How to find plus size clothes in charity shops

We frequently find ourselves inundated with images of beautiful, slim women in chic and well styled second hand clothes but often the plus sized amongst us can really struggle to find anything but pleated black trousers and fugly skirts. Even as a charity shop blogger I do feel like I stick out like a sore thumb as one of the few  larger ladies talking about frugal and charity shop fashion in the UK. However I am plus sized and have slowly found ways and means of finding nice plus sized clothes in charity shops.

Plus size thrifting
How to find nice plus sized clothes in charity shops 

Bagsy the baggy
Jumpers and tops that are supposed to be baggy on a slim woman can work well on a plus sized lady. I’ll often buy baggy and slouchy tops in a size 10 or 12 and wear them as a ‘normal’ top. No one need know that it’s meant to be baggy.

Even when I was a size 10 I couldn’t get a blouse to go over my boobs without gaping at the bust, so all my adult life I’ve firmly stuck to the menswear rails for shirts. Shop this section for lots of plus sized thrifted goodies.
– Basic shirts which go with everything…you can even wear them as a dress with the addition of a few accessories and a belt
– Knitwear. Thank heavens for grandad cardigans, waistcoats and tank tops.
– Shoes. Many plus sized women have broader and longer feet than average so embrace the brogue trend.
– Coats. Trenchcoats, duffles and even blazers are deluging this section of most charity shops. Buy them up.
– T-shirts. I showed you how to wear your husband’s t-shirt in a feminine outfit last year, it’s a firm favourite of mine

Do you spy a dress with nice fabric and in your vague size too? Score! Okay so it may be frumpy as sin but take another look. Can you take it up, change buttons or alter the neckline? I’m forever taking up hems and I have no problem with paying a seamstress to do more complicated work, they’re much cheaper than you’d imagine.
Picnik collage
Ignore the size on the hanger or on the tag the shop have put on, look at the piece and see if is your size. I’ve found many a dress that fits me wrong labelled or on a size 10 hanger.

Note it
I carry around measurements of open spaces in our flat in case I should find the perfect item of furniture so naturally I do the same for my body. List your bust, hip, waist, height and leg lengths and don’t forget to carry a tape measure with you.
Plus size clothes
Know your fabrics
With certain fabrics we can all go up or down a size. I can happily buy two sizes smaller in jersey but I know I have to go up a size or two for man-made 1970’s fabrics. But my similarly sized friend has to buy jersey and stretchy fabrics in the exactly right size because the stretchy-ness doesn’t flatter her, however a kitsch polyester dress from the mid-70’s suits her no end. Know what works for you, experiment with different fabrics, get a feel for them.
Wear it on your waist
Embrace the trend that moves away from skirts sitting on your hips. Take a smaller sized a-line skirt which is designed to sit on a smaller woman’s hips and wear it high up on your waist – it looks fab with a belt. Because it’s a-line is shouldn’t restrict you elsewhere. I’ve been able to expand my search range into a good few sizes down using this method
Vintage bow tie and brooch
Once you’ve got yourself some lovely items you may need to read my post about getting rid of that charity shop smell because I can smell ya from ‘ere darlin’.

What I wore
Blue shirt, charity shop (found in the menswear section), £2
Patterned skirt, charity shop, price – I can’t remember
Cashmere cardigan, Boden via charity shop, £2
Black bow tie, Vintage Village, £3
Blue vintage brooch, Charity Shop, £1
Cat shoes, Store 21, as worn here
Brown and black tights, M&S, £3 in the sale bin
Knitted hair band, handmade gift, as worn here
Thrifty Towers

You might find useful:
How to Thrift  – Clothes
Wearing The Husband’s Clothes
7 Tips for removing that charity shop smell


P.S. Any tips you’d like to share?

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  1. fab advice – i wear clothes any where between a 14 (pushing it a bit!!) and 20 – I’m a size 16 but I ignore that, if I have to buy an 18 or 20, then I guess the cut is stingy and if I get a 14 then it was meant to be baggy but fits me! if something is ‘fitted’ then I go a size bigger to a 18 – xx froogs xx

  2. Great tips! I sometimes alter too-small thrifted skirts by cutting the waistband and seam and adding a panel of fabric from another thrifted item. Fabric can match or contrast and it is still cute and frugal.

    A snug blouse can be left open and worn over another top as a light jacket.

    Thanks for this great post. (made me smile, too!)

