Few names are as closely associated with success in plus and specialty sized apparel than the Lane Bryant company. Founded at the turn of the 20th century, Lane Bryant has become a leader in providing attractive, quality clothing for women for whom traditional sizes won’t do.

Lena Himmelstein arrived in New York City in 1894 alone and only sixteen years old. She’d been raised by her grandparents in Lithuania and apparently learned sewing as a child since she soon held a job as a dressmaker working long hours for very little pay, even by the standards of the time.
Few names are as closely associated with success in plus and specialty sized apparel than the Lane Bryant company. Founded at the turn of the 20th century, Lane Bryant has become a leader in providing attractive, quality clothing for women for whom traditional sizes won’t do.

Lena Himmelstein arrived in New York City in 1894 alone and only sixteen years old. She’d been raised by her grandparents in Lithuania and apparently learned sewing as a child since she soon held a job as a dressmaker working long hours for very little pay, even by the standards of the time.

Within a few years she was saved from a working environment we would now call a sweatshop by her marriage to jeweler and Russian immigrant David Bryant. Presumably Bryant had changed his name to something more anglo-saxon for the same reason most people did at the time, to fit in more effectively. Lena applied her industry and good sense to helping her husband run his business and before long the couple had a son called Raphael.

Unfortunately the Bryant’s domestic happiness was to be very short lived. Shortly after the birth of their son David Bryant died leaving the 20 year old Lena penniless. Lena was forced to move into the cramped apartment of her sister and brother in law.

Not one to sit around Lena began making and selling undergarments and a sort of frilly housedress called a tea gown. Either because he admired her skill and industry or because he wanted her out of the house Bryant’s brother in law loaned her $300 to get her own business started in 1904. She used the money to buy materials and get and apartment of her own that also served a storefront.

It was at this time, when a bank official misspelled her name on an application to open her own bank account that she became Lane. It is unclear why she adopted the error as her business name but in any case from that point forward she was known as Lane Bryant.

Before long she had acquired a reputation for making clothing we would now call maternity wear as well as garments that were comfortable and flattering to heavier women. Lane Bryant was making plus size apparel long before the term even existed.

Before long her business was such a success that she moved into a larger building and employed dozens of young women in her own shop. We can only hope that her brutal experiences in garment factories after her arrival in America tempered the working conditions in her own shop. The expansion was a success and her business continued to grow. She had gone from low paid seamstress to designer and apparel wholesaler in less than ten years.

It was quite an achievement in any circumstances but made all the more amazing when you consider the societal limitations placed on women at the time. Lane Bryant had overcome poverty, traditional views of a woman’s place in society, and the racism associated with her Jewish ancestry to build a profitable business. All by the time she was 25.

In 1909 she married for the second time to Albert Malsin. Her new husband was an engineer and worked for a company that designed and built amusement parks around the world. After their marriage he devoted himself to helping his wife expand her business and brought mathematical exactness both to the manufacturing end and financial end of the company.

Albert’s role as organizer freed lane to concentrate on design and manufacture and the combination of the couple’s talents brought even more success to the company and by 1911 the company was bringing in $50,000 a year.

A curious side note to the evolution of the sale of maternity wear is that newspapers refused to carry advertisements featuring maternity clothing as too scandalous for public consumption. Through tireless efforts Malsin was able to convince the New York Herald to carry an ad and it resulted in an immediate selling out of all the maternity wear the company had on hand.

It was these scruples against maternity wear advertising that drove Lane Bryant into the mail order business. Their catalog was the first of its type in the world. By 1917 catalog orders topped $1 million.

Lane Bryant’s next innovation to the fashion world was clothing for heavy-set woman. Before her efforts no large manufacturer of women’s clothing addressed this market. Applying engineering principles they measuring some 4,500 women and gathered statistics gathered on about 200,000 others. Lane Bryant categorized plus size women into three general types and she designed clothes to fit each type. By 1923, company sales had reached $5 million and sales of full-figured clothing surpassed sales of maternity wear.

