Thrifting How-To

As you've probably figured out by now, I am a thrifter.
To me, scouring second-hand stores has become second nature. Yet people often seem completely mystified by thrifting. I get it. I can even vaguely remember a time when I found thrifting completely overwhelming. Finding cute, stylish clothes for cheap (ESPECIALLY when dressing a plus size body) is no easy task. There was a time when I was completely lost
These days, thrifting is my favorite sport. I may have converted my whole family to the cause. Allow me to prove to you how easy thrifting can be. It's economical, it's doable, and it's fun. You'll come out looking and feeling totally fab.

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. Are they priced accordingly? How’s the quality of each item? What kind of condition are they in? Worn? Torn? Stained? Defects are pretty obvious. Prices should reflect them.  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!
รจ 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. As a person with an interest in vintage clothing, I think charging unknowing college students $70 for a sweater from the 80s is mean and gross. 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, but only slightly.
2.     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.  You're probably in if there's a Goodwill, Savers, or Salvo in the area. But these thrift giants are neither everywhere nor ethically responsible, so plenty of people can't or won't get in on that. If you're stuck with smaller stores, it's a challenge. 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!

STEP TWO: Know what you're looking for. 

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 lovable 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.

3.  Take it to the thrift store! While it's true that thrift stores are not 100% up to date with the latest fashions, you'd be surprised by how current you can look off the Goodwill rack. Take a hard look at fashion history and realize that we reuse stuff over and over again. 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, us thrift store bloggers tend to be ahead of the trend. Uh, so I'm told. But funnily enough, what we're grabbing at Savers shows up on the designer rack a year later. Just look at the high waisted  shorts revolution!

STEP THREE: Let's go!
You’re ready. You're totally ready. Allow me to give you a series of in-store 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 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?
E.  Is it going to make you happy? If so, there’s nothing wrong with spending your money on it.
F.     Is it versatile? Will it mix well with other things in your wardrobe?
G.     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. Do they have a stamp card? Get a stamp card. If they have an email list, get on it. My friends and I have made it a rule to go thrifting on Fridays, AKA student discount days. It's rad.

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.


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