Lena (Lane) Bryant Malsin
Lena Bryant Malsin revolutionized the clothing industry with her classy maternity wear and clothes for plus–size women. Lena Himmelstein immigrated to the US at age sixteen and began working as a seamstress. Married young and soon widowed with an infant son, she turned to sewing expensive lingerie and bridal sets, earning enough to open her own store in 1904. When she opened her first bank account, a clerical error changed the company name to Lane. She remarried in 1909 and her second husband, Albert Malsin, managed the booming business while Lena, serving as vice president and director, focused on designs. She became known for maternity clothes that were both comfortable and socially appropriate. By 1911 she had begun a thriving mail–order business as well and in 1917 she began selling plus–size clothing: after measuring thousands of heavier women, she found three basic body types and designed wildly successful clothing lines for them. By 1923, the business was earning $5 million in annual sales. A deeply ethical employer, Lena offered pensions, health insurance, and profit–sharing at a time when few other businesses did. She also offered a free wardrobe to any customer whose clothes were destroyed in a disaster, and donated clothes to the needy in Europe after WWII.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Lena (Lane) Bryant Malsin." (Viewed on January 21, 2019) <https://jwa.org/people/malsin-lane>.