Except for those few (ahem) unusual individuals, most of us just want to scream when ads for fall and winter clothes start popping up in early August. Note to retailers: most normal people are still relishing their last fleeting days of warmth, relaxation, and vacation! Give us a break!
But still, there is an upside to this madness. Retailers need to move as much summer merchandise as possible to make rack space for new items. So, you’re going to see a lot of great things on sale.
What to Buy
There are some obvious things to buy at the end of summer. Figuring that many of us spend holidays in the sunshine, near a pool, a lake, or by the sea, swimsuits often are some of the first things that go on sale.
Since they rarely tend to be super trendy, you’re not likely to make a huge mistake by buying one on sale. (I’ve been looking for a simple maillot swimsuit for a couple of years now. If you find a good one, let me know.)
Lighter weight pants and tops in linen are always a great sale find in August. You’ll usually find them one-third to one-half off the original price. Gently flared or wide-leg styles are almost universally flattering and simply do not go out of style.
The same is true for button down linen blouses. If your upper arms are not your best feature, look for those with ¾ or long-sleeves. I buy long-sleeved linen blouses for the summer and turn up the cuffs to make them ¾-length. It’s a nice way to be able to feature playful summer bracelets.
Besides being cool in hot weather, those pretty ankle-skimming summer dresses that you see on fashionable women lounging by the pool, or shopping in town, are both flattering and very feminine. Those are also about 30-50% off in August. But they require the right footwear. The floatier the dress, the airier should be the shoe. So, sandals or espadrilles are another great sale option now. Nothing spoils the look of a nice dress than the wrong shoes.
Then there are hats. Straw ones will only work in the summer, so that’s what you will find on sale now. Often, they are more about fashion than protection. But they do offer some shielding and they add a nice touch to complete a summer outfit. Even though not completely protective, they tend to keep the top of your head cooler. Canvas hats specifically made for sun protection from textiles like “Sunbrella” are not as likely to go on sale.
Sunglasses are a must nearly year-round especially as we age. We need those that filter out 99-100% of UVA and UVB light. Except for discount stores like Nordstrom Rack, you aren’t likely to find the better ones on sale. If you, do you can take them to an optometrist and have the protection level checked in about 30 seconds. Just make sure they are returnable.
How to Shop End of Season Sales
The downside in any sale is that a lot of things that are on sale are discounted for a good reason: nobody wants them. Of course, that’s not always the case. A lot of great pieces have been sharply discounted this past year simply because we didn’t have anywhere or any occasion to wear them.
So, retailers were forced to drop the price on perfectly fine merchandise. But whatever we find on sale now likely will be still very much in fashion next year and the year after. Even trendy items tend to stay fashionable for about three years.
Understanding your body, style, and coloring are always things to take into consideration when looking at sale items. If you find something on sale that checks all the boxes for your personal style, it will most likely be a forever piece in your wardrobe.
So, the first thing to do is to exercise a little discipline. By that I mean consider what you really DO need and could use. It’s even beneficial to make a mental list of those items, so that when that poufy sleeved, oversized fuchsia blouse keeps showing up in ads on your laptop, you can check it against your “list.”
Where to Look
The best and most reliable place to start is by searching through the online websites and stores where you have already had success shopping in the past. The major thing that keeps a fashion house or retailer in business is consistency in sizing. Yes, I know from one retailer to the next, the sizing can be all over the map. (NYDJ, for example, designates sizes that are one size, at least, lower than average. It’s a marketing ploy.) But the sizing on clothing from your favorite retailers will stay consistent.
Sale pages on websites can be overwhelming, though. So use their “filter,” if they have one. That gives you the possibility of narrowing down your search by color, type of item (dress, tops, shoes, etc.) and very importantly, by amount. You probably don’t want to have to look through 1000 things that range in price from $25-$3000.
Then there is the fact that our search histories are shared widely through the internet. If you look for something on Google, similar items will likely appear in your Facebook feed, in your email home page, or in email!
The more specific you can be in your search, the closer you will get to finding what you want. So, for example, when I look for a swimsuit on a website or in a search, I include all the absolute requirements: “maillot, solid color, high back, modest leg” (that last one is to exclude the leg openings that come up nearly to the waist and barely cover the derriere).
When to Shop for Sale Items
The longer something stays on sale, the more likely it is to be reduced further and then even further still. The risk of waiting for that last price reduction is that your size and preferred color may not be available by the time you are ready to pull out your credit card. So you may lose out on something you have really wanted. This is something I always remind my clients when looking at a full-priced item they love as well.
All that being said, weigh how much you really want or need the item against the sale price. If it’s a “take-it-or-leave-it” then, sure, hold out for the lowest price. Also, check carefully about the return policy. For smaller, less expensive things, return shipping may end up costing you a good portion of the cost of the item itself. Then there is the “final sale” trap. Unless you have worn a very similar item from the same manufacturer, this could be an expensive mistake.
And of course, if you are good at thrifting, a lot of resale shops will be marking down much of their merchandise toward the end of the summer for the same reason that major retailers do. So you can get some terrific bargains there as well.
It just requires putting in some time, or simply loving the thrill of the hunt. You will also likely find brand new things there that someone purchased on a final sale, but it ended up a bad fit for them. Some thrift stores have certain days a week when everything goes on sale. And even better, many of them offer senior discounts seven days a week!
Whether you find something very special at an upscale boutique or a treasured resale shop, this alone might just make the delight of summer linger a little longer.
Do you shop at end-of-season sales? What have you just bought on sale? What was your best sale shopping purchase?