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How to Thrift Shop Like a Plus-Size Pro: 8 Tips for Consignment and Vintage Stores

A friend who’s had a recent financial setback and loves to shop wrote this article at my request. As you know, quality clothing is not cheap these days, so all of us need to know more about thrift and consignment stores.

by Kay Kerns,

read about thrift shopping tips at boomerinas.com

It's Only a Bargain if You'll Actually Wear It

Hi, I’m Kay and I’m a plus-sized 56-year-old woman who loves fashion, shopping, clothes and accessories, but my budget is very tight... so I must be a savvy shopper in order to dress stylishly.

I shop all over, but I shop primarily at:

  • Thrift stores: Goodwill, St Vincent de Paul
  • Consignment shops: Local shops near Seattle
  • Discount stores: Target, Wallymart, Ross
  • Online websites: Payless Shoe Source, Wallymart,  and Amazonia (had to change the name for now... you know the site)

1. Ask Yourself These 11 Questions Before Buying Anything:

I look for the best quality fabric and construction I can find for my money, and I am becoming more and more picky about what I purchase, so I always ask myself these questions:

  • Do I love it?
  • Does it fit?
  • Is the color flattering?
  • Is the style fairly current?
  • Is it in good condition?
  • Does it go with several items I already own?
  • Do I already have too many of these (black pants, for example)?
  • Do I desperately need something else, like a supportive beige bra?
  • Will I wear this over and over or a few times at best?
  • Can I use this item for more than one purpose?
  • Will this item still be here if I wait, or will it be gone?

2. Plus Sizes at Thrift Stores: Shop Often and Decide Quickly

At most of the places where I shop, cute clothes in size 26/28 and 3X go fast, and there isn't a very large selection to begin with. However, I am retired and I have more time than money, so I can go often to my favorite shopping haunts and see what's new. If I have enough cash in hand to snap up an item I love, I do it. It may not be there when I go back.

read about thrift shopping - tips

Thrift Store Shopping Tips

I have, I think, something of a mild shopping addiction, but fortunately spending $3 at the thrift store is just as satisfying now as spending much more elsewhere, and I certainly don't feel as guilty about it! The hunt is part of the sport for me now.

3. Clothing I Buy in Retail Stores

I buy almost all my clothing and accessories from thrift stores, however there are some items that I usually buy in regular discount stores, like Target.

For example, I buy leggings in regular stores because leggings in my size are hard to find second-hand. Also, leggings are worth the extra expense because I know I will wear them for years. Tip: Try Faded Glory leggings at Wallymart. Sizes 1X to 4X.

I don’t like to buy vintage items if they can't be washed. So, my main “retail store” expenses are new shoes and underwear. But, even at discount stores, pleather boots are expensive. I try to balance purchases like that with $1.75 earrings and 25-cent bangles from thrift stores.

read about thrift store shopping for plus sizes - tips

Buy Multi-Purpose Clothing

4. Buy Multi-Purpose Clothing

Leggings are a good example of an item that can be worn many different ways. I have a black pair I bought several years ago that have faded a bit but are still perfectly wearable. I'm wearing them right now under a long stretchy skirt to keep warm! I use this kind of legging as long underwear, tights, sleepwear, and pants (under a long tunic top), so they are definitely a multi-purpose garment.

5. Learn to Recognize Quality Vintage

I have learned how to spot quality. This is a by-product of working as a sales associate at Woolworth’s, Liberty House in Hawaii (similar to Nordstrom's), The Bon Marche (now Macy’s) and K*mart. I was exposed to high-end and low-end merchandise, so now I can feel the difference between cheap fabric and the better stuff.

I know value. A nice secondhand top made of Tencel for $3.50 that sold originally for $30.00 is a much better find than a poly/cotton blend from a discount store that only cost $7.00 to begin with.

Examples of recent consignment store purchases:

  • A lovely, soft, floral pastel cardigan sweater for $6.00: There was no label on the sweater, but I could tell from the feel of the knit that it was good quality.
  • A smart black fabric purse for $7.00: The purse had no label either, but the sturdy construction and near pristine condition, along with its cute styling and multiple pockets, convinced me that it was perfect for me. The Nylon fabric appeared to be water-repellent and serviceable, and I had no black purses, so I bought it.

