Finally! Soft Star Shoes Review

soft star shoes

I’ve been in the book writing trenches for a few months and – hurrah! – just sent back my final review of the galleys to my editor. More posts in the next few weeks including a very exciting book giveaway next week from an amazing woman (hint: she brings a lot of joy to living with less).

Okay, you’ve been telling me for years: check out Soft Star shoes. And I am happy to report it has finally happened. So so many comments about Soft Star shoes on this post about my ‘investment’ shoes that fell apart after a few months.

Sarah at Soft Star shoes contacted me about doing a review of their shoes and it was the loveliest email to receive. I get many requests for reviews or endorsements of products and 99.9% of them are not a fit. This is a blog about owning less stuff so no, I don’t think anyone wants to read about a spring yogourt flavor or a big brand cleaning product. But minimalist durable made in the USA shoes that readers have been telling me for years are awesome? That actually fits.

Soft Star Ballerine Flats

I’ve been trying out the Ballerine flat by Soft Star Shoes for two weeks and so far I’m very pleased with the shoes. The style they sent me was a black suede paisley and it’s one part classic and one part earthy. I can slip these on with a dress for a summer date and they also work to elevate my casual daily look of jeans and a t-shirt. The Soft Star Ballerines come in some sportier styles like this one that would be a great pop in a neutral capsule wardrobe.

What I Love About Soft Star Shoes

  • they feel like slippers. It was actually disconcerting at first, I felt like I was leaving the house without real shoes on, but after a day in them I was used to it. So yes, A++ for being foot friendly.
  • the heel cut is very comfortable. You can see in the photo above that the heel comes in from the sole and it hugged my heels nicely.
  • the construction is beautiful. These shoes are handmade in Oregon and the seams are all beautifully finished.
  • these shoes are great for travel. If you do like to wear heels for a night out, or clip in bike shoes for your commute, these pack easily into a bag so you can change shoes at your destination. Ideal airport and travel shoes that you can slip off and on at security.
  • Soft Star is doing good. It’s hard to find companies that are creating earth friendly and attractive and wallet friendly goods.
  • they come in my size! It’s very frustrating to get recommended North American made or fair trade or eco-friendly fashions that only come in conventional sizes (I’m 6ft tall and wear a size 11 or 12 shoe and wear a 14 tall in clothing). But Soft Star has a great range of sizes and you can even custom order your own shoes in your color and material preferences.

This is a minimalist style shoe and the sole of the Soft Star Ballerine is a Vibram Cherry sole. There is no arch support or deep cushioning. The footbed is finished in ultrasuede and has a thin layer of cushion with it. I’m already acclimated to minimalist shoes so easily walked 6 miles a day in the Ballerines right out of the box with no blisters or foot pain.

My only small nit pick about the Ballerines is that the Vibram sole has a waffle weave mold – good for traction on smooth surfaces- but I stepped on a piece of wax and it took a bit of work to get it off the sole.

Price: these shoes are $120 and while I feel like my brain is stuck in the 1980s for pricing – what? apples cost over a dollar a pound??!! – I think the price is very reasonable for the quality of the shoe. Other minimalist ballerina style shoes that aren’t nearly as well made are retailing for $200. Soft Star shoes use mostly USA made leather and use non-formaldehyde tanning methods that are better for the earth and for us. They produce all the shoes right in their factory in Oregon. You’re paying for quality and craftsmanship with Soft Star shoes – not marketing and fancy packaging.

Soft Star shoes also have a selection of children’s shoes that are adorable and great for growing young feet.

I will update this post down the road once I have put more mileage on these shoes but they feel very sturdy and built to last (unlike my other shoes). I’ve had dozens and dozens of comments and emails recommending Soft Star shoes so I am thrilled to finally be able to chime in in agreement: these are great shoes!

Disclosure: I was provided a pair of Soft Star Shoes for review but all views are my own.

Are Smart Wool Garments Worth The Price?


