Going to thrift stores and finding a great outfit for a low price is like hitting the jackpot. You love that adrenaline rush, plus you always appreciate how unique your wardrobe is compared to everyone else’s. Yet as a plus-size woman, you worry that thrifting will leave you empty-handed every time. How do you successfully thrift beyond straight sizes?
Here are the best tips for plus-size thrifting:
- Scope out thrift stores with plus sizes
- Know your measurements
- Try on everything (we mean everything)
- Wear the right undergarments for trying on clothes
- Start with the plus section (if there is one)
- Venture into the men’s section
- Ask the employees what they know
- It’s okay to leave clothes unzippered or unbuttoned
- Understand that it won’t always be your day
In today’s guide, we’ll elaborate on the 9 tips above so you can snag some great plus-size thrifty finds! You won’t want to miss it.
Table of Contents
Yes, You Can Thrift as a Plus-Size Woman! Here’s How
Scope out Thrift Stores with Plus Sizes
When you go thrifting at predominantly straight-size stores, you’re going to have your work cut out for you. For some women, this may be the only choice they have, especially if there aren’t a lot of thrift stores in the neighborhood.
Our suggestion? Do an Internet search for your city or town as well as the adjoining city or town (or two) and see what pops up. You never know, there could have been a plus-size thrift store under your nose this entire time. Even if that’s not the case, the straight-size stores that showed up in your search might have plus-size sections, something that you might not have known before.
If your online search doesn’t make it clear whether the thrift store has plus sizes, you can always call, look at Facebook, or even visit the store and take a look for yourself. Just make sure you cross that store off the list going forward if it doesn’t have what you need. It’s going to be disappointing to find piece after piece that you love only to realize that you won’t fit in it.
Know Your Measurements
Speaking of fitting into clothes, if there’s one lesson that we’ve hoped to impart to you through this blog, it’s to never trust clothing labels. Sizing is at a retailer’s discretion and thus varies wildly from brand to brand. When at a thrift store, you sometimes come across specialty brands or long since defunct brands that can have some pretty funky sizing.
Before you start your plus-size thrifting journey, please do yourself a favor and measure yourself from head to toe. You need accurate measurements of your bust size, hips, and waist. If you can’t do these measurements yourself (and many women can’t, so it’s okay!), then ask a friend or family member to help you out. If it’s a girlfriend who’s assisting, then you can measure her in return so you can both shop and buy clothes that actually fit.
When you get to the store, don’t be surprised if sizing is the last categorization the staff used to organize their stock. Most thrift stores will sort the incoming garments by criteria such as product type or color, then size. Sometimes, all three criteria are used. Knowing this can keep you from getting flustered the moment you enter the thrift store.
Try on Everything (We Mean Everything)
Due to the abovementioned vintage and specialty sizing, even if something on the rack looks like it fits you, you can’t make assumptions. This isn’t like shopping at the mall or your favorite retailer where you have a general sense of what fits you and you can eyeball it. You have to go into the dressing room and try on every last item you’re interested in.
Yes, we know you hate the thought of staring at a wall of mirrors and seeing yourself from all angles, including those angles that are not necessarily flattering. Even though thrift clothes are typically more affordable, you still don’t want to waste your money. It’s for that reason that you need to try on your haul.
What you might find is that some of the clothes you thought would fit you do indeed fit just fine. The ones you weren’t sure of might fit you after all, or they might not. That’s alright. You can see if the store has the garment in a bigger size or try to find something like it, maybe even something better.
When you’re in the dressing room standing in front of the mirror, don’t focus so much on your perceived flaws. Instead, look at the clothing on your body. Does it fit you right? A looser fit is preferable among some plus-size women, but you have to make sure the clothes aren’t too tight. If they’re creating lumps, bumps, and rolls where none were before, that’s a pretty obvious indicator that your clothes are too tight.
You should be able to breathe in what you’re wearing, and flexibility is a must as well. If you can’t bend over or sit down in the garment without it squeezing your midsection or thighs, then once again, sadly, the clothes are too small.
Wear the Right Undergarments for Trying on Clothes
Here’s a little trick that will come in handy as you try on your thrift shop clothing. Before you head out for a day of shopping, put on the undergarments that you would wear on a regular day. We’re sure we don’t have to tell you this, but wearing a sports bra versus a push-up bra will make a big difference in the way your tops and dresses fit.
Even your underwear choices can be impactful. Ill-fitting underwear can create lines and rolls that clothing can only exacerbate, so make sure you’re wearing underwear that fits you.
Now, don’t get us wrong. We’re not saying you have to strut your stuff to the thrift store in an expensive four-piece set of lingerie. Well, unless that’s what you wear daily. If your style is more of a t-shirt bra and boy shorts, then wear those. If you like thongs and a push-up bra, then put those on before you shop.
