Lane Bryant: A Body for Every Body

Last Updated on December 20, 2020

Lane Bryant Inc. is an American retail women’s clothing store chain focusing on plus-size clothing. The company has 459 locations across the United States.
Lane Bryant’s 459 retail store locations in the United States.
In 1904, a woman by the name of
Lena Himmelstein Bryant Malsin
saw a need for specialty clothing for pregnant woman.

Let’s start at the beginning…
Lena Himmelstein was an orphan, raised by her grandparents in Lithuania. In 1895, with the country still under rule of the Russian Empire, she immigrated to New York in search of a better life. On her arrival in New York, she joined her sister Anna and found work in a sweat shop at $1 a week.

In 1899, she married a Russian immigrant and jeweler, David Bryant, and the couple moved to Harlem. Sadly, David died not long after their son Raphael was born. Lena moved to Manhattan and supported herself and her son by making and selling negligees and other delicate women’s garments.

In 1904, Bryant moved to Fifth Avenue where she rented a storefront for her retail business for $12.50 a month. This included living quarters in the rear for Lena and her son.

With a loan of $300 from her sister’s husband,
Lena opened a bank account
as working capital for her new business.
A bank officer misspelled her name
on the application as Lane,
and that is how the Lane Bryant store got its name.

With her unique and comfortable tea gown which she made by attaching an accordion-pleated skirt to a bodice using an elastic, she created the first known commercially sold maternity dress.

Lane Bryant’s unique tea gown which concealed a women’s pregnancy
and easily adjusted to her after-pregnancy figure.
In the early 1900s, pregnancy was
a taboo topic in public
and in the press.
However, Lena’s new husband, Albert Malsin, convinced
the New York Herald newspaper to advertise Lena’s products.
The day after the newspaper ad appeared, the shop’s entire stock sold out.

Over the next few years, Lena expanded her business and introduced a mail-order catalogue. By 1917 the company’s annual revenue was over
$1 million.

By 1923, sales of Lena’s second innovation–mass-produced clothing for women in larger sizes–surpassed those of her maternity wear.


And now, back to the future

Lane Bryant, Inc., is the largest plus-size retailer in the United States, with 459 retail store locations. With half of American women wearing a size 14 or larger, is it any wonder why Lane Bryant is so popular?

After her death in 1951, Bryant’s sons took over the business. In 1982, Lane Bryant operations were purchased by The Limited founder, Leslie Wexner.

In 1961, Lane Bryant acquired Town & Country, a Pennsylvania-based discount department store. The Town & Country division was eliminated in 1977.

Lane Bryant catalog operations were licensed to Brylane (now Redcats) in 1993. In 1999, the company’s retail operations were sold to Charming Shoppes, another owner of plus-size clothing stores, for $335 million.

Charming has since expanded the chain and introduced online and outlet sales. Lane Bryant’s sisters include Fashion Bug and Catherines.

In June 2012, Ascena Retail Group, parent company of DressBarn, purchased Charming Shoppes for $1.25 million.

Today, Lane Bryant is a large retail chain, specializing in fashions for larger-sized women,
present in many shopping centers across the United States.

Gloria Sauvé
Communications and Marketing

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