Thrifting in a Pandemic

There are, of course, so many more important issues to be working on right now than what’s in our closets. (Hello COVID-19, dismantling white supremacy, preserving GLBTQ rights, the national mental health crisis, voter suppression, natural disasters, and and and…)

But taking a page from JVN’s wise words about the new season of Queer Eye, maybe thrifting is a bit of a refuge in the strange and hard landscape we live in, a place where you can be creative and have fun and recharge your batteries so you can keep doing that crucial work for justice, sanity, and everyone’s well-being.

So if that’s the case for you… let’s talk thrifting in a pandemic.

Many thrift stores are open now – hurray! – but their fitting rooms aren’t. What’s a thrifter to do?

If you’ve been thrifting for awhile and you’ve gotten good at eyeballing fit, you’re in good shape. It’s such a helpful skill given that the size printed on a tag doesn’t really tell you much about how a piece of clothing will fit your body.

Here are all the things I’ve thrifted during this pandemic that I wasn’t able to try on but that fit beautifully anyway:

Why yes, that is a new with tags Ann Taylor blouse and some J. McLaughlin lemon yellow jeans that retail for close to $100.

But what if you haven’t honed that skill yet, or if you don’t feel comfortable shopping in person yet (or your local stores aren’t open)? Don’t worry – just get out your tape measure.

Knowing your measurements allows you to successfully buy secondhand in person and online. Simply get out your best-fitting shirt, pants, dress, skirt, etc., and measure the key bits: shoulders, bust, waist, hips, hem, inseam. Note these down on your phone or a piece of paper and head to the thrift store with a portable tape measure to measure promising clothes in the aisle – or head to your favorite online secondhand site and ask sellers to share measurements (if they aren’t already listed). Don’t feel like you’re inconveniencing a seller by asking for this – it’s basic groundwork sellers will do if they want people to buy their stuff, because sizes vary so much across brands (and even across styles and years within the same brand).


Are you thrifting in person? Only online? A mix? Can you eyeball a good fit, or is that something you’re still working on? Do you bring a tape measure with you to the thrift store?


Friday ReBlog: Thrifting with a Tape Measure

Sheila over at Ephemera had a great tip embedded in a funky outfit post (which in and of itself will be good inspiration for anyone wanting to rock bright colors and skirts but stay warm).  She scored the featured skirt without trying it on but it fit like a glove.  Her secret?  Shopping with a tape measure!

Knowing your clothing measurements in inches/cm allows you to figure out if a piece you can’t (or don’t have time to) try on will match your body.  Vanity sizing combined with the vast range of brands/eras represented at the thrift store also makes this a very handy tool when those pants look suspiciously like a great fit even though they’re not labeled as your size…

I inherited a bright blue portable tape measure from my mom that I often tuck in my bag when I’m thrifting photo frames or furniture, but it hadn’t occurred to me to use a tape measure for clothing (duh).  This obviously requires a little bit of homework – namely measuring yourself at home and writing down (or memorizing) your measurements.  I suppose if you don’t mind marking it up, you could even record your measurements on said tape measure case with a fine tip permanent marker for quick reference.  Waist or bust size may need re-inscribing as size fluctuates, but inseam isn’t likely to budge much.


What are your favorite tools for thrifting?  Happy weekend, Thrifters!