Adria Garcia has the words “love” and “tender” tattooed on her body, and that pretty much dictates how she lives her life. An installation artist, a curator, a Native American, an activist, and a mother, she’s perhaps best known in her Seattle home base as the proprietress of Indian Summer, a cozy vintage boutique on a sleepy corner in the city’s otherwise boisterous Capitol Hill neighborhood. What began as a continuation of her family trade—Garcia began slinging thrift at her mother’s shop at the age of 13—Indian Summer has become a friendly and welcoming oasis for people of all shapes and sizes and colors and genders, to come together in a safe place and to be encouraged to self-express without shame.
In a booming tech hub like Seattle, where the addition of thousands of high-paying jobs each year and corresponding influx of residents pushes rents to extreme heights, DIY haunts and small businesses are often pushed out under increasing financial pressure, only to be replaced with boxy condominiums and chic coffee shops. Aware of the shrinkage of safe communal environments for her friends and family, Garcia says she is as much concerned with utilizing her shop to create a useable space for her community as she is with the clothing she sells.
“I wanted a clubhouse,” she says. “I wanted a space where we can just come and be, and it always feels good.” Adopting a kind of housemother role since Indian Summer’s opening inside a vacated gallery in 2010, her shop now plays host to a rotating series of community dinners, art shows, “feelings workshops,” and dance parties, in addition to a hand-selected roster of beautiful, accessibly-priced garments.
This Saturday, February 17, marks the fifth rendition of Indian Summer’s “More Fats More Femmes Witch Market” for which Garcia, with the help of writer and collaborator Kim Selling and stylist Abby Cooke, will bust out the best of the biggest, populating the shop entirely with vintage threads sizes 12 and up.
Cool vintage can be tough to find in bigger sizes and, contrary to the myth that people were “just so small back in the day,” Garcia muses that this is because there are more people who can fit those sizes than there are those who can wear a size 0, so the clothing gets passed down and worn and worn and worn—until it’s nothing. “I have a pair of Italian boots in the store right now that are a burnt orange with black piping. They’re ferocious, but they’re a size 5! I’ve had them for a year. I know someone with size 5 feet is going to come in and love them, but if they were a size 8 or 10, they would’ve been gone in a day.”
But the selection here is top notch, perhaps because the market is an extension of Garcia’s own closet. “I have always sold plus sized stuff because I’m big,” she explains. “And really, the number one person I shop for is myself. So everything else is, like, things I wish I could wear and maybe they don’t work for me, so I pass them along.”
Her goal is to create a positive shopping experience for bigger-bodied folks, offering personalized styling advice on fit and how to incorporate your vintage finds into an everyday rotation. “If you don’t see yourself in the fashion you want to wear, it’s tricky. That’s kind of the message of the market, too: see yourself! And we’ll help you and we’ll encourage you and you’re always welcome here.” For this market, she’s excited to unveil a collection of wool coats, some in bright jewel-tones, others finished with luxe fur trimmings.
“Just be patient, babies!” When it comes to scouring for plus-size vintage, Garcia says it just takes patience and an open mind. “Look in all sizes! I have a couple plus-size friends who, when we go shopping together, they’ll look in the section marked 14 and then that’s it. I’m like no, look in the 16s, the 18s, the 20s—you never know!” And it doesn’t hurt to be tuned into the scene: Garcia often turns to social media and other shops for helpful hints on where to dig up the coolest threads.
“The More Fats More Femmes Market is by far one of my favorite events I’ve ever done in my life,” she continues. “And if someone’s not feeling something, the rallying is so real. I’ve seen like seven people gathered around one crying person, like ‘You’re beautiful! You can do it! You’ve got this!’ I leave there and, for weeks, I’m high as a kite off of pure energetic love. It’s sweet. It’s so sticky, sticky, sticky sweet.”
When asked if she has advice for anyone trying to hold similar events, Garcia says simply, “Start small!” and that’s representative of her brand of activism—one that’s focused on building a warm, safe community through everyday actions. “I have a craft night. I have a makeup swap. It’s little things like that. It could be condoms in a bowl one day. It could be oranges the next day. It’s just something to engage people, you know? Like, hey, I want to make sure your body is nourished, and I want to make sure you’re taking care of your needs.” Following the More Fats More Femmes Witch Market, Indian Summer will host a biscuit-and-hand-holding day, and we’re all invited. Grab a friend, bring a dish and some good vibes—you’re welcome here.