I hate paying retail prices for anything, unless it’s at my local bike shop where they earn my business every time by listening, making good recommendations, and doing quick, crucial repairs. If I paid retail prices for clothes, I would have to do laundry every three days because there wouldn’t be much in my closet. My wardrobe has been built on thrift stores and end-of-season sales, and right now is a great time for both.
In the last month, I’ve found the three sweaters above at thrift stores for $6 or less each. I’ve noticed that once the weather gets colder, everything is picked over, but right now, no one is looking for wool sweaters (except me). Wool is one of nature’s best temperature regulators. It insulates even when it’s wet, and it’s so effective that active wear companies are shifting their focus from highly-engineered synthetic fabrics to non-itchy wools.
The sweaters above are either cashmere or merino wool – two of the softer varieties. They’re also fairly light weight and will be great top layers for fall biking and excellent mid-layers for winter, when I will sandwich these sweaters between a sweat wicking t-shirt and my lightly-lined, windproof softshell jacket. We’ve already had some days in Minnesota that feel like fall, and I’m looking forward to wearing these colorful knits once the mercury dips a bit lower.
Besides sweaters, I’m scouting thrift stores for silk blouses. Silk is another natural fiber that’s an excellent temperature-regulator, and lots of my biking friends swear by it for all seasons. I haven’t had as much luck finding good fits in this area, but maybe you will.
I used to pass over anything at a thrift store that had a “dry-clean only” tag on it, but with both silk and wool I just hand wash now, and lay flat to dry. It is infinitely more cost-effective, and since I’ve got $5 and not $85 invested in the piece, on the rare chance they really mean it, I’m not that sad. Results have been good so far, but I’d love to hear feedback from people with more experience in hand washing “dry clean only” clothing.
I’ve also been taking advantage of end-of-season sales from places like REI or, for the local crowd, Midwest Mountaineering (hint – both will have Labor Day Sales). I got a pair of lightweight, merino wool Icebreaker long underwear at Midwest Mountaineering two weeks ago on deep discount, and they are going to make my long winter rides so much nicer.
Summer clearance items aren’t necessarily a bad idea, if they’ll work well as base layers for cooler times. Would a sweat wicking tank top or t-shirt in your favorite color look good under a wool blazer or sweater? Skirts and dresses span the seasons, too – just add leggings/tights and a cardigan.
The local bike shops also have some sales racks – rain jackets, shorts, etc. Deals are everywhere! Bring on the changing leaves and 40 degree commutes!