Outside of the lighting tricks in many dressing rooms, one of the reasons that women are often so shocked about how they fit in clothes once they bring them home is due to their undergarments. When you wear your everyday undergarments and go shopping, there will be no surprises when you try on the clothes in the same undergarments at home.
Start with the Plus Section (If There Is One)
If you already researched, then you should know whether the thrift store you’re visiting has plus-size clothing. That doesn’t always mean there’s a plus-size section though. If there is, then congrats! Your shopping will be a lot easier, as you’ll have a selection of clothing to stick to.
Don’t be discouraged if the plus-size section looks a little sparse. Many thrift stores pack their clothing tightly together on the rack so they can put out more supply. Once you begin going garment by garment, you should soon realize that there’s more here than what you had originally thought.
Now, what if the thrift store tells you that yes, they have plus-size clothes, but not in any particular order? Remember that many thrift stores will sort by size, but after color or product type. You’ll probably have to go through the entire store, checking label after label for something that might fit you.
This could take a while, so our advice is to make sure you’re well-hydrated and that you’re not shopping on an empty stomach. You can make poor shopping decisions because you’re in a rush to get out of there and go home to eat.
Venture into the Men’s Section
When you go thrifting, you likely gravitate towards certain styles. If you’re more of a feminine, girly type, then maybe disregard this tip. Yet for those plus-size women who are willing to try almost anything, why not go to the men’s section of the thrift store and browse around there?
Since men are naturally larger than women, the sizes of their clothes will be larger as well. You might find that you fit into a much bigger variety of clothes than you do when shopping in the women’s section at the thrift store.
The key is to incorporate menswear into your wardrobe in a way that works for your personal style. For example, maybe you take a men’s blazer and wear it with a skirt. You can also belt some men’s trousers and style them high-waisted with a cute crop top.
You have lots of ways to make your wardrobe even more one-of-a-kind through shopping for menswear. Keep an open mind as you walk through that section of the store and something incredible could come of it!
Ask the Employees What They Know
If so far, your shopping day has left you empty-handed, why not cozy up to the employees and quiz them on their knowledge of the store? They might be able to point you in the direction of a plus-size clothing section that you didn’t see. If not, they can tell you when more clothing is supposed to arrive or when that haute outfit you have your eye on will go on sale.
In the meantime, sign up for the thrift store’s email list and follow them on social media as well so you can always keep track of what’s coming in and when. After all, at thrift stores where there’s typically one of each item or maybe just a few of each, you have to get in quickly to get the good deals. You’ll feel like a fashion insider!
It’s Okay to Leave Clothes Unzippered or Unbuttoned
It’s been a long couple of hours of shopping at your favorite thrift store, but you finally found a garment that you’re absolutely in love with. It’s this pretty button-down shirt with a very vintage feel that isn’t just meant to be retro but actually is retro. The price tag isn’t so bad either.
The only problem is that the shirt doesn’t button! You tried to suck it in, but it just isn’t happening. Ugh! You’re so frustrated. You can’t believe that you’ll have to put this great shirt back on the rack and let some other lucky woman buy it.
Wait a minute! Who says you have to wear the shirt buttoned up? If it fits over the rest of you comfortably, there’s no reason not to buy it. You can just wear the shirt open with a t-shirt or a crop top underneath. The same rule applies if you find a really chic jacket when thrifting that won’t zip.
If you purposefully style these clothes and the rest of your look is put together, then no one will ever think twice about whether your shirt/jacket is left open intentionally. They certainly won’t assume that your clothes didn’t fit and that’s why you’re wearing them this way.
Understand That It Won’t Always be Your Day
Going thrifting when you wear straight sizes is a gamble. Even though some clothes might fit, they just might not be your style. Or perhaps you find something you really like but it’s too expensive. Thrifting as a plus-size woman is even more difficult, and we can’t stress this enough.
You can’t go on every shopping trip expecting to find something incredible or even expecting to find anything at all. Sometimes, it just isn’t going to happen. You have to be willing to let something go that you really like if it doesn’t fit, which we know is easier said than done. Just please don’t buy something ill-fitting so you don’t have to walk out empty-handed.
Make it a point to come back to the thrift store often, not every day, but maybe once or twice per week. If you couldn’t find anything at the store last time, the next time you come back, the stock could be a goldmine. Well, that or it could be another bust. That’s the risk of shopping at thrift stores.
While you might not love the stock a few times in a row and that’s okay, if every time you visit this thrift store you aren’t finding anything, then it might be time to choose another store to spend your time (and money) in.
Thrifting as a plus-size woman won’t be easy, but that just makes the reward of finding clothing you love that much sweeter. Make sure you’ve measured yourself recently, wear your everyday undergarments when you go shopping, and try everything on. Best of luck!