me.

    Posted 12.16.19 Reply
    • Jean | Extra Petite wrote:

      Thanks for your feedback, Anna! I only wish I had the foresight to take photos each time I visited the tailor to have work done.

      Posted 12.17.19 Reply
    • Carmen E Rosenblum wrote:

      I was so happy to see your blog explores the Petite sized woman. I am a 00 Petite on bottoms, and it is extremely difficult to find clothing this size. They don’t make garments for small women any longer. Keep up the good work

      Posted 12.17.19 Reply
      • Divya wrote:

        This is a very helpful post. I did not knoow that Cobbler can fix these many things in shoes/boots. Very useful and makes you rethink before you throw off a pair of shoes.

        Divya

        Posted 12.17.19 Reply

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