Though the Fryes were beautiful to look at, they didn't look very nice on me. So I sent them back, and continued my quest for decent-looking, reasonably-priced boots that could accommodate ample calf-width. I HATE trying on boots in stores blindly, with no prior knowledge about calf-circumference. In the interest of keeping my epic-calf-related not-so-secret shame a semi-secret, I will only try on boots in person after thorough research and multiple recommendations from fashion epals. It feels so crappy to go through all the steps to prepare oneself to try on boots (finding the size, unstuffing them from their box, taking off your own shoes, etc.) only to find that you can't tug them past your ankles! My calves measure in at 15.5 inches so I needed to find boots that could fit 16 inches (for jeans, cords, etc.).
Thanks to the reviews and recommendations from contributors at http://fashionism.org/, the calf-circumference info and reviews on zappos.com, and a few specific threads on the Ladies Auxiliary, I was armed with three primary wide-calf boot contenders, this boot season:
The Frye Paige Cuff Boots (which were never quite affordable enough for me to buy, but sure are beautiful):
Shown in Dark Brown, from Zappos. With an approx. retail of $400 (eep!)
The Seychelles "At Last" boots:
Also shown in dark brown. Retailing for around $160 or something but on sale for $99 at nordstrom.com.
And the Steven by Steve Madden "Intyce" boots:
Shown in Cognac. Retailed for $199 but available at various Marshalls and TJ Maxx for $99. Or on sale at nordstrom.com for $117.
Between these three options, I was bound to find something to fit my epic calves. So I went searching in store, to try on boots. I found a pair of the Cognac Intyce boots at TJ Maxx in a size 9. I wear an 8 in boots. I bought them anyway to take them home to try with jeans tucked. I returned them. And I bought the boots in Black from nordstrom, in the proper size.
I also bought the Seychelles At Last boots in Dark Brown. The dark brown color looks almost greyish so it matches a range of things. And the calf width is ample. So between these two boots, I feel very prepared for fall and winter. They aren't the most practical snow boots. For messy wintery weather, I will continue to sport my $10 KMart boots from five years ago. But i am happy to have upgraded my collection a bit. And at the end of the day, I spent basically the same amount of money for two pairs of boots that I planned to spend on one pair of Fryes.
Other friends have recommended the wide-calf boots from Torrid.com for inexpensive wide-calf boot options. I have also heard nice things about the J Crew extended calf boots (except by their measurements, they still wouldn't fit me). If you are in my predicament, you can run a search for extended calf boots on zappos, but they haven't aggregated their data by calf measurement. So that search just generates the boots that specifically advertise themselves as wider calf. I wish they would make the search nerdier, so that it could be more useful!
I was grateful to have access to boot recommendations, fit guides, and quality reviews from my epals about boots that were just surprisingly wide in the calf, and not specifically meant to be wide-calf.