I really like to shop, but this hasn't always been the case.
When I was in my teens, I can remember riding in the car home from shopping trips with my mother, sobbing because I had not been able to find any jeans or pants that would fit me. The problem, I know now, was not really me, it was that we didn't know where to go to find clothes that fit my shape. In Minnesota, there aren't many white girls with nice big asses, and my mother only knew about white girl stores. Let's not even go into the kinds of "women's clothes" that are being pawned off in Target stores to this day (blech!...and yet I keep hoping).
I don't remember how old I was when I first encountered Lane Bryant. It was a small store in the corner by JC Penny's at Southdale Mall. I was alone, so this was probably in college. I remember being in awe of clothing that had a chance of fitting and was attractive. It was a thrill. It was also expensive. It wouldn't be until moving to the east coast that I found clothing stores that offered plus size fashions that were moderately priced. Even today, shopping at Lane Bryant is an investment that I can't always afford to make.
Even though there are plenty of issues with Lane Bryant in the arena of plus sized fashion, I will always be grateful for the store for offering my first real opportunity to have a positive clothes shopping experience. But it wasn't until today that I learned the history of Lane Bryant and I decided I had to share it...
Lane Bryant was actually Lena Bryant, a widow who misspelled her first name on her first bank deposit for a new business she was creating. She was an immigrant who had worked in a garment factory and after her husband's death, she pawned a pair of earings from him to open her own dressmaking business. She was asked to make a dress for a pregnant woman to wear in public. At the time, most pregnant women who could afford to have clothing tailored for them were "confined" during the last trimester of their pregnancy...because it was immodest to do otherwise (yes - being so pregnant was a reminder that the woman had had sex, this is not something that a proper woman should remind anyone of, apparently).
Deciding that this was a line of clothing that might be well received in a new century, Lena created a line of maternity clothes that were ready-to-wear. When she offered them to the public, the stock sold out the same day. It wasn't long after that Lena discovered that there was a potential in designing ready-to-wear clothing for larger women as well. Lena and her family who ran the business after, realized that all women wanted clothing that fit well and looked good, no matter what their size.
The company remained strong and privately owned for 3 generations before it was sold off.
The great-grandsons of Lena have decided to open a new store for plus sized women, as well. The website for Fit to Figure is where I found the history of Lane Bryant. I haven't looked at the on-line catalogue, but it's another good resource to have.
What a lovely find for a Friday.