As you probably already can tell by now; I’m a die-hard Lane Bryant fan! I’m sure most of you are familiar with Lane Bryant as one of the first companies specializing in plus-size clothing for mature women, but did you know that they did not start off that way?
I came across an old Lane Bryant catalog picture a few days ago here online that piqued my interest. So, I decided to do a little research on the history of Lane Bryant and wanted to share it all with you!
Here’s the picture and what I found out about the humble beginnings of our first and most famous plus-size clothing store chain… Lane Bryant!!
Looking at this photo from 60 years ago; I said to myself…
“My How time has changed for the plus-size fashion world!”
A page from the 1954 Spring/Summer Lane Bryant mail-order catalog. Wikimedia.
*Click on the picture to view Lane Bryant as they appear online TODAY!!
HISTORY OF LANE BRYANT
It all began with a young widow that earned a meager living for herself and her young son as a dressmaker. With bigger dreams, she decided to open a business bank account with funds borrowed from her brother-in-law for working capital.
As the story continues…
The name Lane Bryant came about from the bank officer that misspelled her name on the application as Lane instead of Lena…Hmmm, I wonder if the bank officer knew that his mistake would be a ONCE IN A LIFETIME name that would turn out to be so famous??
Anyway, In 1904 Lena aka Lane rented her first storefront on Fifth Avenue for $12.50 a month and she actually lived in the back of the store…How quaint is that?? There her garments were hung from the gas fixtures with the doors opened.
She was asked by a pregnant customer to design something “presentable but comfortable” for her to wear publicly. Ms. Bryant obliged by creating an accordion pleated skirt and a dress with an elasticized waistband, which would become the first known maternity dress to be made commercially.
Not only was the dress welcomed and purchased by the poor working pregnant women, but middle-class women as well. It wasn’t long before the maternity dress became Bryant’s best-selling garment.
EARLY GROWTH CHALLENGES
Albert Malsin took charge of the company after he married Bryant in 1909. He began to develop and expand the business by instituting engineer exactness and modern cost accounting & pricing. By 1910 sales had reached $50,000 annually. At that time Malsin became determined to direct operations toward specialization. To tighten efficiency and cut cost simultaneously, he had several dresses mechanically cut at one time and utilized high-speed sewing methods. At this point, Lane Bryant began financing contractors and supplying them with design pattern materials.
According to tradition pregnancy was one of those taboo topics that just would not be discussed in media outlets during those times which made it difficult for Bryant to market her newly innovative and commercially feasible product. However, in 1911 Bryant’s husband was able to convince the NEW YORK HERALD to begin advertising their new clothing line…
This would be the beginning of a turn-around for the Lane Bryant Company, as the shop would sell out their entire stock of maternity women’s clothing the very next day after that first advertisement.
Bryant and her husband would also create the first mail-order maternity-wear catalog in which revenues would reach well-over $1 million by 1917.
And Then, Finally…
THE BIRTH OF PLUS SIZE CLOTHING
Another niche that needed to be desperately filled was discovered by Bryant just before World War I: Clothing for “Full-Figured” Women. There weren’t any mass manufacturers producing full-figured clothing for women at that time. Bryant came to realize this challenging need after she had measured almost 5,000 of her own customers and gathered info from some 200,000 other women as well. She was then able to distinguish three different types of ‘stout (full-figured) women’ and designed clothing specially to fit each one.
Lane Bryant began selling clothing under the category ‘For the Stout Women’, which ranged between a 38-56 inch bustline.
By 1919, Lane Bryant’s full-figured catalog was filled with 52 exciting pages and their maternity catalog consisted of 76 pages.
“Plus-sized clothing quickly eclipsed the maternity line, and by 1923, company sales reached $5 million” (Wikipedia).
Thanks to Lane Bryant as a pioneer to stylish plus-size clothing; Many fashionable choices, styles and designs are afforded us Mature.Unique.Modern plus-size women of today!
I hope you enjoyed the story of how Lane Bryant came to be! I’d like to hear what you think. Please add your questions, comments or any additional information you’d like to add about Lane Bryant or any other shop, below!
As always, Thanks for stopping by!!
Your Grown-N-Sexy Fashion Queen
Founder of Curves Deserve Fashion
Send me a personal email at firstname.lastname@example.org