Young widow Lena Bryant needed to find a way to support herself and her son, so she began a career as a dressmaker in 1901. When she went to open a small bridal store in 1904, the bank misspelled the name on her loan application as "Lane Bryant"--a mistake that launched a lasting brand name. Within a few years, Bryant began designing maternity wear and was responsible for the invention of the elastic waist. In 1917, she realized that there was an unmet demand for clothes specifically designed for "stout women." Lane Bryant created the country's first plus-sized clothing line.
Looking to expand on retail sales, Lane Bryant launched a catalog division in 1924. Within just over a decade, the catalog was serving customers across the country. Lane Bryant was bought by Limited Brands in 1982, and the new parent company split catalog and retail sales into their own entities. In 1990, the catalog division sent out the first Woman Within plus-sized lingerie catalog. Eventually, control over the catalog business was acquired by Redcats USA, which would go on to become Fullbeauty Brands. The Lane Bryant Catalog was discontinued, and its merchandise was absorbed by Woman Within in 2007.
Woman Within sells clothing for women who wear sizes 12-40, and it has several offerings in practically every major category. In tops, you can find button-down shirts, blouses, tunics, tees, v-necks, turtlenecks, polos, tanks, sweatshirts, and thermals. Sweaters and cardigans are also available in a number of different colors and styles. Dresses run the gamut in terms of fit, and you'll find shirtdresses, A-line dresses, ponte dresses, maxi dresses, and wear-to-work dresses. In outerwear, the brand offers plenty of options for different types of weather. Puffer coats, peacoats, vests, fleeces, twill jackets, trenches, raincoats, and blazers protect you from varying levels of cold.
In bottoms, jeans are available in bootcut, wide leg, straight leg, skinny, and jegging fits. Other popular pants include cargo pants, knit pants, sweatpants, and leggings. Skirts range from midi to maxi, and you can also find several types of shorts and capris. Woman Within's activewear collection offers moisture-wicking tops, exercise shorts, yoga pants, sports bras and more. The brand also has an assortment of lingerie, including bras, panties, shapewear, camisoles, and hosiery. Other specialty products include sleepwear--from pajama sets to robes to nightgowns--and a full line of swimwear. Shoes include flats, pumps, slides, sneakers, boots, booties, and more.
Lane Bryant was the first major brand to cater specifically to full-figured women, and it took off almost immediately--especially when it launched the catalog division that would eventually become Woman Within. Unlike other brands that offer extensive collections for "average"-sized women and a small selection of plus-sized garments, Woman Within caters to larger women exclusively. As a result, clothes are designed to flatter your curves and help you feel both comfortable and attractive. The brand has expanded into ecommerce in addition to maintaining catalog sales, but clothes continue to be very affordable. We give Woman Within 4 stars out of 5.