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A new pop-up flea market in L.A. makes space for plus-size thrift shoppers

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

For people who are above a certain size, it can be hard to find clothes that fit, especially in thrift stores. Those who spend time looking say there are few options to start with. Plus shoppers can't count on clothes in thrift stores being labeled or the racks being sorted by size. But as KCRW's Andrea Bautista reports, this month LA saw a new pop-up event that its founders hope will be a monthly series - a flea market that caters to plus-size customers.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: We can do Venmo or card.

ANDREA BAUTISTA, BYLINE: In a narrow alley behind a tattoo shop in North Hollywood, over 20 vendors have set up booths with racks of clothes. Music is bumping while shoppers rummage through brightly colored jackets, patterned skirts and graphic tees.

TARA QUINTEROS: I actually just found this amazing linen summer dress with these buttons all down the side.

BAUTISTA: Tara Quinteros says clothes marketed toward plus-size people at big box stores often lack creativity. She likes thrifting as a way to find items that are unique and make her stand out.

QUINTEROS: I love that these people's brands, the things they curate, are about, like, personality, fun - like, having it be whatever you want.

BAUTISTA: As a plus-size person, Quinteros says she's been to flea markets all over LA, and this is the first time she's felt included.

QUINTEROS: They're never meant for people like me. And being able to walk in here and know I could shop at any of these tents is absolutely incredible. I feel spoiled and also a little annoyed because it should always be like this.

BAUTISTA: This flea market, known as Thick Thrift, was co-created by Rachel Frank. Frank is a 27-year-old copywriter and a stylist on the side. And as a plus-size shopper, they know what it's like to spend hours at a flea market and not find anything that fits them.

RACHAEL FRANK: It just feels like we're digging for scraps, basically, and that we have to be so innovative to, like, express ourselves and to feel good about our style because we have to try so much harder to curate.

BAUTISTA: They say that many vintage clothing stores don't have dedicated sections for plus-size clothing, and there's less of it as you go higher in size. So shoppers might spend a huge amount of time digging through clothes that don't fit to find one item that does. Frank decided to start Thick Thrift earlier this year with two friends because they wanted to create a space where it was easy and fun for plus-size people to find cool clothes.

FRANK: I think expressing yourself through clothing is, like, a part of being human. And the fact that we're denied, like, the basic humanity of self-expression - that's a really big deal. So it's just clothes, but it's actually a way for us to feel seen and heard as people.

BAUTISTA: Thick Thrift isn't the only market like this. Similar events have been held in the last year in San Francisco and Chicago, and a community of plus-size vintage and thrift clothing resellers can be found online. But of course, people want to try things on to make sure that what they're buying looks and feels good. And being in person has another perk. Vendor Jessica Hinkle owns a shop in LA called Proud Mary Fashion, but she loves Thick Thrift because she gets introduced to new brands and vintage vendors she doesn't know. And she gets to be in community with other people who care about size-inclusive fashion.

JESSICA HINKLE: So it's great to see everyone cater to plus-size consumers in one space. Honestly, like, just having fun and existing and not being judged.

BAUTISTA: Thick Thrift's founders are hoping to pop up at a new location in July.

For NPR News, I'm Andrea Bautista in Los Angeles. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Andrea Bautista