To say I love thrifting is an understatement. Heck, Lesley, and Charlotte are of the same mindset, and we enable each other wonderfully. Yet there are some great thrift store sizing tips that can have you finding more treasures than you realized.
Quote of the day: “It’s those who lie outside ordinary experience who have the most to teach us.” Malcolm Gladwell
While these thrift store sizing tips are meant to find the best-fitting items for you when shopping, I’m also including the concept that size can be subjective.
Even though I am concentrating on second-hand stores with these ideas, they can work just as well when you are shopping any store. So read and learn.
There are so many reasons to shop at thrift or secondhand stores, and there are just as many reasons to look at everything while you’re there.
And when I say everything, I mean all the sizes and all the sections including men’s, children’s, and even maternity.
I have written many informative posts about secondhand shopping if you need overall tips, reasons, and just plain ole inspiration.
- Benefits of thrifting
- What to wear thrifting
- Should you wear thrifted shoes?
- Thrift store shopping tips
- Online thrift tips
- Top 5 things to buy at thrift stores
1-Search All Sizes and Sections
I know, I know, you’re going to say that it’s impossible and overwhelming. Sure, it’s more work, but trust me, you can find way more treasures if you stop limiting yourself to the items in your size only.
Look, I’m a professional thrift shopper. I know my stuff. And here are just a couple of reasons why you should look at all of the sizes and sections.
- Items get put in the wrong place whether by accident or purpose. I have heard people say that they will try to hide things this way, and I believe them.
- Not only could things be in the wrong size section, but they could also be in the wrong section period. I’ve found a child’s XL shirt in the women’s XL area. Some clothing is hard to distinguish between including men’s vs women’s.
- The sizing is a different method. Just think about how Chico’s sizes run. They go from 000 to 3. That means the 3 which is the Large/XL could be hidden in the Smalls because the thrift store workers thought it meant a junior’s size 3.
- Vintage items are definitely sized differently. Many of today’s brands incorporate vanity sizing so a 14 size from 1960 could be a size 8 now. But the people hanging things at the thrift store don’t know this.
- Sizing is not standard between brands AT ALL. Yes, I’m yelling, but this is something that we know in our heads. So stop being married to your size number.
- There are times it’s advantageous to have a clothing item smaller than your usual (think a layering t-shirt) or bigger than what you normally wear (think 100-degree heat days where you don’t want something fitted).
Insider tip: If you have an apple shaped body, consider looking at maternity items.
If you don’t believe me about searching in all of the sizes while thrifting, then maybe Mireille will convince you. She has taken my thrift store sizing tips to heart and has found more great things this way.
For example, this kimono is an XL (she usually wears a small) and by tying the ends and holding it together with Maggie’s magnets, she fits it to her body.
2-Use a Measuring Tape OR Try Things On
This can be the best thrift store sizing tip especially if the store doesn’t have its fitting rooms open.
Now if they do have fitting rooms, then make sure you try on the items. There is more than just size when you put a piece on your body.
You should also be evaluating the movement of the piece (does it stay in place or move around) as well as whether you can sit in it.
If you don’t have time to try it on, your measuring tape can give you a good indication of the fit. For this thrift store sizing tip, it’s good to measure yourself before you go shopping. Don’t count on measurements taken 6 months ago because things change.
For example, if you measure your hips to be 44 inches around, then you should be able to lay a pair of jeans flat on the floor and if they are 22 inches across, they will fit snugly. If you want them looser, then look for the jeans to be a bit bigger than 22 inches across the hips.
It’s good to know your biggest measurement for a particular item. If your waist is larger, then that’s the important measuring point, remembering that alterations can be done on parts that are too big.
Of course #3 below might have a play in the measurements.
Insider tip: If you have seen the hack about measuring jeans by placing the waistband around your neck, don’t believe it. I’ve tried it and while it can give you a good indication of if the waist will fit, it tells you nothing about the rear and thighs. And we all know that jeans and pants have a ton of fit points.
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3-Take Into Account the Material
The material of any clothing can be a huge factor as part of these thrift store sizing tips.
Some materials have stretch while others don’t. In today’s market, you will see many blends of materials.
And when you’re at the store, it’s super easy to pull on the material and see if it stretches or not.
So if you are measuring a piece as part of my thrift store sizing tips, you may need to take into account how much stretch as well as the measurement. It’s never just one thing, right?
It’s impossible to tell if a clothing item has stretch in something when you’re shopping online unless you see the words “elastane” or “spandex” listed. Having one of those materials in the item will give you the insider tip that it’s going to have at least a little give.
4-Thrift Store Sizing Tips When Things Don’t Fit
It’s going to happen that some of your thrifted finds are not exactly what you thought when you get them home. No matter how careful you are, it’s part of life. But don’t beat yourself up. This happens when you’re shopping at brick-and-mortar stores too.
The advantage of thrift store purchases is that you usually haven’t spent an arm and a leg on the pieces. Yet, there are still ways to not have your purchases go to waste.
There are a couple of thoughts when things don’t fit.
- Think about if it could be altered. You may think that it’s silly to spend $10 on alterations for something that only cost $5, but the reality is, it’s still an inexpensive item and if you will wear it, it’s worth it.
- Could it be repurposed? There are many ways you can repurpose an item including, cutting off the sleeves to make arm warmers (I’ve talked about that here) or if the sleeves are too tight, cutting them off to make the shirt sleeveless, saving the buttons because they can be expensive (exactly why you should scour the children’s clothes), or cut apart a dress and make it a skirt instead. Heck, I could write an entire article about this subject, so if you ever are stumped, reach out and I’ll give suggestions.
- You probably have friends that are different sizes. See if they would want the item.
5-Online Thrift Store Sizing Tips
Online thrift shopping can be a horse of a different color. Since you can’t try things on until after you’ve bought them, there are a couple of tips to make it more successful.
And if they don’t fit, see #4.
Each online thrift store is different, but at least with Poshmark, you can ask the seller questions if they don’t show measurements of the item. Other sites may give a sizing chart but it may not be that brand’s sizing chart. If the brand is still in business, it can help to go to its site and see what the measurements are.
If you are looking at a small or local online thrift shop, it’s appropriate to reach out and ask questions before you buy.
Related post: How to shop on Poshmark
The other thing to consider with online shopping whether thrifted or not is the material composition (will it stretch), and the silhouette.
For example, I may consider a size up for a dress with a fitted waistband whereas I may size down for a shift dress that is loosey-goosey.
Online Thrift Stores
These are the ones I’ve used more than once (except Swap, but it comes highly recommended by a friend)
thredUp—this link gives you $10 (and me in return).
Poshmark — here is the post about how to shop the site.
Uncommon Closet— nonprofit to help women.
Gild the Lily–a local Michigan store that sells online.
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