Thrift stores lack inclusivity | The Ithakan
When checking out the Plato’s Cabinet website, everything looks very tempting. The company accepts trendy second hand fashion and if you donate and the staff take your clothes you will be paid cash on the spot. The tagline sounds amazing too – “Looks good. do good. Feel good.” Too bad it’s a blatant lie.
A few weeks ago I wanted to buy a new formal dress for an event I will be attending in the summer. Buying nice things at an affordable price is always a bit of a chore, especially if you’re like me – somewhat size 20 and with a well-realized sense of personal style – but I wasn’t expecting Plato’s Closet to present me with such a terrible shopping experience . I’ve tried on at least three things and none of them “looked good” or “felt good”.
The first red flag was that the selection stops at size XL. While that’s a bit worrying for a tall girl, when I really looked through the shelves I noticed that some of the clothing items marked XL were actually a size 12–14. For those who don’t know, XL is supposed to be a size 16–18. I wouldn’t have fit the clothes even if everything was labeled correctly, but I can imagine what it would feel like to walk into this store wearing a size 18. I can understand how devastating it would be to find an “XL” dress you like, only to try it on and discover that you don’t fit into the garment that’s supposed to be your size. This is just the tip of the iceberg, however, as this lack of choice may not be a reflection of Plato’s closet, but rather a reflection of the fashion industry and its tendency to discriminate against fat people.
A major threat to the environment is fast fashion, defined as cheap, trendy, poor-quality clothing that ends up in the trash after just a few wears – a product of overproduction and capitalist consumption. This industry is one of the biggest polluters in the world, resulting in microplastics and excess waste. In addition, fast fashion is notorious for complicity in the abuse of workers. In short, it’s generally not a great thing.
Plato’s Closet promotes sustainability by giving people the opportunity to recycle their clothes. While it would be great to denounce all fast fashion brands and switch to buying only recycled clothing, I and a lot of other fat girls don’t have that luxury. How am I supposed to get involved in the anti-fast fashion movement when stores like Plato’s Closet don’t sell items I can wear? Even Standard thrift storeswhich tend to offer a relatively larger range of sizes don’t always have the most flattering options for fat people.
Plus size clothing is in high demand as approximately 70% of US women are a size 14 or larger. PLUS Model Magazine defines plus sizes as sizes over 18, but there are many disagreements about what counts as plus size. Even Torrid, a popular plus size clothing brand, carries sizes 10 and up. Still, plus–Size-economy options are searched through very quickly, leaving only the items that nobody wants. It was always just luck and timing that I was able to find something halfway decent at thrift stores.
Another problem I’ve seen is skinny people buying larger clothes for craft projects – flashback to me watching in hideous horror on a TikTok as a woman cut up an adorable plus size 1950s style dress to make it up to turn into a skirt. These upcycling enthusiasts use our clothes as scraps of fabric and then get angry at us when we can’t buy items that actually fit us, forcing us to buy fast fashion.
I’ve been told repeatedly by women who have the luxury of going to thrift stores and finding limitless opportunities that buying from fast fashion brands pleases SHEIN and Torrid makes me a bad person. I’m tired of being stuck between a rock and a hard place. I want the right to look and feel beautiful in my body without becoming complicit in the questionable practices of mainstream fashion brands.