Portland fat-centered boutique working toward ‘fat liberation’ and destigmatization for all

Fat Fancy, a boutique that specializes in clothes and items catering to plus-sized folks, has moved into its new home on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard.

Erica Bauer has owned the store for just over a year. But Fat Fancy has humble roots.

“Fat Fancy started in about 2006-2007 in a basement where all of these fatties rolled in their racks of clothes because there’s nowhere else for us to shop,” said Bauer. It found a physical store Downtown, under a new owner it was on NE Sandy Boulevard before it found its latest home under Bauer’s ownership.

Bauer is passionate about destigmatizing the word fat and creating a space of fat liberation.

“Being clothed is essential,” she said. “It’s a basic right, and the fact that we get to provide that affordably and then keep people dressed and happy –clothes can change your confidence and your outlook on life.”

Fat Fancy has an expansive collection of curated and gently loved thrifted items in plus sizes. While anyone of any size can find something in the shop, the focus is on fat bodies.

It also houses collections of garments and other wearables like earrings and fanny packs made by local artists. Beyond the clothes there are art pieces, pill cases, stickers, pins, bath bombs, shoes – you get the idea.

“Here you don’t have to worry,” Bauer said. “No matter how your body is shaped, you’re fat enough for us and you can find something here.”

Bauer understands that destigmatizing fat bodies, or even the idea of using the word fat so brazenly, can be an uphill battle. There is often morality attached to fatness. Society has long held the belief that fatness is immoral and avoidable, creating a stigma and prejudice.

These stigmas are often rife with arguments of health concerns for fat people, insinuating that fatness equates to poor health when studies have shown it doesn’t. The old BMI scale we were all measured against as teens is, unfortunately, bogus. But it is often still used in the medical community, where fat stigma is perhaps more prevalent and harmful, and as a way for online trolls to comment on larger bodies.

Bauer is having none of it.

“So a question I ask people who tell me fat is a bad word, I ask them what word they use instead of skinny, to save those people’s feelings?,” she said. “Usually, they don’t have an answer. Fat is just a descriptor. It doesn’t describe my self-worth. It doesn’t describe who I am, my personality.”

The idea of fat liberation to her is one that both shuts out the outside criticism, but celebrates the body for what it is.

“Fat liberation is when we kind of say, forget everybody. Forget the world. Forget everybody who’s telling me I’m not good enough. This is who I am. I’m gonna be proud of my body and I’m gonna celebrate it. And I’m gonna celebrate the fat artists and my body being reflected in paintings and. sculptures and not hide that, not shy away from it.”

She said that the body positive movement has become controversial and muddled, but fat liberation is a step beyond that.

“It can mean something different to everybody because it is such a personal thing,” she said. “But for me, here’s a place where you get to celebrate being fat.”

When you walk into Fat Fancy, if you’re looking for straight-sized clothes, you’ll have to walk to the back. Bauer says this is intentional – to flip the script on a universal experience among fat people of finding their sizes, if they’re even carried in story, in the shadowy corner. Except at Fat Fancy, every body is celebrated.

The boutique even has its own in-house tailor to help garments fit exactly as they’re intended to any body shape.

“This place is just built on love and sustainability and fatness, and I just wish I could share that with everyone. That’s really it. Just come and see us.”

Fat Fancy can be found on Instagram here.

Destiny Johnson | djohnson@oregonian.com | @hello_destiny

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