Tucked away in the basement of the Hamilton Antique Mall (233 Ottawa St. North) is Dollywood Plus Vintage, a vibrant pink, Dolly Parton-bedecked, oasis of vintage fashion and body acceptance. It is owned and operated by Jessie Goyette, who is a vocal advocate for the plus size community. Last year, Goyette organized the Hamilton Plus Size Flea Market and received overwhelmingly positive feedback.
This past summer, Goyette applied for a booth in the Hamilton Antique Mall. She was accepted almost immediately, and she says the response has been incredible.
“I had people coming in and buying up everything. I had people messaging me, telling me how this is something that they’ve never seen before or been a part of and how there’s no spaces explicitly for plus size people that are run by independent folks in Hamilton, or even in the area in general. Especially focusing on vintage. That pushed me to keep doing it,” said Goyette.
While the body positive movement is slowly gaining traction, there are still many spaces that do not offer options for plus sized people. Having to choose from a tiny selection of ill-fitting clothing is all too common, particularly for anyone looking to express themselves through fun and innovative fashion. Additionally, having only plus-sized options reinforces the narrative that plus sized bodies should be hidden away. Dollywood Plus Vintage looks to battle that narrative through body acceptance and positivity.
“It isn’t just about clothes, and selling clothes. It’s about paying attention to a group of people that are just as deserving to express themselves the way they want to, and embody themselves in whatever way they choose,” said Goyette.
For Goyette, body positivity means celebrating plus-size bodies.
“I think fat bodies in particular are often devalued or seen as bad. It’s important to acknowledge that people with fat bodies are desirable and worthy of anything that anybody else with a body is. Regardless of their health, regardless of how you whether or not you perceive them to be living healthy or not, that doesn’t matter. I think it’s a human right to be able to express yourself and feel comfortable with who you are, and not be made to feel uncomfortable about the space you take up with your body,” said Goyette.
Going forward, Goyette plans to expand beyond clothing. Zines, buttons, patches and stickers are all in progress.
“I want to have different types of media, literature and art that explicitly speak to the experience of plus sized people in Hamilton,” said Goyette. She hopes that this will foster a sense of community and acceptance that isn’t always easy to find.
Dollywood Plus Vintage itself is bright and happy. Any spots not filled with unique clothes are covered with pictures of Dolly Parton, the Grammy award-winning country singer. The VHS copy of Steel Magnolias rests next to zines and patches. Goyette says that Parton’s song “Wildflowers” in particular speaks to her.
“Wildflowers are still really beautiful despite them not being the norm. They have the capacity to thrive and to overcome anything, regardless of where they are. That, to me, was something that carried over to the fat experience. Much like the wildflower, fat bodies are beautiful in their own way and are dynamic and able to bounce back from anything that society might throw at them,” said Goyette.
Dollywood Plus Vintage has only just begun, and if the initial response is anything to judge by, it will be around for a very long time. Goyette hopes that one day we will live in a world where there’s no need to have an article about a plus sized store because, hopefully by then, it will be so normal. Until then, Goyette’s store can be found in the basement of the Hamilton Antique Mall at stall 01L, and is well worth a look.