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?


3 thoughts on “Thrifting in a Pandemic

  1. Hurrah! I can start thrifting again! I’ve lost a good bit of weight during this Covid time frame (just my home cooking – LOL!) so this is a wonderful blog topic – using a tape measure in place of fitting rooms. We are starting to venture out occasionally to see close friends who are equally cautious at this time, so a few more thrifted items would be welcome to fill in the gaps in my wardrobe. Thanks so very much! Stay safe!

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