In the beginning…
In 1979 my mom, a copy writer for Etonics Sportwear and a very clever woman, started sending me 2 yard pieces of free wool fabric leftover from her swatch books. She kept fingers crossed and her head absolutely convinced that I would put this wool to good use.
With no pattern, no experience, not much talent…just free fabric and a long stick of wood for a measuring stick, I came up with THE FAT HAT. After much teasing about my very FAT HAT, my mom put her writing skills to work and wrote a wonderful, funny set of directions for the care and handling of what she called “The Original Fat Hat.”
At a small craft show that year, on the square in front of Lincoln Center, a N.Y. Times writer watched me enthusiastically and industrially selling and demonstrating my hats…pulling them out of an old barrel that doubled as a display unit. He loved the “shape-able, drape-able hat”, got a kick out of the directions, wrote a simple but delightful article in the paper and the hats took off. People everywhere wanted… “HATS FOR WHATEVER SHAPE YOUR HEADS IN!”
The hats are far from the main thing we make now but they clearly are our history.
I thought I could actually make a living at this…
ALL I had to do was stash my young daughters in “the way back” of the old red Volvo, wrap the big blue tarp around the booth that I tied on the roof, cram all my wares into the leftover nooks and crannies, keep the cooler cool and head out each weekend to yet another juried craft show where I would sell my “stuff”! Exhausting, but possible!
My heart showed the way and my head just blindly followed. I started the business on a whim as a small act of desperation (single mom, food stamps, no idea what to do) and a promise: I promised to make a warm, fun hat for a friend of mine and he promised to help me build my dream home. (We lived in a tent and built the house around us while I pedaled away on the treadle machine sewing hats outside under a tarp).
We both made good on our promises never imaging what would come of it all!
In 1987 my mom died of lung cancer. In memory of her wonderful way with words and her incredible sense of humor we began a program to give Fat Hats away to chemo patients across the country. The emotional rewards and the joy of this one small act have made all the years of business struggle seem worth it. The love, the laughter, the hope, the “passing on” of hats from one to another has enriched and colored our life in a way that fills us up and continually brings us to tears.
Still having fun and going strong
44 years later I’m still the Fat Hat lady but we’re now known as the F.H. Clothing Co. and we’re WAY more than just hats. We’re known around the country for our easy, comfy clothing (made in the USA….on purpose), our unique store and our wonderful customer service.
It’s been an amazing adventure. The dreams have changed over the years. The “dream house” was sold to make room for new things.
In the 44 years I’ve been designing and creating soft, easy clothing for women, I’ve met very few women who are completely comfortable in their bodies. My basic idea still holds strong: if you’re comfortable in what you’re wearing, you’ll be comfortable with who you are. For years I was a “layer dresser”. Now I’ve dropped a layer or two, loosened my look, searched for delicious fabrics that feel wonderful on my body and finally realized that other than the soft, easy look of well made clothing all I needed to feel terrific is a fabulous pair of shoes and a great attitude.
After all these years it strikes me that we’re not making and selling clothing at all…we’re selling our sense of humor, our independent Vermont lifestyle and our comfortable attitude about dressing… clothing is just how we’ve packaged it!