How can we tackle the sizing charts of second-hand clothing?

  • by Scarlet Destiny Admin

Last week our blog talk was all about how second-hand shopping and resale culture are now beginning to be large-scale, completely changing the culture of fashion by making the current linear model into a circular one. By 2030, it’s predicted that second-hand clothes will comprise around 18% of the average wardrobe, up from 9% in 2020.

Although the resale industry will help tackle the 13 million garments discarded in the UK alone each week, there remains a roadblock in the potential of second-hand clothes: finding the perfect fit.

The difficulty around secondhand sizing comes from the fashion industry’s lack of standardisation. The very first sizing charts for garment manufacturing were put in place back in 1958. Over the following decades, ‘vanity sizing’ continuously eased sizes and shifted standards with the assumption that if a woman found herself wearing a size 10 in jeans at Levis and an 8 at GAP, for example, her loyalty would fall with the latter brand. But a women’s size 12 in 1958 now matches a contemporary size 6, and the term ‘standard’ is far from an accurate description of how sizes shift from one retailer to another.

Furthermore, there is a general lack of size representation above a UK size 12, and finding the right size in second-hand is challenging as there’s only one of each item, with no option to exchange for another size if it doesn’t fit.

The fashion industry has always failed to celebrate and promote bigger sizes, and with the mainstream fashion industry creating the product of the secondhand trade, thrifting shares this exclusivity. There are a few ways to tackle this sizing issue shoppers can consider when buying second-hand, and the first one being to understand and hack the item’s brand sizing charts.


When thrifting, most resale garments are labelled by their original brand name, and most clothing brands differ on the exact proportions their sizes cater to.

The best thing shoppers can do is know their own measurements, and when checking out a second-hand item, to pop over the brand’s website and have a look at their size chart.

Another way to embrace the resale culture and solve its sizing conundrum is to embrace alterations and think about reworking those items when shopping.

Most laundry service points in the UK also offer clothing alterations service, and if you can’t find one that does, than The Seam, a new digital platform, is trying to make a good fit open to everyone by creating an accessible way for people in London to find local, trusted makers, get a free fitting, and transform ill-fitting clothes into favourites.

If altering a trouser hem, waist alteration or tapered seams isn’t enough to make that garment a customer’s perfect fit, then our advice is to use it for an upcycling project or a creative rework. Depending on personal preferences, this could mean anything from changing a dress into a 2 piece co-ord set, or converting sleeves from full to fitted, etc.


With thrifting culture being embraced with open arms by all, people associate it with buying ‘vintage’, ‘authentic’, and ‘unique’ pieces and we now need to start thinking about those authentic pieces as just the starting point to realise your vision and embrace the possibilities of shopping second-hand.

(information sourced on

(Featured Image by SHVETS on

(Image 1 by Michael Burrows on

(Image 2 by Ron Lach on 



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