In my search for the origins of half sizes, I happened upon a pamphlet called “How to Sell and Service the Half-Size Customer.” Published in 1931, it was put out by the Jack Liss Dress Corporation. Part a basic guide to selling clothes and part an explanation of the half size category, it posited that the majority of American women did not fit into conventional size categories.
“Regular size dresses are proportioned to fit an ideal figure; and careful study shows that less than half of the young women and matrons have this so-called ideal figure…Half-Size dresses are proportioned to fit the American woman as she is.” (4)
The company had an unusual sizing system. As the ad above states, sizes 14 ½ to 26 ½ were designed for shorter women. The dresses had a shorter waist, skirt, and sleeve length. However, the hip and upper arm were wider than normal sizes.
The second size range, 40 ½ to 52 ½, were longer in skirt, waist and sleeve; however, they were smaller around the hips in proportion to the bust than standard sizes. This was designed for taller women with heavy chests, what the unnamed authors call a “Juno-type figure.”(6)
The pamphlet makes clear that Lissmode half-size dresses were aimed at all age groups, from teens to old women. The half-size customer was “somewhat plump and well developed, rather than fat; and needs a little more roomy dress than the regular sizes offer.”(5-6)
How well did Lissmode dresses do in the market? I found no ads in women’s magazines, a usually reliable source for clothing brands. On newspaper.com, I only found a few ads from Kentucky, Missouri, and Pennsylvania. All were from 1931, the publication date of the pamphlet. That leads me to think that the company’s products did not take the United States by storm.