Plus Size Vintage Clothing

Charli wears bright orange coat with charity shop shirt and black skinny jeans.

I won’t lie to you; shopping plus size vintage clothing is hard. It isn’t that plus size is new, but shops catering to plus size figures is a twenty-first century progression. So how do you find plus size vintage clothing to fit?

As a teenager I lived in vintage clothing but it wasn’t plus size vintage. My local Topshop had a great vintage section and I would spend hours trawling a huge market in Birmingham. I was smaller back then – a size 12-14. Yet even then I was excluded from a lot of vintage dressses – too large to fit the majority fo dresses that came in sizes 8-10. Now I’m a size 18 and trying to shop vintage is even harder – so hard, in fact, that I thought it impossible.

Charli wears a bright orange coat, black skinny jeans, and a white blouse from a local charity shop.
White shirt from local charity shop

Vintage fashion seems like the next step for me. I’m already fairly minimal in my style, I wear a capsule wardrobe, and I’ve made moves to be more conscious in my fashion choices. Moving to vintage, or charity shop, items feels like a natural progression. Plus it means that every item I wear will be unique. There is little chance of wearing the same thing as someone else in a cocktail bar if you’re wearing a vintage or charity shop find!

However, I’m struggling to find items to fit my size 18 frame. Now I’m a small fat. Although, actually, I’m a high street average in terms of size – I have a 36 inch back and a 32 inch waist. My hips are 44 inch as is by chest. This makes me distinctly average in terms of size in the UK. Yet I’m pretty much excluded from vintage clothing.

Charli stands in front of a river, smiling.  She is wearing a tweed blazer and red scarf.
Wearing a men’s tweed blazer from a local charity shop

Why isn’t there much plus size vintage clothing?

It isn’t that plus size vintage clothing doesn’t exist. Women have been plus size for as long as there have been women. However, we are taller than women of the past and broader. But more importantly, we’re bigger consumers than the decades before us. Which means that plus size, mass retail didn’t really begin until the 1990s and began to really explode in the noughties. Before this, plus size women simply didn’t have many places to shop. Instead, many plus size vintage items are home made (and not mass produced like the size 8-10 counterparts). This means that they’re rarer and, therefore, hard to find.

Charli stands on the banks of a river in a thrifted tweed blazer, black mini skirt, turtle neck and a red scarf.
Wearing a men’s tweed blazer from a local charity shop

Where to shop for plus size vintage clothing?

Charity shops are my favourite places for shopping vintage finds. I’ve found amazing dresses there in the past, fantastic blazers, and many basics like classic white shirts. You just have to be prepared to rummage.

Ebay is another great place to shop plus size vintage. You just have to sift through the masses of vintage replicas to find the real deal.

I also hound ASOS Marketplace. It is a fantastic place to find vintage clothing as allows you to search by size as well as category.

Charli stands in front of a sea wall in a polkadot vintage dress, grey jumper and leather jacket.
Spotty dress from ASOS Marketplace

Hints and tips for shopping plus size vintage

There are also some sacred rules (okay, maybe not so sacred) but there are some useful tips that I’ve gathered along the way when shopping vintage or thrifted.

  1. Don’t go by size labels – they’re rarely accurate. If shopping online, go by actual measurements and make sure that you know yours. If in a shop, then try it on anyway … you never know.
  2. Shop the mens section. Men’s jackets and shirts are typically broader in the back and shoulders which means they fit me far better than the women’s variants. A lot of my recent finds have come from the men’s rails in my local charity shop.
  3. Use your imagination. It’s rare that something will fit perfectly or be exactly what you want. If you have sewing skills, then be prepared to alter hemlines, repair seams, or change up buttons. If not, find a local seamstress who will be able to alter items for you.

So, will you try vintage clothing now?

And if you have any handy hints or tricks, please do leave them in the comments below.

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1 Comment

  1. May 19, 2019 / 9:07 am

    Fabulous post! I’m also Plus size and love to shop vintage and charity shop. There are some great tips on here!