Art Micklewraith is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Top Ten Wholesale. He can be reached at Content and Solutions or by email at artmicklewraith@gmail.com.

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  1. Rev. Godwin Fred Reply

    Rev. Godwin Fred,
    Director,
    GODWIN-FRED AGENCY LTD,
    Plot 112 Airport Road
    Accra-Ghana.
    Email:revgodwinfred@hotmail.com

    Dear Sir/Madam,

    The Government of Ghana, in West Africa, has received funds from the INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT ASSOCIATION(IDA) with loan number :IDA CREDIT NO:3964 GH,and AGENCE FRANCAISE DE DEVELOPMENT(AFD),AFD LOAN NO:CGH 6004.01.G, towards the cost of community based rural development projects ( CBRDP) and intends to apply part of this fund to cover eligible payments under the contracts for the supply of the following items and we as agents,are meant to source for manufacturers,exporters,distributors and individuals who are willing and capable to supply the under listed Products.

    1. Engine bolts nuts
    2. control switch with pilot light
    3. Domestic Sewing Machines
    4. Designer women leather handbags
    5. Hair treatment & Quality designed Cap
    6. Designer woman shoes & Slippers
    7. Designer woman suits
    8. Shaving oil
    9. Designer woman under wear
    10.Hospital bed sheets
    11.Tractors / Lawn Mowers
    12.Woods: Plywood and Timber
    14.Animal Feeds/ingredients
    15.T-shirts, Towels,Natural Vitamin supplication
    16.Building Materials Industrial supplies
    17.Pharmaceutical Products & Skin Care Cosmetic
    18.Fertilizers,Industrial supplies
    19.Medical / Laboratory Equipments
    20.Furniture, Doors and cases, bed
    21.Bottled Water, Storage Tanks, Pumps and Machines
    22.Industrial Equipment & Glasses
    23.Treated Mosquito Nets, Disposables
    24.Water Filtration and Purification Systems Equipment
    25.Wheelchair, Fire Extinguisher
    26.Machinery Spare Parts
    27.Engineered wood flooring

    Tender is open to all eligible foreign contractors from eligible source countries as defined in the guidelines of the procurement Board of the Republic of Ghana.
    If you can handle the supply of any of the above items,Only note that I am a commission agent.Please do not hesitate to get back to me here with my business Email:revgodwinfred@hotmail.com

    PAYMENT TERMS is 100% in advance,then after you received your payment,you will pay my 1% commission. We need the best Quality Products.Please try to specify the product (s) you can supply

    Thanks and Best regards,
    Rev. Godwin Fred

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  2. Bob Andrews Reply

    Magnificent website. A lot of helpful info here. I am sending it to several friends ans also sharing in delicious. And certainly, thanks on your sweat!

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  3. JAMES Reply

    Dear Sir/Madam,

    It is my pleasure to firstly introduce myself to you; I am Mr, James ,a mandate gold broker with the Obuasi co-operative of small-scale miners as the miners have capability of producing between 150 kilos of alluvial gold dust monthly and have available now in stock about 15 kilos AU gold dust for sale to any prospective buyers.

    The product available below:

    Commodity Au gold dust (unrefined)
    Quantity: 150kg
    Origin : Ghana
    Quality: 22+ carats
    Purity: 92.77%
    Price: Based on Stock Market of the Day.

    Packaging: in metal boxes

    Shipment: shipment will carried out by a reputable shipping agent at the Kotoka international airport (KIA)
    Terms and conditions:

    In as much as I intend to establish a cordial business relationship with you, interested buyer will have to arrange and come down to Ghana for inspection on our products, take a random sample for test at the government geological survey Department, having been satisfied with the assay report, buyer/ seller will then sign (sales and purchase contract/ agreement).

    Hence, buyer will assist seller with not more than 10% of the total value of the stock to enable seller procure the necessary shipping documents and other government taxes.

    I shall be grateful to furnish you with any further information that you meant require after hearing from you and shall consider it a privilege doing business with you to foster a cordial and long-lasting relationship between both parties.
    We are waiting your purchase interest and quick responses.

    Best Regards,

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