In 1987, fashion giant The Limited introduced two new lines of plus-sized apparel to the Lane Bryant division (which it had acquired in 1982). The concepts--known as Sizes Unlimited and Lerner Woman--were specifically created to give full-figured women stylish apparel options at affordable prices. Lerner Woman was a little more upscale in terms of design, while Sizes Unlimited featured clothing that was more casual. The two brands were consolidated into one in 1989, though they kept elements of their unique identities for several more years.
Impressed by the success of both chains, the head of Lane Bryant, Raphael Benaroya, put them under the auspices of a new company called United Retail Group--which he headed up. He changed the name of Lerner Woman to The Avenue almost immediately and opened new locations across the country. After going public in 1992, the company struggled financially for the next several years. Benaroya began consolidating the Avenue brand with the Sizes Unlimited brand to create a more recognizable niche that would set it apart from its competition. In 1999, all the company's stores were rebranded as Avenue. Today, the brand is owned by Versa Capital Management and operates more than 300 stores.
Avenue continues to offer fashion-forward apparel for larger women. Tops include blouses, tunics, henleys, knit tops, thermals, graphic tees, camis, tanks, ponchos, and wraps. You can also find an array of sweaters, cardigans, and vests for cooler weather. When temperatures turn cold, the brand's jacket selection includes fleeces, peacoats, trenches, raincoats, and quilted winter coats. Dresses run the gamut from casual day-dresses to formal evening gowns. Popular styles include fit-and-flare dresses, sheaths, sweater dresses, wraps, hi-lo dresses, maxi dresses, black dresses and more. You'll also find options like skirts and jumpsuits that can be worn for occasions.
Bottoms are divided into categories for work and for general everyday wear. Popular styles include trousers, pull-on pants, ponte pants, twills, and leggings. The brand also has a denim selection that includes bootcut jeans, straight jeans, jeggings, and more. In activewear, you can find workout tops and jackets, as well as yoga pants and track pants. Avenue's intimates include bras, panties, shapewear, sleepwear, and hosiery. Shoes and boots are available in wide-width and wide-calf sizes. Popular shoe styles include flats, wedges, heels, and sneakers, while boots and booties run from mid-calf to tall. Handbags, scarves, wraps, jewelry, and slippers make up the brand's accessories.
Avenue has undergone some major changes over the last three decades, but the brand's goal of offering stylish and affordable plus-sized apparel has stayed the same. While the two brands that preceded the consolidation were designed to appeal to slightly different demographics, Avenue has carved out a unique niche for itself by offering apparel that is a little more upscale while still maintaining a casual vibe. As a result, it will appeal most to more sophisticated, career-minded women who are looking for inexpensive apparel in a range of different categories. We give Avenue 4.5 stars out of 5.