The Lane Bryant Company, the First Plus Size Garment Company

The Lane Bryant Company was founded by Lena Himmelstein originally from Lithuania.  Widowed and with a young child, she worked as a dressmaker in a sweatshop in New York. Borrowing 300 dollars from her brother-in-law, she rented a small shop on fifth ave. with the money and lived in the back of the shop.   Originally, Lena, who became known as a Lane, designed custom-made maternity dresses.  One customer asked her to design a dress that she could wear in public.  This design had an elastic waistband and pleated skirt which was innovative for 1910 era.  This is said to have been the first commercially sewn maternity dress.  This dress became her best selling garment.

In 1910, Lane married Albert Malsin, who streamlined her accounting and costs.  However, marketing was still an issue because pregnancy was not discussed in public.  However, they were able to convince one newspaper to carry an ad.  When the ad appeared, her entire stock sold out the very next day.

After WWI, 1918, Lane saw that there was no mass produced clothing for plus sized women.  So Lane's company expanded into this market.  By 1923, the company exploded with sales reaching 5 million.

Lane and her husband founded a mail order catalog in 1917 to carry their maternity and plus size lines.

Lane Bryant customer service was unbelievable.  Working with the Red Cross, Lane replaced clothing for customers who had clothing destroyed in a disaster.


Lane died in 1951 and her son's took over the business.  In 1982, The Limited, bought the company.

Vintage 1960 Cotton Dress with Bolero Jacket and belt.

Lane Bryant DressLane Bryant Dress with Jacket




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  • Always love “the first” something story, thank’s for sharing!

  • How fascinating to learn how plus size clothing began – as a plus size person (not lazy/greedy) but ill – walking 100yds is my limit. With the way women are growing bigger & the decline of the corsets/girdles our Mums squeezed into the entire clothing industry should take note. Plus size is here to stay so lets have some lovely larger clothes for us all!

    Sara King

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