Life Style

How to Make Plus-Size Thrifting Work for You

For the plus-size community, shopping can be a somewhat demoralizing experience. If you’re a size six, you can snag a look just about anywhere. If you’re a size 26, though, being able to go into a store and pull something off the rack can be a little more difficult. Not every retailer carries plus sizes, and even if they do, they don’t always have their full range of sizes or styles in store at any given time.

That same in-store crapshoot is even more prevalent at resale shops, with store buyers often opting not to buy or put plus options on the sales floor. Thrift stores can be iffy, too, with plus-size clothing often ending up shuffled off to weird racks or just passed over in favor of what the store might wrongly deem more “sellable” items.

That doesn’t mean the plus-size community can’t participate in resale culture, though. It just takes a little legwork. Here are some of Byrdie’s best tips and tricks for making the thrifting world work for you—no matter what size you are.

Patience Is a Virtue

Any thrifter will tell you that having success at the resale racks is all about patience. Whereas at Target, you can go in, spot something you like, snag your size, and then hit the bricks, flipping through the racks at Goodwill is a different story. Plan to spend a good chunk of time at any thrift store and try and look at everything—even if you don’t think it’s your size. Thrift and resale shops aren’t exactly known for their organization, after all, and oftentimes cute finds can end up in odd places.

Marcy Guevara-Prete, co-owner of The Plus Bus, a Los Angeles–based plus-size resale shop, says that some of her favorite finds have come when she least expected them. “It never rains in L.A., but it’s been raining a lot lately,” she says. “I had plans to go out to a nice restaurant and I did not have anything that even resembled a coat, sweater, or jacket. I would never have thought, I’m gonna walk into Crossroads in Hollywood and get a jacket, but I did, and boom, there it was. The perfect leather jacket. I mean, I did have to look through every single rack and I found it in the men’s section, but it’s so beautiful and it looks great on me. Plus, it was only $60.”

Stay Positive

Plus Size Thrifting

When you’re shopping, it’s easy to get down on yourself and your body. A heap of bummer experiences in dressing rooms and malls can do that to you, as can the endless mindfuck of living in a larger body in a society so deeply obsessed with thinness. If possible, try and approach your thrifting experience with as much optimism and enthusiasm as you can muster. If you’re having a less-than-confident day, maybe take a pass on shopping until you’re in the right headspace. If you find yourself needing a boost in that department, in general, check out resources like The Confident Collective, a podcast hosted by two curvy models aimed at helping all people become a little more comfortable in their own skin.

When you’re feeling up to hitting the racks, think of your resale outing as a game. What little treasures will you unearth? Will today be the day that you find the dress that changes your life? And even if you don’t find something to wear, could you possibly see something that inspires you or maybe sparks a laugh?


As Guevara-Prete says: Your attitude matters when you go shopping. “If you’re not in the mood, you have that thing in your mind where you say, Nothing’s going to fit me. Everything sucks. Why is my body like this? If you go in that way, you’re going to have a bad time. But if you try and treat it like a fun opportunity for adventure, you might be surprised what treasures you find,” she says.

The Bigger the Better

Volume does matter when it comes to thrift stores. The more clothes that go through an establishment, the better chance you have of finding something that works for you. Smaller consignment shops may be biased against taking plus-size clothes or plus customers might shy away from selling there if they don’t know how they’ll be perceived. On the other hand, there’s no judgment when you’re dropping off a bag of old tees at Goodwill. Try to target larger-scale resale stores like Salvation Army, Goodwill, or other local options. Larger “trendy” resale spots like Crossroads might carry some plus items too.

If you’re not seeing what you’re looking for in your local thrift store, Guevara-Prete recommends speaking up. “There’s no harm in saying, ‘Hi, I live around the corner from this store and I’m plus size, so I’d love to see plus-size items here. I know I’m not alone, either, so I know other people would want plus sizes if you were willing to carry them.’”

The Dressing Room Is Your Friend

Any fashion expert will tell you: Never be afraid to try something on. One brand’s 12 might be another’s 16, while another’s 4X might look like an XL to you. Beyond that, just because you think you don’t like pink doesn’t mean that a certain rosy dress might not look banging once you actually get it on. You need to get in a dressing room and try stuff on when you’re out shopping because what you find—especially at a thrift store—may surprise you.

With that in mind, wear good foundational garments when you’re thrifting, whether that’s a tank top and jeans or a supportive bra and a pair of shoes you can easily slip in and out of. If you’re shopping for evening wear, you’ll want to make sure to wear or bring the undergarments you’d normally wear for a night on the town.

Plus Size Thrifting


“Trying things on is our biggest rule at The Plus Bus,” says Guevara-Prete. “You just never know what something is going to look like. I was never a dressing room person and I’m still not, really, so I always try and wear something shopping that is easy to get in and out of. I find that I’m less motivated to try something on if I’m in pants, a jacket, and a sweater, so I try and either wear a dress that’s easy to get in and out of or something lightweight that I could throw things over.”

Look for Staples

Thrifting can seem easier if you think of your closet as a capsule collection. Being able to pick up a cute cocktail dress is great, but there’s also joy to be had in finding the perfect white button-up. After all, you might be able to wear that cocktail dress to a party, but you can dress up a button-up for work, dress it down for weekends, or even tie-dye it if you’re looking to do something a little funky. Make a list of what you’re looking for—or even a Pinterest or a vision board—and then work from there.

“As a plus-size person, you need a closet that works for you,” says Guevara-Prete, espousing the virtues of well-made core pieces. ”You need a great blazer, you need a little black dress… Do you have those things in your closet? And if not, can you shop with the intention to find them?”

Give It Time

Thrifting isn’t for everyone. If you can commit, though—whether that means you’ll flip through every rack in one big store or try and hit every thrift outlet in your community some Saturday afternoon—then you’ll be better set up for success. Successful thrifting can be a numbers game, especially if you’re looking for plus-size items.

“There’s nothing that feels better than that amazing score, but you have to put in the work,” says Guevara-Prete. “I remember I used to go shopping with a friend at a large thrift store and she would go hanger by hanger looking for items. I would just go look at the muumuus and then head straight to the jewelry. I would never even give it a chance because I was sure that nothing in there was going to work on me. I wasn’t willing to give it a chance, and that wasn’t fair. Now I know that you have [to] give it time, because when you do, it can be really exciting and gratifying.”


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