The sun shone through the glass windows of a small family-run restaurant in Hamilton’s east end, bouncing off metallic clothing racks and bright yellow walls. What once was Donairs At Gage had transformed into a Plus Size Flea Market for a Saturday afternoon.
Shoppers poured in and out of the former restaurant, rummaging through fashion forward pieces and unique plus-size finds, including a vintage red rain jacket that caught a few eyes.
A DJ played music throughout the busy afternoon as shoppers posed for photos with pineapple-shaped balloons in front of a cheerful lemon-printed backdrop. Jessie Goyette walked from booth to booth, making sure her event was the warm and welcoming experience she had hoped for.
The Plus Size Flea Market was one of the first of its kind. Several marketplaces have been popping up around Hamilton, but Goyette felt that they always had limited sizing or didn’t carry pieces that suited her. She knew others felt the same way.
Goyette is very active in the Hamilton community. She’s an advocate, artist and current Leadership in Community Engagement student at McMaster University and founder of Safer Gigs Hamilton. Naturally, she decided to take matters into her own hands and carve out a space to celebrate plus-size fashion.
In a matter of three weeks, Goyette seamlessly put together the entire event. Around 10 vendors were present, including well-known names such as White Elephant and Girl on the Wing, with a selection of pieces size 10 and up.
Edencole Dresses, located on Ottawa and Cannon, had a selection of affordable dresses, tops and leggings at the market. Birds of North America, a contemporary, vintage-inspired clothing line by a Toronto-based designer, Hayley Gibson, was also a vendor.
The market also had independent vendors like the Mermaids Purse, a colourful collection of vintage goodies from the 1950s to the 1990s curated by Chelsea Ward and Snake Pit Vintage, Goyette’s own clothing collection.
“I have an interest in fashion. [With] all the really exciting new businesses that are popping up all around Hamilton, there are a lot of people in the plus sized community who don’t know that these businesses have plus size options,” explained Goyette.
“I know from personal experiences that it can be super intimidating to go into a new store when you’re not sure if you’re going to leave empty handed [or] fit into anything in the store. So I wanted to celebrate… and highlight all the businesses that you can go into.”
For example, Girl on the Wing has a beautiful selection of plus sized bathing suits that not many people are aware of. The shop also offers custom orders on swimwear so that shoppers can feel comfortable in just the right fit this coming summer.
The Mermaid’s Purse collection offers unique pieces that radiate creative personality. Ward gravitates towards colourful and over the top items, like a fun selection of geometric earrings, a blue crushed velvet blouse and a silver housecoat from the 1950s, which all made a debut at the market.
“Being a size 12/14, I will admit I have struggled to find clothing that fit my personality in my size. The outdated belief is that curvy and plus size women don’t want to stand out any more than they already do, therefore for years there has been a lack of fun, unique pieces for women with shape,” explained Ward.
“I believe women of all shapes and sizes should have a wide variety of clothing to choose from in order to find what makes them feel good. Everyone has a right to rock something beautiful and shine in the clothing they wear.”
For Goyette, the main idea behind the flea market is not just about shopping local, but rather about building community, confidence and self-esteem. It’s all about celebrating positivity and inclusivity, while also creating a space where like-minded people can meet and share their ideas and experiences.
The idea of hosting a Plus Size Flea Market had been at the back of Goyette’s head for quite some time, but she wasn’t sure how the community would react. As soon as her idea turned into reality, it received an overwhelming amount of positive support. So much so that Goyette is already making plans for another market during the summer.
As unlikely as it may seem, the little donair restaurant became the backdrop of a bustling community of individuals eager to meet and connect over clothing and conversation.