Tuesday, April 5

A fatty's guide to thrifting

With the advent of Big Beach Bums (which, by the way, there is a facebook event for here. Please RSVP! I’ve been a bit quiet on it since the initial post, this is because I’m busy looking around trying to note down options for the day. I have nearly three weeks off approaching (!) so there will be many a finite detail approaching then), I’ve had a few requests for a how to thrift post.

Thrifting in size fat is always hard. I so wish the UK could have anywhere as amazing as Re/Dress or Fat Fancy over in America, but, bar wonderful events such as the Big Bum Jumble, for the main part there aren’t any places to go specifically for plus size vintage. Finding good stuff is really hard, and if you don’t have the patience in you (or the time) to rummage, then it's really hard going. I hate to start off negatively, but there are always disappointments, and what is available in plus sizes inevitably depends on what stock is in. This is hard to deal with when compared to high street/online shopping, when generally you know what is available and there is normally a way to source the items you want in the right size.

Thrifting for me is embedded in my history. It comes from an upbringing with a “make do and mend” attitude, and spending my teenage years in a suburb with 10+ charity shops and very few friends and/or ways to occupy myself in my spare time. For me thrifting is inspiring, because it’s all about possibility, imagination and re-envisioning. It’s about making something amazing happen out of a finite and limited amount of resources. I don’t have magic fingers, I don’t always find something, and sometimes there are weeks on end full of disappointments. Others are so full of surprises and finds thatI almost can't believe my luck. I understand that the disappointments are maybe too much for a lot of people, but for me it's all part of the challenge.

  • Always look. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve sworn off a store for being too pricey or never having plus size items in, then I’ve been in with a friend and found something perfect. Vintage for fats isn’t in ready supply, you can’t ever count on finding anything, but at the same time I’ve not known any places refusing to accept plus size stock, so it is available.
  • Never pay attention to size tags. This goes without saying really, but vintage sizes =/= modern sizes. Earlier items size up as significantly smaller than their modern equivalents, and also, as with a lot of contemporary stores, some straight size items will fit much larger than they might suggest. I put them up to my body to get a sense, but you could take a tape measure to get more accurate estimates.
  • Persist! Dig through bargain bins, through all the rails and take your time looking. Thrifting isn't really something you can do in a flash - it's something that takes time and leisure. Don't get put off if you don't immediately see anything that would fit - most vintage dresses are teeny tiny, but the options are out there.
  • Take a friend! Take someone who is a different size to you, preferably, so you can hunt for each other as well as yourselves. Some of my best dresses were found by thinner friends with similar taste in clothes. A second pair of eyes always helps when rummaging.
  • Look for stretchy fabrics, elastic waistbands and oversized dresses - these all fit differently on fat bodies, so you might find something intended for a smaller sized person fits you like a glove when otherwise it would be a baggy fit.
  • Try things on! Pile yourself high with possibilities, and take chances. Try on ridiculous things. Have fun with shopping. It's harder to tell what will fit and what won't without sizing, so the dressing room is definitely your friend.
  • For bargain hunting recommendations, check out jumble sales, car boot sales and local charity events close to you. These are my favourite haunts - as charity shops have now upped their prices (and sometimes jumped on the vintage wagon), car boots/jumbles seem to have maintained a budget ethos which I find really comforting. Go along to an event with a budget - I used to take £10/sometimes £20 in change to a car boot and just see what I came out with. Often a tenner would get me bulging bags of things, clothes and otherwise.


  1. Hey Kirsty - I'm pretty sure I told you already, but I will be at the big beach bums! I don't do facebook, but consider me RSVPd!

  2. Rebecca, yes you did! I have you on the list, just trying to further establish other attendees. So excited x

  3. The reason that charity shops have upped their prices is that people, in the past, have bought from them only to resell as 'vintage' or 'retro', for a much higher price. As someone who enjoys reading your blog and also works in a charity shop,sometimes your comments can sound critical of them.Charity shops haven't 'jumped on the vintage wagon',they are just trying to make the most out of the donations they get.They are responding to the massive changes in the second-hand sector which have been instigated largely by other people.

  4. I do love thrifting! There's some amazing charity shops in my town that I often go and just have a rummage in. I went to a local charity sale recently and got THE most amazing cardigan jacket with pearls on... It's bloody awful, in a good way!

    I'm really looking forward to Big Beach Bums!

    (I also understand both side of the charity shops debate. What annoys me is that I will go into a charity shop and see a Primark top that's £3 in Primark, yet the charity shop has put £5 on it?!)

  5. Anon, I understand where you are coming from. I've worked in a charity shop myself and I understand the logic behind marking items up and that the shops need to respond to the second hand market. It's just makes me sad when prices go up so considerably, because I've always felt that charity shops cater to people who can't otherwise afford those sorts of prices (certainly as a fat teenager with parents of low income, it was rare for us to be able to afford to pay above £3 for something), and by going all vintage/boutique-esque I feel as if those people are excluded further. So I feel it's a double edged sword in many ways, if that makes sense.

    Kat, that cardigan sounds simply amazing, seriously. I'm all for the so bad it's good items too! And my local shops in Chichester (where I work) are always marking up Primark items, and it drives me barmy. I saw one of them selling a primark basics tee for £4.50 the other day! pft!

  6. Just wanted to say Hi! Im your new follower found you via We are Large People, and I'm hooked.
    I get frustrated trying to find good vintage stuff in my size, I get flyers for the Affordable Vintage Fashion Fairs and think, whats the point nothing will fit me, likewise at car boot sales, unless the stallholder is a curvy woman I tend to bypass the clothes ~ perhaps I should rummage anyway. Its a bit like going into Jigsaw as a size 20 ~ the only thing in my size is the purses and bags, sometimes feel the stallholders glowering at me as if to say, yeah like any of that will fit you! Sod em, I might at least find a scarf lol.
    Kandi x