  3. you look absolutely AMAZING!!!!!!!! Great post xoxo

  4. I am highly jealous, for that skirt is gorgeous! Great tips – I think we can all get more out of the charity shops if we learn to look at the items available from a different perspective. And even the most basic sewing skills go a long way when it comes to adapting clothes.

  5. im a great believer in adapting things, im a size 22-24 and not very tall, not helped by my addiction to DM boots. My favourite trick is buying long floaty skirts size 14 upwards removing the waistband then shortening them from the top…works brilliantly i either make a new waistband from something contrasting or if theres enough material expand the waistband with the piece ive cut off, sounds technical but isnt ..all thats needed is my 1917 Singer

  6. Oh how I love this post! here are a few things I already knew/did and some great new tips for me too! The good thing is that I always find skirts with a stretchy waist, because they sell a lot of DIY clothes in the 2nd and shops here :)

  7. Fab advice – especially about sitting skirts on your waist – doing that on myself often hides a multitude :)

  8. This really makes me want to go the charity shops now! I need to plan a trip to the allerton road ones with my mum, she is a charity shop queen. We joked that we should get her charity shop vouchers for her birthday! If only they did them…

  9. Loads of good advice! I also suggest trying things on, you might be surprised what fits, whatever the label says

  10. you are always such a treat! I lucked out because a coworker lost over 150 pounds and gave me her clothes on the way down…many were too big but I’m good at altering…

  11. Those are great fashion tips. You are such a pro!,fashion,seattle

  12. Can I just say how much I’m LOVING your blog! It’s a joy to read. Full of fun and useful hint……it’s ace! x

  13. Can I just say how much I’m LOVING your blog! Such a joy to read – full of life & useful tips. It’s ace! x

  14. Thanks for all the advice! I’d love to wear vintage and dresses but I’ve always avoided charity shops thinking that being a size uk18/20 means I am totally unable to find abything for me.
    You are an inspiration to me and the way you thrift, homemake, create, blog and look so stylish. Thank you x a million for giving me tools and hope!

  15. Thanks for this :) Do you (or any readers) try stuff on in charity shops? I never do because the thought of wrestling into something in a cubicle the size of shoe box is very off putting. A friend of mine punched herself in the mouth trying to zip up boots in a charity shop cubicle, and the old ladies looked like they were mobilising the troops instead of getting a bit of cotton wool from the first aid box lol.

  16. This is a wonderful post, I just shared on facebook. One thing I do with skirts is but them really long and cut off the waistband and a few inches off the top. When I’m done, it fits my waist and is the length I like! x

  17. I looooove this post! I think there’s a bit of a misconception that you can’t find anything nice second-hand if you’re plus-sized, and it’s totally untrue.

  18. All the bigger sizes must be getting shipped up to here in Scotland! The majority of the charity shops in my local town have an embarrassment of fantastic items in a 16 & up, I don’t think I’ve bought anything brand new for ages…it’s great!!
    Kirsten x

  19. Anonymous says:

    Wah! You’re gorgeous!

  20. Good advice, I like your blog. Except that round our way, charity shops are quite expensive. There’s not much in there under £10. Sometimes I see an item for £15, but I think, I could get something cheaper in Tesco’s and choose the colour and size.

  21. I’m totally opposite, but I hate being a size 6 as you can’t find fitted things anywhere! It seems a lot of places only stock ‘average’ sized clothes, but do you know a single woman who is totally ‘average’? Didn’t think soo….

  22. I’ve read your blog posts for a long time, but I’ve never commented before. I just had to do so today to tell you that you are a total babe, both in person and looks! It is truly inspirational to read what you write, both when talking about being a larger woman, and just about being thrifty and environmentally friendly. You’re fab!

  23. I’ve read your blog posts for a long time, but I’ve never commented before. I just had to do so today to tell you that you are a total babe, both in person and looks! It is truly inspirational to read what you write, both when talking about being a larger woman, and just about being thrifty and environmentally friendly. You’re fab!

  24. What I like best about this site is your self-confidence. I wish I could buy that in a thrift store. I’m a US size 16 which is smaller than in the UK but big enough anywhere in the world. It’s not going to change much thanks to meds. You helped give me the boost that says “beautiful.” I also dress modestly by most standards–never wear pants, i.e., and I find I feel more beautiful dressed as a woman in all respects. Thanks again for posting and keep shopping!

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