Thrifting While Fat

Most of my wardrobe has come from thrift stores since I was a teenager. Having shopped for both masculine and feminine clothing, I have amassed a series of tricks that I use to get in and out faster and encounter less disappointment when I’m shopping secondhand. Thrifting is always half luck and half even more luck, but when you’re looking for larger sizes it becomes a real challenge instead of a fun scavenger hunt.

The most important thing you can do for your self-esteem is to know the selection at your local stores. There’s nothing more discouraging than finding absolutely nothing in your size, or in any size close to yours. To reduce the likelihood of that outcome, I make it a priority to know which of my local thrift stores carry and shelve clothing in my size, and how they put them out. For example, Goodwills in my area have plus-sized women’s clothing in a special section, usually off in a corner by the pajamas. If you don’t know where you should be looking and you try browsing the racks for a shirt, you’re going to be disappointed regardless of how many Goodwills you shop at.

Making a beeline for the plus section means you don’t see that great top that doesn’t fit you, which helps by cutting down on negative self-talk as well. It also helps to know what stores to skip entirely — the same nearby Goodwills that have a section for plus-sized women just don’t have any plus-sized men’s clothing. If I know their jeans are going to stop at a 44 waist, then I know not to bother shopping there if I need jeans.

If you live in or near a decently sized city, it’s worth checking to see if there are any resale shops near you that specialize in plus-sizes. These will usually be consignment stores and a little more expensive than your usual thrift, but if you’re looking for something special (or professional clothes in general) it’s good to know you have a more guaranteed option.

Scope out your options in advance, so that when you need something, you know where to start. The advantage of looking ahead of time is that you can do it when you’re in a positive headspace. Wandering through fifteen thrift stores that don’t carry your size when you’re already feeling terrible about yourself is an exercise in self-hatred. If you know what your best options are going to be, whether it’s the Value Village or the consignment store downtown, you’ll be able to cut down on the unpleasant parts of shopping and spend your time on the fun, encouraging part, where hopefully you find great-looking clothes that fit.

Originally published at on August 17, 2015.

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