The purse and sweater were probably not designer brands but they were a cut above what I would have been able to afford brand new for $15.00!

read about thrift shopping tips boomerinas.com

Learn to Know the Feel of Quality

6. Buy Quality Not Quantity

Sometimes it's better to invest in a new, or better quality, expensive item if it you will wear it often, rather than purchasing many unsatisfactory, mediocre items, even if they were marked down.

I used to have a closet full of clothes, but I had “nothing to wear” due to random impulse shopping. Now that I am more conscious of my own style, I am much happier with the things I have. I gave away all the clothes and accessories I no longer liked, that didn't quite fit, that were itchy, ugly, uncomfortable... that just didn't feel like 'me'. This created more room in my closet for the things I love that make me look and feel good.

7. Thrift Stores Are Great for Jewelry and Accessories

Cute jewelry can be expensive, so I make my own.   Last Friday I visited my local St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store. I had $10.00 to spend and I ended up buying $5.00 worth of beads and chains to remake into my own jewelry designs.

Sometimes I just buy a few pieces of jewelry to wear “as is”. I found a great wristwatch for $4.00 that only needed a $5.00 battery. I have seen similar watches in the stores for $50.00 and up.

Thrift stores are a great source of scarves, belts, jewelry, etc. to add some pep and variety to my wardrobe. I donate things back when I grow tired of them because most of the money from their sales goes to programs to help people in need. Not so long ago, I needed help and they were there for me.

read shopping tips at boomerinas.com

Know What You're Looking For

8. Know What You Need or Want Before You Shop

If you take the time to window shop and pay attention to current fashion and beauty trends, it won't be hard to spot a good value in the most unlikely places. You will just have to wade through quite a lot of 'not so great' stuff to find the treasures.

Window shop all you like, try on and examine expensive items just so you'll know something good by sight or feel when you stumble upon it. Then, check out your local thrift stores and consignment shops. Happy hunting!

More Articles for Baby Boomer Women:

23 Trendy Plus-Size Clothing Sites for Large Women Sizes 1X - 12X

Seasonless Clothing for Snowbirds & Rainbirds: Seattle & Southwest

The 2 Fashion Rules for Grown Women

Trendy Coats for Fall & Winter - Mature Woman Seeking Cute, Comfortable Jacket for Long-Term Relationship

Photo Credits: Prshots.com and Flickr.com.

  • Main Photo: La  Redoute.
  • It's Only a Bargain if You'll Actually Wear It: Simply Be.
  • Thrift Store Shopping Tips: whatiwore Flickr.com creative commons.
  • Buy Multi-Purpose Clothing: Simply Be, La  Redoute (2013).
  • Learn to Know the Feel of Quality: Betty  Barclay.
  • Know What You're Looking For: Simply Be.

What do you think of this article? Do you have any ideas to add? Leave a comment at the bottom of the page or give us a Google Plus.

Kay Kerns lives in Bremerton, Washington and admits to having a mild shopping addiction, but that’s why she knows so much about fashion. Her favorite vintage shop is Bella Luna Consignment Boutique in Bremerton.

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8 Comments

  1. kay kerns

    Wow I like it! Sounds like me but better! thank you

    • Tina-Boomerina

      It is you. I just changed some sentences around and added a few sentences from your email. I had to add some keywords here and there, but it's all your words.

      Tina Boomerina

  2. Linda

    Please, Hoe do I find that jersey knit, navy blue maxi dress with the red and white vertical accent? I just don't know where to begin, I have seRched everywhere.
    Thank you

  3. Abbie R.Hale

    Thanks for the tips. A great article with great information. Gonna apply this tips for thrifting.

  4. Adelaide

    Don't worry Ortelius - my german is much much much worse than your english! (yes, I agree he is a very good artist) [I think I understand what you mean about the 'unusual' website owner from the north versus SwvBaa/baairia being Ridinger's area]