Review: A Perfect Fit: How Lena "Lane" Bryant Changed the Shape of Fashion
A Perfect Fit: How Lena "Lane" Bryant Changed the Shape of Fashion
by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal
Clarion Books (imprint of HarperCollins), 2022
Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Shirley Reva Vernick
This lyrical picture book biography shows how Lena "Lane" Bryant founded the eponymous fashion brand that celebrates bodies of all shapes and sizes. A brilliant seamstress at the turn of the 20th century, Lena was struggling to make ends meet…until customers started requesting designs that wouldn't "squeeze or pinch" women with nonstandard shapes. Lena remembered something her grandfather had once told her: real success lies in helping others. So she got to work creating comfortable and stylish clothing in all sizes and styles, including maternity wear with "room to grow." That was when her business, inspired by the goal of providing accessible fashion, took off. In providing customers with the perfect fit in clothing, she had found the perfect fit for her creative and entrepreneurial skills.
The wonderfully detailed, soft illustrations are like velvet and silk to the eye. The flowing fabrics, exquisite gowns, and expressive hairdos add an almost tactile element to the book. The sepia tones and lush apparel designs help frame the book in its historical setting. Enthusiastically recommended for home, school and library; both younger and somewhat older picture book audiences will admire.
A Perfect Fit is a strong contender for the Sydney Taylor Book Award. The story highlights Lena's Jewish heritage, including how the antisemitism in Eastern Europe motivated her emigration from Lithuania to New York City in the late 19th century. The grandfather who'd explained the importance of helping others was a rabbi. The entire story arc demonstrates the Jewish values of inclusiveness and dignity of the individual. Finally, the author's note details Lena's tikkun olam endeavors, which included providing disaster relief to customers and sending free clothing to European refugees.
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