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As a lover of true vintage styles and shapes I often find shopping for vintage clothing to be a little bit of a nightmare. The plus size section of any vintage shop or vintage fair is often disappointingly small and the plus size pickings in charity shops can leave a lot to be desired. During various times in my life I have dressed exclusively in charity shop clothes, it led to some beautifully weird and wonderful outfit combinations! It also taught me a lot about what to look for in a vintage piece and how to buy things I love so they will fit my body. I still wear vintage and end up buying as much from charity shops as I donate.
This gorgeous beauty of a dress [gifted] from Source Vintage ticks all the boxes for a perfect plus size vintage find, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to share with you a couple of pieces of my plus size vintage clothing shopping wisdom.
The first thing I quickly learned with charity shopping and vintage shopping is to not restrict myself to one gendered section. I find so many gorgeous shirts, jackets, and trousers in the ‘mens’ section. Overall, that section tends to run into much bigger sizes than their ‘female’ branded counterparts and most ‘mens’ items actually fit my body like a dream. Oversized mens shirts and jumpers are ten a penny in any charity shop or vintage fair you walk into and they are still some of my favourite things to buy.
I am a big fan of ‘mens’ belts too; they are an absolute godsend as they fit me so much better than ‘ladies’ belts, they are often thicker and usually leather. The belt I’m wearing with this outfit is actually an old favourite of mine bought from the ‘mens’ section of a charity shop years ago. Also mix things up with gendered section buys; oversized ‘mens’ shirts work brilliantly as dresses, so can jumpers in a pinch, trousers can be taken up into comfy summer shorts if they’re too long… the possibilities are endless!
Secondly, as vintage clothing is designed and made with a very specific body shape in mind (i.e. not one that tends to exist any more) I would always advise to go up at least one size, in many cases two and if you can ignore the label to go by the measurements of the garment then even better.
The dress I’m wearing in this post is a UK24 according to the label and it fits wonderfully. The top half is roomy enough that the buttons do not pull at the bust and the sleeves are generous for my upper arms. Like many vintage dresses, this one has shoulder pads, which if the dress fitted more snugly I would have definitely removed to create a little more space in the top. As it stands, I quite like the shoulder pads in this as they help the fabric sit nicely and enhance the 90’s oversized shirt effect.
Another tip, and maybe the most important, is to try things on. I’ll admit that can be a bit more tricky at a vintage fair but every charity shop will have a changing room that you can use. If, over time, you try lots of different types and styles of vintage clothing you’ll get to know what things you love, the shapes that look amazing on you and which decades speak to your personal style the most.
For example, I can never get enough of the 80’s / 90’s button up the front shirt dresses with oversized tops like the one I’m wearing here. I’ve tried so many on that I know what sizing I’m looking for, what fabrics to avoid and even which brands have the best, boldest patterns (I live for Berketex and St. Michaels).
If you’re a plus size vintage clothes lover like me then please remember that you are not ruled out of dressing the way you want, you just might have to get a little creative with it. I wish it were different, but even though the options we have today still aren’t perfect, there really didn’t used to be anything like the range of plus size options out there.