If you hang around the plus size fashion space long enough, you’ll likely get to know the bubbly and infectious joy of Alysse Dalessandro of @ReadyToStare. Alysse is a long-time supporter and member of the TCF community, taking part in campaigns and speaking at the TCF Style Expo in the past.
Recently, she jumped BACK into the business of selling clothes, opening her plus size secondhand store, Secondhand Stare, online.
Finding secondhand vintage and thrift plus size clothing in-store can be difficult, and Alysse’s shop brings that fun “hunting through racks” experience to everyone via the internet! Also, as a fellow plus size LGBT blogger, I am overjoyed to sit down with Alysse to learn about her new brand and how the TCF community can support it.
How Secondhand Stare Got Started
From planning plus size and LGBT trips abroad to speaking at conferences about her experience with Diabetes, Alysse is a true Sagittarius in that she is always on the move. And like many entrepreneurs, Secondhand Stare is not Alysse’s first clothing and accessory business.
Dalessandro’s first vintage venture started with two friends when she was just a senior in college in Chicago, IL. When those friends moved to New York, she started Ready to Stare as a handmade jewelry and accessory brand in 2012 selling on Etsy. Though vintage wasn’t the focus of her shop, she always had a few pieces for sale in the shop.
Side note: Does anyone else remember the iconic chain belts from Alysse? I sure do, and they’re making a comeback.
Hearing about Alysse’s first business made me curious about how she got the courage to jump in again! Having been in the plus size fashion space for years, I know that running a brick and mortar business comes with large and unique challenges.
Alysse’s love for vintage runs deep— all the way back to her middle school days. She shared, “As a plus size fashion-loving teen, thrifting clothing of all genders gave me more options than mainstream stores offered in the early 2000s. I have loved shopping secondhand ever since.”
I particularly love how Alysse points out thrifting clothing of ALL genders. I can confirm shopping in both sections is an awesome way to find new fun clothing, often in silhouettes that aren’t always seen as “flattering” for plus size women.
Alysse’s Plus Size Closet Sales
After transitioning into becoming a full-time influencer, Alysse stopped making and selling products to focus on plus size content creation. Putting her shop aside would only be short-lived, though, because Alysse missed running it. She started doing closet sales in 2016 of her own gently used plus size items to scratch the itch. “I would do them once every few years and always to much success and excitement,” says Dalessandro. By 2019, Alysse was doing these closet sales a few times a year.
“By 2021,” Alysse said, “I had hired someone to help me part-time photograph and list items for my quarterly closet sales. I started to get requests from more and more folks that wanted to see items in their sizes rather than just being able to shop my items.”
My closet sales were filling a need that mainstream fashion wasn’t: a sustainable and accessible way to shop plus size clothing.Alysse Dalessandro, Founder of Secondhand Stare
I want to point out that some retailers could take note of what Alysse is doing. She pays models from sizes 10 – 40 to model pieces for her store. Offhand, I can only think of half a dozen plus size brands that do this. It really makes me wonder: If a small business like Secondhand Stare can show models from sizes 10-40, then why are heavily-resourced plus size brands showing us the same skinny-fat models? *side-eyes heavily*
One of my favorite parts about Alysse’s journey with Secondhand Stare is you can see how she built momentum over several years. Sometimes, the stories we’re told make it seem like brands launch overnight, which usually isn’t the case. Hearing about the time span of 6 years here clearly illustrates how Alysse built from past success to get to this point.
Alysse was meeting a need mainstream fashion wasn’t: a sustainable and accessible way to shop plus size clothing. She intentionally kept the prices low to make plus size fashion more accessible to more people.
Dalessandro thought, “This is bigger than me. I could transform the concept I had developed for selling my own items into a full-blown store. By being open all the time (something my closet sales never did) and catering to a full plus size range of 10-40, I could hope to make a real difference in helping more people have access to fashion.” Thus, Secondhand Stare was born.
Dalessandro Pays Homage to Closet Sales with Influencer Drops
In addition to her dedication to putting together rad editorial photoshoots with truly diverse models, I’ve also enjoyed Alysse doing editorial and conceptual shoots for closet sales with other influencers.
