How To Shop For A Lopapeysa
Wait, a what?
An Icelandic wool sweater, that’s what!
Before I went to Iceland this summer, I did very little research. I had a good idea of what I wanted to do, and I wanted the other experiences to come to me as they chose, not as I chose. One thing I knew for sure was that I wanted to buy an Icelandic sweater. I found this difficult to research, so I set myself a budget. I would be willing to look at sweaters costing up to 300 CAD (just so I wouldn’t be heartbroken when they didn’t cost 50 CAD), but I was hoping to spend less than 150 CAD. From there, I didn’t have any other expectations.
From my experience then, here are my tips for finding the Icelandic sweater that is right for you.
Don’t buy the first one you see.
This will undoubtedly be at the airport when you first arrive, and it will be tempting to grab one when you first land. Resist the urge. You are jet lagged and probably need a snack.
Instead, opt to shop around.
I asked our couchsurfing host in Keflavik for tips on buying these sweaters, and the one thing she told me was to look around before buying. I thought she may be able to shed some light on a particular store, or make, or area to buy from, but it seemed there wasn’t some magical answer or Icelandic sweater buying destination in my future.
Try on the sweaters (!) and take mental notes.
You will quickly realise that these sweaters are everywhere, and that while the style is obviously distinct, once you start trying out a few, you will find that each sweater is quite different to the next. They come in a variation of colours and patterns and cuts. This won’t seem obvious until you start to try them on. Don’t forget to take note of how much sweaters cost at different stores, and which sweaters you liked the best. Also, don’t be afraid to admit to yourself that the style just might not suit you. My boyfriend tried on one of the sweaters, and I really regret not taking a photo. Once it was on him, I burst out laughing, and he did too when he saw himself in a mirror. Think 80’s ski lodge meets Dumb and Dumber. Just bad.
Don’t think too much.
Like a wedding dress (or so I’m told), you will know when you find the right one. The style, the price, the feeling will be just right, and you will know it in your gut. I ended up buying my sweater at this store (&Þó at #74 Laugavegur in Reykjavik), and they informed me that their stock is unique to the rest of the sweaters you can find in Iceland. They have a few people hand making the sweaters, and each one is unique, never to be reproduced. Sure enough, my sweater had a handwritten label with the maker’s signature on it. See, I knew in my gut that my sweater was special when I first tried it on. Once you get that feeling, pounce. Head to the cashier, sweater and credit card in hand.
Don’t forget to get your tax back.
This is the most practical piece of advice I can give you. When you buy your sweater, the salesperson should give you a tax free form to fill out and hand in when you get to the airport. If they do not, make sure you ask for one. I ended up saving over 40 CAD on my sweater, bringing the total expense down to about 140 CAD, nowhere near the 300 CAD I had dreaded having to consider spending.
Why I chose my sweater…
I liked that the colours were neutral and would go with most things I have. I would easily be able to throw it over anything without having to specifically come up with an outfit to wear with my Icelandic sweater. I liked the buttons (some have zippers, others have neither), so I had the option of leaving the sweater open or partway closed. I’m not a huge sweater wearer, and I feel claustrophobic when I don’t have the option of opening the garment. I liked the roomy sleeves, and I liked that the bottom of the sweater wasn’t tight. I wear dresses and skirts mostly, so this looser bottom will let me throw the sweater over a dress or skirt without creating awkward material bunching at the hips.
Also, since I moved to Waterloo last year for school, I have found that I don’t have a lot of clothing appropriate for the sloppy, wet winters they have. This extremely comfortable and cozy water repellent sweater will keep me snuggled up and warm all winter long. I am quite sure of that!