Are you struggling to find quality clothing that will last? Me too. I’ll be sharing a few of my finds, and yours, on the blog.

For years people have told me, on this blog and in person, that smart wool garments were a great investment. They were durable, functional and, get this, didn’t smell even after repeated wears. I was intrigued. But the price. Ouch.

My sister wore a few smart wool items as she hiked through the Swiss alps. She came back convinced that the garments were worth the expense when she had no access to laundry facilities and was hiking eight hours a day. The rumors were true: smart wool really did keep odor at bay, was cool in the heat and warm at lower temperatures. Because she could wear things a few times before washing she didn’t need to back as much. Okay, I was ready to give them a try.

Smart wool garments are expensive. Like really expensive. And this is coming from someone who is open minded about investing in things that will last and that I will get great use out of. But because I want to have less that I wear more often I decided to bite the bullet and test run some garments.

The biggest investment piece we bought was a black hooded zip up lightweight jacket for my husband. Chris received the Icebreaker Quantum Zip Hoodie for Christmas 2012. We both got a pair of socks and I got a t-shirt(like this but without the print on the front). Soon after Chris also purchased an Icebreaker t-shirt.

My Icebreaker / Smart Wool garment review three years after purchase and use.

We didn’t love all of our garments but there was one clear winner.

First, my women’s t-shirt was not a stylish cut as I had hoped. At the time I was living in the Isle of Man and ordered everything online so I wasn’t able to try things on for fit. This is on me because I didn’t inspect it in person first. The t-shirt also had an embroidered logo that I hadn’t noticed when ordering. This moves it into more hiking/workout territory for me. I’ve kept my eyes out for smart wool t-shirts with no logo, no print and a stylish cut but still haven’t found anything that really fits my needs.

All that to say, the t-shirt has been worn for workouts and all the hype is true: it’s lasted really well, doesn’t hold odor and works for different climates. Icebreaker Women’s t-shirt: B

Our Icebreaker socks didn’t fair so well. Holes in heels after one winter. Now, I wore my socks as slippers around our house in the winter so they got almost daily use. And, big catch, Icebreaker has a lifetime guarantee on their socks. But I just found out about that so those socks were not returned for new ones. Icebreaker socks: C+ with return policy

My husband had the best success with his Icebreaker Smart Wool clothing. His dark gray v-neck t-shirt is versatile and in a pinch can be worn casually to work. If I compare it to his regular cotton t-shirts the Icebreaker smart wool t-shirt has blown them away. It still looks great, the color hasn’t faded, it still holds its shape and, yeah!, does not hold odor. Icebreaker men’s t-shirt: A

But the biggest winner has been the Icebreaker Hoodie. It was/is a staple of his wardrobe for three years. It worked perfectly for our climate here in the Pacific Northwest and in the Isle of Man as a warm layer in winter and a lightweight jacket in summer. It was worn almost daily for three straight years. The only fault I can give this jacket is that the pocket design wasn’t great. We had an ahem, incident, where a passport fell out of the front pocket. I think this older model of the jacket had a pocket design that wasn’t meant to hold things, just warm hands.

This jacket was worn so much that Chris wore it out in three years of heavy use. As you can see from the photos above the sun bleached areas of the jacket into a purple shade, a small hole appeared near the elbow and the cuffs frayed. I’m going to send this to someone to upcycle into a smaller garment(s). For Christmas 2015 Chris received his second Icebreaker hoodie. Happy to report the pocket design has been changed and will securely hold a passport.

Are Smart Wool Garments Worth the Money?

Here’s a cost and use breakdown for the hoodie my husband wore almost daily for three years:

  • Bought for roughly $250 CDN.
  • Use: 3 years, around 250 days/year (probably more).
  • Cost per use: ¢33/wear
  • Convenience of having a all-weather base layer/jacket that goes with everything: priceless.