Alysse gave us the scoop, saying, “As a full-time influencer myself, I obviously understand the power of working with influencers. Since Secondhand Stare started as my influencer closet sale, I wanted to give influencers the opportunity to sell items from their closets in our shop. I know for me that parting with items was tough for me when I was just donating or selling to consignment shops. It felt so impersonal. Doing a dedicated closet drop through Secondhand Stare gives the influencer the opportunity to tell the story behind the clothes and connect with the folks who may be buying the items! So far, we have done closet sale drops with Elizabeth of SnackinCbus and Courtney of Queer Fat Loud.”
How Ready to Stare Sources Their Plus Size Clothing
Something I didn’t know until pretty recently is that one of the hardest (and most rewarding) parts of having a plus size secondhand online store is sourcing the items to go in the store.
I go to estate sales, garage sales, and flea markets. There’s a lot of treasure to be found in things that other folks no longer need.Alysse Dalessandro, Founder of Secondhand Stare
I never thought much about that process until I started being educated via the internet. Seeing people go through bins at Goodwill, thrift in different cities, source items from fashion influencers, and go to estate sales (I love Alysse’s updates from estate sales), I realized how much curatorial work goes into this process.
Alysse explained, “There are a lot of different ways that I find pieces to sell on Secondhand Stare. I go to estate sales, garage sales, and flea markets. There’s a lot of treasure to be found in things that other folks no longer need. There was one local estate sale that I waited three hours to get into and I wasn’t the only one. People flew from out of the state to attend this estate sale because this woman had an absolutely iconic closet full of vintage Versace, Chanel, Prada and more. Unfortunately, none of the clothing was plus size, but I left with so many amazing accessories including chain belts that I will be customizing and making into plus sizes.”
As Alysse was sharing about sourcing all of these accessories (some of which I’ve snagged), I had to ask, “How the heck do you organize all of this stuff?” Maybe it’s just me, but I couldn’t imagine creating a process to source, shoot, organize, and then ship all of these cool items she has in her shop.
Alysse explained, “I could not run this business in a big city on the budget I have. Space is a luxury that becomes accessible when you live in a smaller city like Cleveland. I have a studio that is part photo/video set up and part office space. The Secondhand Stare inventory lived in that studio space for a while, but I was able to add a dedicated storage room in the same building that now houses our more than 1000+ items.”
Alysse makes sure to give a shoutout to her team, saying, “Secondhand Stare is a small but mighty team! Since we are online only for now, everything is done by myself and my brand manager, Asia Waggle. As the owner and creative director, I handle all of the sourcing, drop themes and the mostly un-fun business side of things.
Asia handles the daily tasks that keep the shop running. They do graphic design and social media, inventory management, listings, shipping, customer service, model bookings and help to organize drops and photoshoots. There’s one thing that I know for sure – I couldn’t run Secondhand Stare without the creative genius that Asia brings to the table.”
What’s Next for Secondhand Stare
Something we always ask indie brands is, “How can we (and the greater plus size community) support you?” For Secondhand Stare, a brand in their first year of business, there are a few ways we can all help! From Alysse:
- Our biggest challenge now is that we are still new. The best support that the plus size community can do is to share our shop and our Instagram so more plus size babes can find us! Shares, comments, likes — those all make a difference for us.
- Shop our website! I recommend sorting our items from newest to old to see the latest drops or shopping by size!
- We buy clothing! We do not offer consignment, but we do flat-rate buying. We are looking for high-quality, gently used or new items with tag items in 4X, 5X, 6X, and 7X all the time. We will do virtual buys in the US where we pay for shipping for items that fit our shop in that size range. We also occasionally do in-person buying in sizes XL-3X for folks in the Cleveland area.
I have personally loved seeing the fat joy, as well as queer fat joy, on the Secondhand Stare feed. Knowing that models were cast with joy and celebration, rather than trying to appease critics, really shows in the Secondhand Stare visuals and creative assets.
From her pride drop to fun photoshoots and reels, Alysse invites you and all plus size people to have fun with fashion. She drives this home, saying, “Secondhand Stare is my way of rewriting the narrative and letting y’all know YOU CAN WEAR THAT!”
That joie de vivre, the maximalism, the adoration that Alysse shares with her community— she’s been doing that for more than a decade. And that same design and creative ethos shows through in her latest work.
And we, as the plus size and fat community, are better for it.