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  • Writer's pictureMichaela A de Guire

Second hand shops for the tall (and other tips too)

Updated: Apr 16, 2023

When you are tall (as I am) it is hard to find things that fit you in a second hand shop, or antique store. As the average height of humans increases, so do the average sizes of clothing. In 1900 the average height for women was 5’ 2”. My grandmother was born around 1950, when the average height increased by 2”, thus, my grandmother is the average height of women from her era. I however, gathered a lot of my own mothers genes in height of which she gathered from our grandfather, who stands over 6’ tall.

With all that said, going antiquing or thrifting for me has been a challenge, mostly because with the added inches comes a thicker waist, even though I am not heavy or anything like that, I do have larger bones than the women of the past and that makes finding older clothes that fit difficult. But, it is not impossible. So long as you are creative, and are okay with tailoring your clothes or hiring someone to tailor them for you, you can wear things from second hand shops.

holding the numbers and passing them on.
Get the numbers out of your head, go with how it physically fits.

When shopping in second hand shops you do not want to have a number or size stuck in your head. If you do you best get it out. As women were shorter their average waist size was smaller too, they were all around more petite then you. Thus, your best bet is trying things on, don’t be afraid to seek clothes with a size 12 printed on the label, it is actually closer to a 2 in today's sizing. You shouldn't be stuck on the numbers, but rather focused on how it physically fits.

If you are having trouble finding clothes in second hand shops that fit you, then try seeking out one-size-fits-most things. Such as scarves, hats, possibly overcoats and sweaters, menswear, and other accessories. I was blessed with average length in my arms, so I find I can wear most overcoats and sweaters, however, two of my sisters struggle finding sleeves that are long enough. If you find yourself running into this sort of situation, perhaps look into the mens section and have the item taken to a tailor to get it more suited for your body.

The foundations of your wardrobe will not be found in a second hand shop

The foundations of your wardrobe will not be found in a second hand shop because when someone purchases something for the foundation of their wardrobe usually it is worn until it's worn out. However, if you are tall then the reason you won't find the foundations of your wardrobe is simply because tall clothes are not as mass produced as “regular” clothes are. Clothes made with length are usually produced with some quantity, and thus, are usually priced accordingly. The second hand shop may offer you a place to add character and class to your attire. It will offer you accessories and additional pieces, but it will not offer you the basics such as a simple white top or simple black pants (although the pants might be there, you never really know what others are donating these days).

As a “tall” woman I know how precious something is that I find and fits well. We hold on to that garment until it is in rags and tatters (most of my family does the same). Just because you cannot find something available in a second hand shop does not mean you shouldn't care where it comes from. On the contrary, you should seek properly sourced clothing all the time. You should ensure the company you are shopping with is paying their employees and farmers well. You should care 100%, all the freaking time.

There are a few shops I love to shop with because I know they are doing their part. I also know they are actually making clothes for tall people rather than just “grading” the pattern to be the “size”.

Note: Pattern grading is an easy way to adjust the pattern to scale, saving time from drafting a whole new one. Unfortunately, it is not right to adjust more than 2 sizes one way or the other as it would disrupt the balance of the pattern. Thus, disrupting the whole garment. But most will not follow the last bit of this rule and that is one of the reasons why clothes don’t fit well all the time.

One of my favorite places to shop is Duluth trading because of the length they offer in their clothes, and the quality that comes with it. Another great place to shop is pact clothing, they offer great knitwear, which is also dyed using natural dyes.

But this is supposed to be about second hand shopping… not new clothes. So let's get back to it.

Things to look out for in second owned clothing include, holes, tares, weak seams, stains, and any other flaws or damage.

If you know a thing or two about mending clothes then a weak seams or a hole won't be a big deal. And, if you know how to remove stains from clothes and you can recognize the stain, so you can treat it with the correct solution, then maybe stains won't stop you either. However, if it is not something to be easily fixed and you're not up to that challenge, then please by all means leave it at the shop for another to seek and find! Never, ever take something home because you so badly want it but you are not 100% committed to getting it to the point where you are overjoyed to wear it.

jumping for joy
Every time you get dressed for the day you should be jumping for joy

When you go second hand shopping you are seeking things that match your character, style and bring you joy! You are not shopping to have these things of another's past taking up space in your place. There is no reason that is good enough to just shop.

Second hand clothes have a history, and most have a very active and joy filled life and are ready to have a second opportunity with another, but they don't need to just sit in the back of your wardrobe because you haven't time for them. They can do that at the shop, except at the shop they are filled with anticipation and excitement. In the back of your wardrobe, it is not so… they lose a little hope each day they are unnoticed. And soon they are not as vibrant and beautiful as they once were.

So when you go second hand shopping be a little more conscientious with how you do things, how to look at the clothes. Be extra conscientious about what you take home with you and what you plan to do with it and when you plan to wear it.

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