Recently, I stumbled upon Indian Summer (534 Summit Ave. E., firstname.lastname@example.org), a vintage-clothing boutique tucked away on Capitol Hill.
The racks inside were laden with baby Ts from the ’90s, plaid pleated skirts, sleek black jumpsuits, and glittering spaghetti-strapped frocks that beckoned at every turn. Checking the price tag, perhaps gritting my teeth in anticipation of the worst, I experienced a different kind of sticker shock: How can this dress be only $10? Best of all, a wide range of sizes and styles make it likely that you will find something that fits and flatters—if you’re buying new threads for yourself and not gifts for friends and family, that is.
Since the shop’s inception in 2010, owner Adria Garcia has cultivated a cozy, sunny space, with friends and regulars filtering in and out to chat while Kate Bush plays in the background. The back room, which includes a fireplace, frequently serves as a venue for performances. Garcia is fiercely dedicated to making Indian Summer accessible to everyone, including people of color and queer and non-binary people. Besides offering diverse sizing, she hosts events like her popular “More Fats, More Femmes” sale, where she sells items in sizes 12 to 32 alongside mimosas and cupcakes.
Garcia, who terms her aesthetic “bizarre opulence,” traces her love of style back to her Taino Indian roots. “Regalia expresses who you are within the native community, and I think that’s true for all communities,” she says. As a child, told she had to reserve wearing a tiara for special occasions, she smuggled the offending accessory into her school bag and wore it to class daily.
Garcia has the finely tuned eye of someone who’s learned to hunt when options are lacking elsewhere: She recounts going shopping for prom dresses with a group of female friends in high school, all of them more than six feet tall and 200 pounds. After regular retail stores failed them, Garcia scoured Value Village and came up with beautiful dresses for all of them.
Indian Summer is far more than just a place to buy clothing: 20 percent of all proceeds go to charity (currently, to support the protesters at Standing Rock Indian Reservation), and on the first Sunday of each month, Garcia throws a big feast in the store’s back room, open to anyone looking for a meal and companionship. She refers to her vintage wares as a “magpie lure” to draw passersby into her community-oriented space: “It’s a neighborhood place that also happens to have some badass vintage.”
“I’ve had crazy conversations over just the purchase of a scarf, where I’m suddenly hugging and crying with a person and they’re coming back next week to help me cook and clean,” she says. “I’ve made friends at the shop who I would consider family, who will be with me to the day I die.”