After three years with some smart wool clothing I would recommend them to anyone. If you’re someone that spends a lot of time outdoors they can be a perfect layering piece, are very durable and you can wear them multiple times without washing. Ideal for camping trips, and adventures big and small.

Still on the hunt for more clothing that will last… will keep you updated.

Any other merino wool/smart wool/Icebreaker fans out there?

A Common Wardrobe Problem: Weight Fluctuation



Here’s something I haven’t heard many people talk about: weight fluctuations are really hard on your wardrobe. Not just because you need multiple sizes but as you are growing out of things you stretch them out. Clothing gets misshapen. All that tension on the seams does damage.

My clothes are in rough shape right now.

Three babies in six years has left me with a wardrobe that is limping along. I gain everywhere when I’m pregnant and I gain early. I also like to pretend I’m not gaining weight because hey, I can squeeze into my regular jeans. I destroyed clothing by refusing to wear maternity clothing. Nice winter weight leggings? Stretched out. Good jeans? Waistband twisted and rolled over and seams clinging together.

Another factor on my diminished wardrobe: I don’t own a lot of clothing. So whatever I do have gets worn out fast.

Two years ago I was feeling happy with my modest collection of tees, cardigans and jeans but now I am back at the starting blocks. And really, a few miles away from the starting blocks as I’m struggling to shake off the last 15 lbs from this pregnancy (gah!! third baby!). Struggling and yet, dreaming and scheming of a “done with having babies” wardrobe.

Have you read The Vivienne Files? I linked to it on Facebook recently. One of my sisters tipped me off about this fantastic resource for capsule wardrobe building and packing for travel.

The Vivienne Files is written by Janice Riggs and the content… is amazing. If you have a closet full of clothes but nothing to wear, you need to start reading The Vivienne Files.

What’s different about The Vivienne Files? Capsule wardrobes are a common term and you can find information on building your own everywhere.

Janice’s system is different. She starts with a Common Wardrobe. These aren’t necessarily pieces that are old world classics – think beautiful but basic t-shirts instead of the standard white silk blouse. It’s capsule wardrobe basics with a modern twist. Think denim button down shirt and even coloured jeans. Yes, the other interesting piece to The Vivienne Files: you have to pick your colours.

This is an addictive blog! Janice’s writing about modern wardrobes and her methods, and all of her wonderful slides on wardrobe combinations, will have you sorting your closet and making 4 x 4 travel wardrobes. You start with a common wardrobe, you choose accent colours. You wait patiently and build. You let go of things that were bought in error or simply aren’t being used (you also forgive yourself for shopping mistakes!). I like that there is a focus on waiting and that if you follow Janice’s method, there is a clear picture of what you should be, and shouldn’t be buying. No temptations to purchase things that don’t fit your lifestyle, colours or wardrobe plan.

Also, Janice has Project333 help!

I did just give in and get a pair of well fitting jeans. Gretchen Rubin would label me a classic underbuyer: I put off getting things until well past when I first needed them. There is some good to it (you buy less) but also some bad: you buy the item quickly and don’t do a lot of research or look for sales. This underbuyer is excited to use some of The Vivienne Files’ worksheets to plan my post-nursing, post-babies, wardrobe.

Are you a weight fluctuator? How do you manage your wardrobe and do you find that shifting weight repeatedly is hard on your clothes? Also, do you keep clothing in different sizes? I’ve kept everything in my ‘regular adult’ weight to my post-babies weight but I long ago gave away my ‘skinny’ clothing from a brief time when I was almost 20 lbs under my usual weight.

Week One: Capsule Wardrobe Shoes & The Rest

The last post for Week One of the Clutter Cleanse! More about capsule wardrobes here, here and here.

I still make shopping mistakes. Yes, even after three years of buying and owning less I still sometimes buy something I end up regretting. The good news is it happens far, far less than it did before I radically decluttered our home.

When I look at my shoes I am happy with the styles and numbers but I have one significant regret. Color!

