Losing weight is complicated enough without worrying about what you’re going to wear. If you’re like I was, I had a closet full of plus sized clothes that were rapidly becoming too large to wear. Sure, tops can be worn for quite a while even if they’re oversized, but pants? And if you work in a corporate environment, you can’t walk around in baggy business suits or risk your skirt falling down at the wrong moment. You want to look good, you want to feel good, but you know you won’t be in that size for long (especially if you have more than 100 lbs to lose like I did), so what’s a girl or guy to do? Before I answer, you need to know something first: clothing sizes DON’T MATTER. “But Andrea, if clothing sizes don’t matter, why do we have them at all?!” I’m going to summarize the introduction of clothing size “standards” in one sentence:
Back in the day, wealthy women ordered all of their clothes custom made, and standardized sizing was introduced to provide off-the-rack clothing for less wealthy women, however, the standardizing was based only off of white women with an hourglass figure.
Want more information? Check out this Slate article, A Size 2 is a Size 2 is a Size 8. Plus, since the “standard” was introduced, women’s bodies have changed. (And uh, also? ONLY 8% OF WOMEN ARE HOURGLASS SHAPED.) Need more evidence that size doesn’t matter? Check out this article that comes with some handy visual aids like the one below.
Do you see how standardized sizing could be fatally flawed? A few years back the following series of videos popped up around the internet. I watched them all, and I was amazed. She was SO RIGHT. (Seriously, watch all five videos before you go shopping, it will make you feel so much better about yourself when things don’t fit.)
After watching these videos, my concept of shopping for clothes has totally changed. Yes, I have an idea of what my size is. If asked, I would say I’m a medium. I own mostly mediums. But I have pants from size 6 to size 10 that fit. Tops are an even wider spread: I have an XL tank top that fits more snugly than an XS tank top. I own small tops, medium tops, large tops and extra large tops that all look good and fit well. I’ve realized that if a piece of clothing looks good on me, it really doesn’t matter what size it is. Besides, who besides you looks at the size of your clothes?! NO ONE! They just look at you and say stuff in their heads like “that is a really put together outfit” or “look at how great her butt looks in those jeans”. *wink*
So how do you look good, feel good and not drain your savings in the process? Three words: Thrifting, Consignment and Clearance!
Thrift stores are not created equal. Some are charitable organizations, some owned by religious organizations and some are for-profit. My favorite thrift store in my area (of which there are dozens) is a for-profit place about the size of a K-Mart. Two days a week on Sundays and Mondays (which just so happen to be my days off) they have certain colored tags that are 30-50% off. Their regular prices for jeans are between $6-10, so you can get jeans for $3-5 on sale days. And yes, you do have to sort through a few aisles worth of jeans to find the nice ones, but I’ve found some really nice pairs for a steal! Check out my latest find, Tommy Hilfiger boot cuts in a size 6. These jeans retail for $69, but I got them for $7.95 and that was “full price”.
Last winter I picked up a pair that retailed for more than $100 for $3.95 on a sale day, and they looked like they’d never been worn. I’ve gotten dresses with the tags still on for less than $10. I wear them until they’re too big, and then I either resell them, give them to a friend or donate them to another thrift store.
Consignment stores work for people who need nicer clothes. Many specialize in higher end clothing and business attire, which is great for people who work in a corporate environment (something I’m grateful I don’t have to do). A consignment store sells clothes for other people, so when you’re done with the clothes you can take them back to the consignment store, and if they can sell them to someone new, you’ll get a bit of money back for the item!
Now clearance? Clearance is my jam. My days off do not coincide with The Hubs’ days off, unfortunately, so I have a lot of lonely spare time on my weekends. Sometimes I hit up Target to see if they have any Perfect Fit tees for less than $5, but my favorite places to bargain hunt? Kohls and Burlington Coat Factory. I could spend a couple of hours sorting through just the clearance section of these stores. Here’s how I shop:
1. If I like the way it looks, I pull it from the rack. I check the tags for price. If it’s less than $10, I’m willing to try it on. I check the size not by the tag, but by holding it up to my body. The tag is just a guide. Remember: materials, cut and brand all make a difference in size. If it looks like it might fit, it goes in the cart! I don’t limit myself to quantity at this point, because who knows what will or won’t fit?
2. I TRY IT ON. I used to hate dressing rooms. Trying stuff on when you’re plus sized is awful, especially if you’re not well-endowed. A lot of companies assume that plus sized women always have large breasts. THIS IS NOT TRUE. Also? Have fun in the dressing room! Just because something looks awful on you does NOT mean your body is awful, it means the CLOTHES are awful! I tried on 2 pairs of size 6 pants at Kohl’s a couple of months ago, and they were AWFUL pants! How do I know it’s the pants and not my legs? I LOOK GOOD IN OTHER PANTS. (Uhm, yes, it IS that simple!)
3. If I like how it looks, and it’s a reasonable price, I will buy it. It’s that simple. Because like I said before, what difference does it make what size it is if it makes you look good?
The point is, you need to try stuff on, and you need to try on things that you think might not fit, because you could be surprised. And if things don’t fit? There’s no need to beat yourself up over it. There are a lot of really awful clothes out there, especially in ready to wear stores. (I’m looking at you, Target.) There isn’t one item that will work for all people, and there isn’t one person that will look good in all things. Those models you see in magazines? Those celebs who always look perfect? Can you say custom tailoring and GIANT CLIPS?
So what’s your favorite way to bargain shop for clothes? Share any tips or tricks in the comments!