body positive thrift store fashion

A Funky Fat Chick’s Guide to Fabulous Thrifting

I am a thrifter.

Very, very often I get questions about my thrifting processes. “Where do you find stuff in your size?” “How do you find such good stuff? When I go, it’s all old lady clothes.” “Isn’t it, like, dirty?” Et cetera, et cetera, and another et cetera for good measure. Maybe it’s because I’ve been a hardcore thrifter since I was 14. Maybe it’s because I’m the biggest cheapskate you’ll ever meet. Whatever the reason, I seem to have a knack at thrifty shopping that others lack. It’s not fair to hoard my knowledge, not when a second-hand lifestyle can transform you from someone broke and drab to a fabulous fashionista with plenty of extra money to spend on, like, milkshakes. You deserve to know. It’s time for me to tell the world.

Predictably, I’m telling the world through a three-step system.

 

STEP ONE: Finding your thrift store.

This can be tricky! If you’re lucky, there are thrift stores in your area. If you’re super lucky, there are good thrift stores in your area. What constitutes a good thrift store, you ask? WELL.

1.     Has the pricing been done by a lunatic? Gather together some items and take a look. People come to thrift stores for deals. You are here to save money. Is it priced accordingly? How’s the quality of each item? What kind of condition is it in? Worn? Torn? Stained? Defects are pretty obvious. Prices should reflect them. Another thing to consider is the realistic demand for the items you’re examining. Is it in style, or is it a pair of those horrible 80s shorts that get more personal with your lady bits than any garment should? Is it too ugly for the human eye? Reasonable pricing is key. I’m not going to pretend I’m above second hand stores with outrageous prices (we all have moments of weakness), but you cannot depend on them for wardrobe staples. Be thrifty!

è And on that note, please, please, please! avoid the hipster mark up. Yucky second-hand boutiques and even some charity shops have caught onto our current breed of hipster. They’re capitalizing on hipster stupidity. They’re trying to convince you to pay $25 for a stained D.A.R.E. t-shirt. If I have to, I’ll find my old D.A.R.E. shirt and give it to you. Pretentious hipster boutiques are fine if you’re kind of a dumb hipster, but that’s not you. You’re a smart hipster. (Come on, if you’re interested in this post, it’s time to admit it.) Now if you live in an area as painfully hip as I do, this can be hard to avoid. As much as I caution you to be economical, be realistic. My current go-to location definitely has the hipster price gauge disease. Par for the course in this location. I live with it.

2.     What’s there? Maybe it’s reasonably priced. But selection is key. Selection marks the difference between a store you stick your head in if you happen to be in the neighborhood and a Thrifting Mecca worth an almost-holy pilgrimage. What you’re looking for is a wide variety of sizes, colors, and styles. It’s also important that a store keep adding new items. It’s OK if an ugly blouse hangs in the corner for six months, as long as it’s surrounded by new blouses every week. There’s nothing sadder than a thrift store you’ve cleaned all the good stuff out of.

OK, now you know what to look for. How do you find your store? Truthfully, it’s time consuming. Sometimes you can find helpful reviews online, but they’re not necessarily reliable. You just have to go and look. (Don’t worry! It’s fun!) Go to what’s near you first. For whatever reason, these shops might not be palatable. When it comes to looking beyond your immediate living space, I encourage you to turn your eyes towards the more…affluent areas surrounding you. Charity shops in those locales tend to get more and better donations. If you can travel, do it! Look around! You are not confined to the grandma sweaters at the Goodwill down the street! Which brings me to my NEXT topic…

 

STEP TWO: KNOW WHAT YOU’RE LOOKING FOR. LEARN TO SEE POTENTIAL.

Thrifting can be baffling. And if it’s your first time, the store will almost undoubtedly seem like a blown-up version of your dowdy great-aunt’s closet. Sizing can be a nightmare, especially if you’re a gorgeously fat person like myself. Don’t despair! I’m here!

1.     GET. TO KNOW. YOUR BODY. Invest in a measuring tape. Know where your waist is. Know how wide your hips are. Understand the ratio between your tummy and your chest. I want you to have your legs memorized. Your arms. Your thighs. Your neck. Your calves. (There is nothing wrong with your body. Your body is awesome. Your body deserves to be clothed in something totally and completely awesome.) Take a look at the clothes you have. What looks good? What fits you well? Why? Why do you like it? Why does it fit? Now you’ll be able to recognize those things in other garments. The more you understand what you look like and what you like to wear, the better you’ll be able to eyeball things off the rack. This’ll be a time saver later on. But really, don’t worry about it. It’s a process. It’s taken me years to get good at this. Most of all, fucking love yourself. You’re amazing. (No, really. I think you’re fucking great.) Love your body, and love looking for things that will adorn your very loveable body.

