A Perfect Fit: How Lena “Lane” Bryant Changed the Shape of Fashion

Clarion. Apr. 2022. 32p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780358125433.
Gr 1-4–Leaving the facts of Bryant’s life—her birth in 1879, for example—to the back matter, Rockliff dwells instead on the theme of a “perfect fit” to underscore Lena Himmelstein Bryant Malsin’s early life in Lithuania that was filled with love, but was not easy. At 16, Lane Bryant joined her sister in New York City to escape poverty and antisemitism in Europe. Sewing from dawn till dusk in the garment district allowed her to work with “Lace! Ribbons! Silk! [and] sewing machines!” She soon met and then lost her husband, David Bryant, becoming a widow with an infant and a pair of diamond earrings. Undaunted, she used the earrings to buy a sewing machine and got to work making clients fabulous gowns without benefit of patterns or tape measures. After successfully inventing an expandable maternity dress at a client’s request, Bryant’s business took off. While getting a bank loan to fund her expansion, she was so nervous during the signing process that she mixed up the letters in her first name, which is how her business came to be known as “Lane Bryant.” She went on to transform the clothing industry by designing clothes for all body shapes and sizes. The accessible and engaging text is brought to life by the delightful illustrations. Using mostly sepia tones with pops of color, they convey an old-fashioned era, but with clever details, plump humans, and delightful textiles and patterns that leave readers wanting more. Back matter includes selected sources and an author’s note that fills in the details of Bryant’s life and business.
VERDICT This biography deftly covers the highlights of Bryant’s life in an enjoyable and accessible manner, a one-of-a-kind origin story of a retail success whose foundations were based on helping others feel great.

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