I wish I had gone with a bright color for my flats – patent orange or a deep red – instead of plain black. Same with my Wellingtons. Maybe even grey or a pattern for the heels.

The upside to having your basics in neutrals is that you can have more fun with your accessories and shoes. So when one of these needs replacing – as they probably will – I’ll step out of the neutral color shoe zone and choose something bright.

My modest winter/fall shoe collection:

  • Rain Boots More accurately I should call these beach boots. Though I do wear these into town they are often worn at the beach across the street from us or tramping through muddy glens (British speak for forests or parks).
  • Fashion Boots These are to the knee with a short heel and I can walk miles in them. Not waterproof but I can fit a thick wool sock underneath for warmth. They are mostly worn over jeans but I can also wear them with a dress.
  • Heels These are ‘going out’ shoes as I almost never where heels in a normal day now that I no longer work in an office. I love the cut of these shoes and that they have a very reasonable 2 3/4 inch heel. 2014 goal: have more occasions to wear these shoes.
  • Flats As I take stock of what I’m wearing a lot, or a little, I can see that these flats should really be in my stash of summer clothing. With the weather here and the fact that I do a lot of walking, I haven’t worn these since early fall.

On Hiatus: my lovely brown Frye boots are taking a winter off. The heels need to be resoled and I stopped wearing them last winter when they were too small for my end of pregnancy feet. Should I sell them or keep them? I’ll make a decision next fall.

On Notice: my suede Clarks, a sturdy not too high pair of heels that I can walk a few miles in, are on the block and will most likely be put on eBay in the next few months. These are great shoes but aren’t as versatile as my new D’Orsay style pumps that can be worn in summer and winter.

If you’ve been following along this week you’ve hopefully been inspired to work through your own wardrobe and find the pieces that you truly love and wear. I’ve also shared most of my wardrobe here so you can see how I’ve used the capsule wardrobe concept.

Most, but not all of my wardrobe.

I have a few different boxes of clothing that is either seasonal, transitional/maternity and a few things that I am testing out or that are on a break. I have an unopened birthday present that I am told is a new necklace, I’m testing out a poncho and I’m still unsure about the ‘fashion’ sweatshirt style top I have (it might just be a bit too short on me).

Then there is my beautiful wool swing coat. I wore it so much in Vancouver pre-kids but it only gets out a few times a year since moving to this often wet climate. I have a sentimental attachment to it because I bought it in Paris on my honeymoon. But is that reason enough to keep it?

Plus I haven’t touched on my formal wardrobe (aka my cocktail dress), workout wear, outerwear and underwear. Yes, I have all of those too.

The Capsule Wardrobe will always be a work in progress for me. I try and review what I have seasonally, what has been gifted to me, what I am wearing a lot or a little or not at all and why. I remind myself perfect is the enemy of done.

So while my capsule wardrobe will probably never be perfect, a few things missing and a few more waiting in the wings, my aim is to have it be flattering, functional and even a bit fun. And to always fit in my teeny tiny closet.

So did you find your uniform this week? What was the biggest challenge in culling your wardrobe? If you want more visual inspiration I have created a Capsule Wardrobes for Moms Pinterest board. I’ll be adding in areas of wardrobe we didn’t cover this week and links to more resources.

Next up: go big or go home, right? We move on to streamlining our homes tomorrow. I’ll have a few small tasks you can tackle this weekend plus more ideas on how to rethink your stuff – what you need, why you need it and where it can go to help you and help others.

Week One: Capsule Wardrobe Accessories




Due to some technical problems the RSS feed and email service for the blog has been down. Apologies! You should now be receiving regular updates.

This is the third post on building a Capsule Wardrobe for the 2014 Clutter Cleanse. You can read part one here and see my basics list here. Looking for more about capsule wardrobes from a stylist and mom? I love the e-book The No Brainer Wardrobe by Hayley Morgan ($7.99 which I have saved many times over with fewer shopping mistakes).

If my neutral basics freaked you out don’t despair. Today: accessories.