2.     Now it’s time to get to know what you like! This might be a section many of you can skip. More complicated than inches and cuts: What do you want to wear? What do you think looks good on you? Troll the internet for inspiration. Copy other people. Imagine what you would look like if you did a certain thing, and then don’t even do it. If it’s fun for you, if it’s something you can do, I encourage you to go to the mall. March into stores you intend to buy nothing from and look around. See what’s out there. See what appeals to you. If the store carries your size, try stuff on. If the store doesn’t carry your size, try it on anyway, because fuck them. You’re not obligated to buy it. This is a great way to push yourself towards stylish horizons you never dreamed of. Patterns, colors, shapes! Put it on or near your body. Your mind will start churning. Ideas will form. “Fabulous,” you’ll whisper under your breath, clutching a handful of lace or cheetah print and totally creeping out the sales girl. That’s OK. You’re gonna be fab.

àI KNOW WHAT YOU’RE THINKING! You think the stuff in thrift stores is far from current! You think what’s for sale at a conventional store can have no correlation! You’re totally right, but also absolutely wrong. Take a hard look at fashion history and realize that we reuse stuff over and over again. You can be current without being painfully on-trend. In fact, you can be on-trend without paying Anthropologie or Top Shop or Blackmilk or Whatever, They Don’t Carry Your Size Anyway: The Store prices. Besides, do you really want to look like everyone else?

 

STEP THREE: LET’S GO A-THRIFTING

You’re ready. Actually, if you’ve gotten this far, you’ve probably already begun. But now you’re more ready. Allow me to give you a series of tips:

Tip #1: Bring a friend! Bring lots of friends! This is a thrift store. There’s a lot to dig through. You’re gonna want help. You’re also really, really going to need someone to tell you if you really want to buy that skirt. There’s a surprisingly fine line between horrible and happening.

Tip #2: Try everything on. Try everything on. Try everything on. I mean it. If you like it and it looks like it will come close to fitting you, try it on. Sizes, numbers, tags? Bullshit. They’re a good guide, but that’s all they are. Don’t be ruled by numbers. I am a size 16. I’ve bought more smalls and mediums than you might expect. Just try it on.

Tip #3: Dress to kill. And by that I mean, dress sensibly. You want something you can shunt on and off quickly, and in the event of a thrift store without dressing rooms, it should be thin enough to try things on over. I suggest leggings and a t-shirt. And if you’re squeamish about the whole other-people’s-crotches thing, keep the leggings on when you’re trying on pants and wash them when you take them home. Don’t wear anything that will prevent you from trying things on, E.G., a giant bun on top of your head that prevents hat trial. (Been there.) Oh, and wear socks. You’ll thank me later.

Tip #4: Learn to think fast! You’re not always going to be successful. You’re going to stand there and deliberate over a jacket’s fabulous potential. It’s gonna be hard. But there’s a checklist here:

A.    Do you want it?

B.     Does it fit? Does it look good on you?

C.     Is it in good condition?

D.    Is it affordable for you? If it’s more than you’d like, is it worth it to you?

a.     Is it going to make you happy? If so, there’s nothing wrong with spending your money on it.

E.     Is it versatile? Will it mix well with other things in your wardrobe?

F.     Are you going to wear it?

You have to determine the answers to each of these questions. You have to weigh their importance. But as you get good, it’ll go fast.

Tip #5: Get to know the ins and outs of your thrifting location! Color sales, bag sales, and dollar bins are very common. Know about them. Ask about upcoming sales. If they have an email list, get on it. If you get really, obsessively good, you’ll want to know when they get things in and what they keep in the back,  the name of everyone who works there, and what kind of air freshener they use, but you can reserve this kind of creepiness for special cases.

Tip #6: Simple alterations are not beyond you. A too-long skirt or really unappealing shoulder pads are easily amended. Don’t be scared. I employ the rip-the-collar-off approach quite often, and I’ve never seriously ruined anything.

Tip #7: Don’t stress out too much! I know shopping can be stressful, and shopper’s regret can hurt. I know. And I know it gets more complicated if you’re fat. I’m fat. I know. Are you getting overwhelmed? You don’t have to be there. You can just go. Remember that you’re gorgeous, and a thrift store’s inability to offer you wonders is the thrift store’s fault, not yours. Clothes are never worth more than you. You’re really fucking great, and I like you lots. You’re fabulous.

 

You know what I know now. All you want is experience. Thrift, my lovelies! Thrift as though your life depends on it! I believe in you.

 

LOVE AND KISSES

Bridie

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