• artwork analysis
  • garment analysis
  • film analysis
  • thematic essays
  • year overview

Stout Fashion & Early 20th Century American Ready-to-Wear

In the early 20th century, the American ready-to-wear industry for stout women--whom we typically call plus-size today--emerged almost simultaneously as that for slimmer women. Stores like Lane Bryant offered a wide variety of clothing specially designed for stout women, who represented a growing portion of the population and had both the desire and income to spend on fashion goods. This essay explores how the industry evolved in the 1910s and 20s to serve them.

1886

Extreme bustles, striped patterns, and elaborate embellishments were all staples of the year 1886, characterizing it as a time of highly exaggerated and decorative fashion.

  • ancient
  • early Middle Ages
  • 14th century
  • 15th century
  • 16th century

chiton

An ancient Greek garment created from a single piece of cloth wrapped around the body and held together by pins at the shoulders.

  • 17th century
  • 18th century
  • 19th century
  • 20th century
  • 21st century

1747 – Arthur Devis, Mr. and Mrs. Bull

Arthur Devis's 1747 portrait of Mr. and Mrs. Bull seems to depict a quite fashionable couple in the year of their marriage in what we presume to be their home. But closer analysis reveals that much of the work is likely a fiction, though the clothes they're sporting--whether their own or imagined--remain fashionable.

1884 – Edgar Degas, The Singer in Green

Although dressed in theatrical costume, Degas’ Singer in Green contains details that were fashionable for women’s evening wear at the time, including an off-the-shoulder neckline, a downward-pointing bodice, a diagonal-striped pattern, and a choker-style necklace. What is less fashionable is its lack of applied florals and the bold color palette, which signals the fact that it is a costume.

Stout Fashion & Early 20th Century American Ready-to-Wear

In the early 20th century, the American ready-to-wear industry for stout women--whom we typically call plus-size today--emerged almost simultaneously as that for slimmer women. Stores like Lane Bryant offered a wide variety of clothing specially designed for stout women, who represented a growing portion of the population and had both the desire and income to spend on fashion goods. This essay explores how the industry evolved in the 1910s and 20s to serve them.