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

Mara Rockliff, illus. by Juana Martinez-Neal. Clarion, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-358-12543-3

Rockliff (Sweet Justice) and Martinez-Neal (Tomatoes for Neela) tell how a Lithuania-born Jewish emigrant to America became a name that’s now a mainstay of shopping centers and malls. Once in the U.S. with her sister, young Lena Bryant (1877–1951), ever looking for a “perfect fit,” refuses an arranged marriage, then quickly proves she is both a brilliant seamstress (she “never used a pattern or a tape measure”), and a determined entrepreneur (a necessity when she is widowed with a baby). But what sets this classic immigrant story apart is how the advice of her rabbi grandfather—“help another person”—results in Bryant’s liberating fashion innovations. Her maternity wear offers pregnant clients elegance and comfort, “with room to grow,” and her awareness that “all dress patterns were the same shape. But all women were not” informs the creation of “clothes that didn’t squeeze or pinch.” Measured prose and sepia-textured pages—filled with velvety drawings of flowing fabric, Gibson Girl hairdos, and elaborate gowns—suit the historical moment, while making Bryant’s contributions to feminist fashion always evident. An author’s note details her progressive commitment to her employees and customers. Ages 4–7. Author’s agent: Jennifer Laughran, Andrea Brown Literary. Illustrator’s agent: Stefanie Sanchez Von Borstel, Full Circle Literary. (Apr.)
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