Spring finally seems to be coming here in Eclectic Lady Land, and thank goodness. It's been a very long and cold few months, and your gracious hostess has been encased in corduroy trousers for far too long; my favourite winter look of long skirts and knee length boots being prohibitively cold when one factors in an hour's commute to the office on a drafty train. This week I've decided to take a deep breath and chance my skirts once more.
For a Lady whose legs are somewhat wider than the cocktail-stick proportions that the average shoe manufacturer seems to use as a template when designing boots, I have only one word. Duo.
The boots made by Duo of Bath are quite simply the most comfortable and best-fitting footwear I've ever had. If, like the majority of women if surveys are anything to go, by you find it hard to fit into the average knee-length boots you are almost guaranteed to find a pair here that suits you.
The flagship Bath store's elegant surroundings and wonderful customer service are a plus, especially when compared to larger chains. I'm always baffled at the inability of certain well known high street shoe store in my city (which may or may not rhyme with Flarks) to be able to produce a size eight shoe from their back room. It seems no matter which design I want, they've run out. Someone ought to have a word with Flarks' management of stock control and send them on a visit to Duo because only once in the last five years have I not been able to try on the size I want. Given that Duo stocks a huge range of boots and shoes in up to 50 cm calf width, that's a stockroom of proportions that I and my humble maths GCSE is unable to comprehend.
When it comes to melting into a lustful swoon over shoes with spindly heels and peep toes and 1950s polka dots I'm as impressionable as the next girl, but when it comes to boots I'm all business. Give me a classic, sharply tailored riding boot style that will look sharp under a long skirt every time.
The first pair of boots I bought from Duo were Ravenna described as a classic riding boot style with an easy fit and rounded toe. They lasted me six whole years with re-soling mid way through. Soft and comfortable with a soft fabric lining, they're the type of boots that you could walk a mile in through snow and rain - and I frequently did. They went with anything and everything from cord trousers to silk skirts. My only complaint would be that this particular style is almost too forgiving; the leather is incredibly soft and after a season or two of wear the leg stretches and begins to sag at the ankle. I more than got my money's worth out of them so consider this is only the wistfully, nostalgic regret over the behaviour of a long-gone lover rather than a genuine complaint.
After Ravenna came the purchase of a heavier boot in stiff brown nubuck, with a higher heel and a detachable ankle strap fastened with a decorative brass buckle. Sadly it's no longer available, but the closest style now on sale is Brindisi. More casual than Ravenna and with more attitude. They lasted just as long as the softer pair, but I found the stiffness of the sole and its general heft led to it being not as comfortable as my first and beloved soft black Ravenna.
I've recently purchased a pair of Beech boots to replace my dearly departed Ravenna. They wonderful. A little tighter, a little narrower at the foot and ankle and a little sharper and more streamlined in shape, they're going to be my most frequently-worn footwear through the transition season of winter and spring.
Ravenna represents the lowest price band of the shop but at £135 it is certainly not economical. That said, it's not a great deal more expensive than Flarks, whose prices seem to have inflated astonishingly in the last two years without any corresponding improvement in longevity or quality.
That £135 represents the low end of Duo's prices; for anything more elaborate such as the brogue-style and faintly-steampunk, pleasingly military look of Ashburn or the delicious mock-croc of Amora you'll pay up to £250.