The explosion of vintage sellers on Instagram has been an exciting development both in terms of encouraging people to shop more sustainably and creating more opportunities for small businesses to thrive outside the typical constraints of retail—but for all the boom offers in one-of-a-kind vintage discoveries, it is woefully lacking in size-inclusivity. Emma Zack, the founder of Shop Berriez, has made it her mission to help fill that gap. Below, Emma shares advice gleaned from her experiencing sourcing size-inclusive vintage pieces, from her go-to search terms to her favorite tailor in New York.
What websites or Instagram sellers (besides @shopberriez!) would you recommend for size-inclusive vintage shopping?
Can you share any fun or useful insights into your search strategy?
I follow a bunch of sustainable plus-size bloggers, such as @jazminvegaz, @styleisstyle, @oohhhhhhhhhoney, @miriam.vegac, and @marielle.elizabeth–who all post about size-inclusive vintage and/or size-inclusive sustainable brands (which, by the way, are few and far between!). Otherwise, if I’m shopping on resale sites such as ThreadUp, Poshmark, or eBay, I start by searching by my size. But, since I’ve learned that vintage sizing is arbitrary–much like sizing in general—I also look at the item’s measurements, fabric (i.e. does it have stretch to it?), and silhouette (i.e. will it tug at my hips? Will it be tight on my arms?) to get a better sense of whether it will fit.
Are there any particular eras or time periods that tend to have more size-inclusive vintage gems?
I source lots of gems from the ’80s and ’90s. It’s been harder for me to find plus-size vintage from earlier eras, but the ’80s and ’90s are more my style anyways!
Do you recommend keeping an eye out for certain fabrics or silhouettes?
For fabrics, it really depends on what you like. I prefer natural fibers such as linen, cotton, and silk, but in my experience, it’s been more difficult to source linen and silk pieces—particularly in plus sizes—than it has been to source polyester pieces. I’m also a fan of the acetate and spandex fabric blend—you know, that really stretchy fabric that was popular in the ’90s. I love how it molds to your body and shows off your shape, and it is so comfortable. Personally, my favorite silhouette is a bias cut. I find that it hugs my curves nicely. I’m always on the lookout for bias-cut pieces, and I often recommend them to customers during IRL styling appointments.
Are there certain items that you’ve found are relatively easy to order without trying on first?
As a plus-size person, it’s always easier to try things on before I buy them—but I usually have to order clothing online because most brick-and-mortar shops don’t sell my size. Even if they did, IRL shopping is nearly obsolete in the age of COVID-19! That being said, I highly recommend taking your measurements–specifically bust, waist, hips, and inseam. When online shopping for vintage, compare measurements to pieces you already own. Don’t pay too much attention to the size. I’m a 14 or 16, but in vintage I’ve worn anything between a 10 to a 20. In an effort to make online shopping for vintage easier, we added a “model size guide” to the Berriez website, so that people can compare their measurements to the measurements of the model wearing the item. We also aim to have models wear clothing that’s their actual size (e.g., instead of having a size XL person model an item that’s size 3X, we’ll have a size 3X person model it). This has been more difficult during COVID, but it’s a good practice to keep in mind.
Do you have any advice on getting vintage pieces tailored?
I have the majority of my pants and skirts altered because my hips are a full size bigger than my waist. You can have most things altered—suede, leather, elastic waists, denim, etc.—you just need to be great at sewing or find a skilled tailor. Last year, I found this incredible vintage suede midi skirt that didn’t fit quite right, so I had it altered and now it fits me perfectly. (Side note: If you’re in the New York area, check out Perry Tailoring in the Financial District.)
Any other size-inclusive vintage shopping tips or tricks you’d like to share?
The more exposure to fat bodies in fashion media and brands like Man Repeller, the more space that will be available not only for plus-size vintage shopping, but for plus-size people in general.
Photos by Jessica Portillo.