Long ago I had an obsession with Coach hand bags.

I pined over wristlets and suede hobo bags. When I caved and bought myself an overpriced  handbag (on credit of course) I did so in the name of treating myself. Handbags were bought as consolation for not making the 2004 Olympic team and as gifts to myself after breaking up with a boyfriend.

When I drastically reduced our stuff I also drastically reduced my handbag collection. The ones that got the boot first? The expensive but not practical Coach handbags. I donated them all to a second hand store that supports women in need.


Now I own just three hand bags. None of them are designer brands.

Because my basic wardrobe is full of neutrals in black, navy and grey, I can have brightly colored hand bags and still use them daily. They give a nice pop of color and, along with a few other accessories, make my wardrobe appear larger than it is.

My two daily handbags are a large red tote (vegan leather from Canadian company Matt and Nat that is still in great shape with frequent use over six years) and a medium sized mustard yellow cross body satchel with an adjustable strap. For nights out and special occasions I have a grey clutch. That’s it. If I need some extra carrying capacity I use reusable shopping bags and when I travel on long haul flights with my kids I usually wear a backpack.

I gave up on diaper bags long ago.

Jewelry seemed too fussy back in my 20s.

I was an athlete, showered three times a day and didn’t like the feel of a necklace on me or earrings in when I trained. And now that I have young kids there are limits to what I can wear. Limits and yet some days putting a pair of earrings in is the difference between feeling like I have the “just rolled out of bed” look to having a “put some care into her appearance” look.

Yes, sometimes a pair of earrings masks fuzzy hair, lack of sleep and the stain on your top you didn’t notice until you were a long way from home.

I’ve collected and been gifted a small collection of precious and costume jewelry that I will detail below. Some of it I wear daily, some it I will wear daily once I don’t have a young baby that wants to hang off of or chew on my necklace and some of it is just for nights out.

Again, this is just what works for me, my life and budget. When you look at your own jewelery collection start with an empty box and slowly add in your pieces that you love. If you have nice things that you never wear ask yourself what you’re saving them for. Beautiful things are meant to be seen and enjoyed.

  • diamond studs and pearl studs: these are my daily wear earrings. They take five seconds to put on yet instantly dress up whatever I am wearing – even if it’s the second day for an outfit and unbeknownst to me there is a small yogurt hand print on the back of my jeans.
  • bird necklace, diamond solitaire necklace, long strand of pearls: the pearls were a recent gift and I love how they look casually as a long single strand but become more formal when they are doubled.
  • statement earrings and two statement necklaces: sparkly bold costume jewelry to dress up a casual evening outfit or compliment a cocktail dress.
  • wedding band, engagement ring and set of four stacking rings: I wear my band and engagement ring daily. The stacking rings are mixed and matched and worn a few times a week.

 I’d like to add:

  • another pair of daily earrings: something like this or this.
  • a teething necklace: perhaps one of these statement necklaces that are baby teething safe


A scarf let’s me experiment with color and, again, gives some variety and ‘flare’ to my basics.

I also need a scarf because it’s really cold and windy here most of the year. It’s a wonderful thing when function and fashion meet.

My collection of scarves is at eight right now. Again, finding unique patterns and colors for scarves expands my wardrobe while leaving my closet trim. While I would never wear a neon t-shirt (at least not in the last two decades…) I have one scarf with neon striping. So I get the fun of neon without committing an every day piece like jeans or a sweater to it. Again, I can wear bold colors because my foundation layer of clothing is in neutrals.

So tell me, how is your closet declutter going? Are you happy with your basics? Are you keeping a list? Resist the urge to get it ‘perfect’ right now. Perfect is the enemy of good. I still have items that I am saving for and my wardrobe, while I’m happy with it right now, will probably always have a few spots that I am working on.

Next up: shoes, shoes, shoes. I used to have thirty pairs. Thirty and I wore just a third of them more than once a year.

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