By Guest Writer | May 30, 2008
The shop reviews on this site and the fatshionista community on livejournal are amazing resources for locating the latest fatshions online & in brick & mortar stores. Certainly the pleasure of slipping into a crisp brand-spanking-new-with-tags garment cannot be denied, but neither can the special sort of satisfaction that comes from discovering a lovely one-of-a-kind dress amongst racks full of Cosby sweaters and faded mickey mouse tee shirts.
In general, when I covet a certain piece, I will take to second hand & thrift stores first. I believe that as a society we (& lest you think I am pointing fingers, I am firmly including myself in this) produce too much, consume too much & waste even more. In Brave New World Aldous Huxley wrote satirically & critically of what he imagined would be our decadent & environmentally ignorant future–a future where people would treat all things (especially clothing) as disposable, would sooner buy something new then stitch a dropped hem or reinforce a button. In 1932, a lot of this seemed a horrific and implausible exaggeration, but in 2008, with the influx of throw-away clothing stores (Sirens, Stitches etc) & clothing quality of brand stores deteriorating exponentially, Huxley’s speculative satire proves (for me) to be portentous. (Most commercial) clothing is constructed to rapidly deconstruct, even as the price tag for new clothing doubles & triples. It goes without saying that a capitalist economy & infrastructure is necessarily built around a principle of planned deterioration. If things didn’t degrade as rapidly, we wouldn’t be back every couple of months (weeks?), forced to replace everything that has unraveled. So, I thrift (when possible) not only because I have a deep and abiding love for indestructible polyester & vintage pieces, but because I can much easier justify having a sizeable wardrobe if a (hopefully large) portion of it is comprised of recycled clothing. Thrifting is one of the ways I personally feel I can contribute (if in a microscopic way) to a healthier planet (& prevent myself from literally having to live in my shoes). To put it plainly, the [current] clothing industry taking care of us (by offering us quality & accessible options), we’re not taking care of the environment, thrifting seems–to me–like one possible way to address these issues.
No doubt by now some of you are saying tl;dr and heading over to cat rave or kittenwar, but others are saying, hey stitchtowhere, I kind of agree with some/all of this and I’d really love to get more into thrifting but… given the scarcity of fun and fatshionable things that I’d actually want to wear in stores that are supposed to stock my size, how can I reasonably expect not to be utterly demoralized and disappointed in a venue that isn’t explicitly fattie-friendly?
I won’t deny that shopping & scarcity(follow the link to site admin Lesley’s great post on that topic) is a constant issue. Indeed, thrifting can be very difficult & discouraging & demoralizing (and many other sad words beginning in d) when you’re outside of what the fashion industry/majority of retailers have dubbed the “straight” or “normal” size range. I will also freely admit that I’m fortunate because in my city (& neighbourhood) there are quite a few thrift stores and the majority of them even have plus sections. The proximity of these stores & the flexbility of my current job, & my general love of the chase, makes thrifting viable for me. Some days I have amazing luck, other days, it feels like the loveliest pieces never exist in double digits & these are the days that find me trolling places like Old Navy & the disposable mall stores & department store sales* for the pieces that elude me in the second hand shops & for things that will fit & still allow me to pay my rent. I don’t really have a solution for thrifting woes, but I can say that, for me, the rewards of thrifting trump the frustrations, and, are not just limited to the sartorial.
And because I want to encourage those of you who’ve got one foot on the thrifted (and fabulous!) wagon to climb aboard and go the distance, and my years of thrifting have taught me a trick or five, I’m going to start assembling a series of fat-specific thrift tips here on Fridays. Here we go:
Fat Thrift Tip The First: Try Shit On.
This might seem really, really, REALLY obvious, but one of the tragic flaws of shoppers (and characters in Shakespearean tragedies ha ha ha) of all sizes is that we don’t look at the actual physical dimensions a garment occupies but believe that it’s “fitliness” corresponds directly to the number on the tag. If a lovely catches our eye, we immediately find the tag and if the number on it proves to be smaller or–god forbid!– LARGER than the (arbitrary & usually inconsistent) number we think we wear, we–more often than not–dejectedly let it sink back into the second-hand depths. I am according to most plus size retailers in the 18/20/22 range but I’ve got things in my closet ranging from size 10-26 that FIT. I would never have discovered half of these things if I confined my search to the (singular and usually hideously fugly) rack labeled “PLUS.”
Thrift stores are great places to build up your shopping courage/fattitude. I have never once had anyone in a thrift store stop me from trying something on, and I think that’s my where what my friends refer to as “my bizarre sense of shopping entitlement” comes from. You can treat thrift stores like giant fitting rooms & (in my personal experience) no one will bat an eye. There are very few among us who haven’t experienced a derisive remark from a salesclerk or even had other shoppers take shots at us for our size & I think the fear & memory & expectation of this sort of behaviour–the huge amount of ill-fitting crap notwithstanding–makes shopping really stressful & emotionally trying. Being able pull & grab stuff off racks & try it on the spot & in thrift shops is and continues to be a gratifying & liberating experience for me. It has greatly improved my eye for what will fit my body & it also serves to reaffirm just how wildly sizes vary, which has helped me not to be attached to a number & attach meaning–negative or positive–to that number, but rather to focus on WHAT FITS.
*I recognize that I am privileged to be able to buy some things new in the first place and, that were i not able to do so my wardrobe would be a lot less expansive.
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