While working my way through references to half sizes in Women’s Wear Daily, I discovered a new-to-me source of clothing for larger women, Roaman’s. It is an old company, beginning as a store front in Manhattan. The first ads I found in the New York Times were from the mid 1930s. After the World War Two, Roaman’s began placing mail order ads in national newspapers. By the sixties, it opened up store fronts all across the county and also started a catalog business. The company still exists today as an on-line and catalog business.
The 1971 catalog I found on eBay offers a wide array of clothing and accessories for the half size and plus size woman: evening outfits, day dresses, sportswear, shoes, purses, stockings, underwear, shape wear of all sizes (even one that extended from the waist to the ankle) and even two stretch wigs. Stylish seventies trends were all for sale, including fringed vests and peasant dresses. You could even score a Bonnie Cashin knock off with toggle closures. Indestructible seventies polyester—Machine washable! Never press!—was a frequent fabric offering.
This handy measurement chart shows some of the differences between half sizes, full sizes, and “Roamanette Miss Sizes.” If you compare a size 20 ½ to a size 40, the measurements initially look the same. However, the half size dress is an inch and a half shorter. As indicated in the text at the bottom right, the waist on the half size dress would also be higher since they were designed for short-waisted women. The “average figure” has two key difference from the top two sizes–there is a bigger difference between waist and hip measurements and the waist is comparatively smaller.
There were lots of pants in the catalog, along with other bifurcated outfits like jumpsuits, gaucho pants and culotte dresses. I was surprised to discover that almost all of the pants were sold by waist sizes; only one style was differentiated by height. Wouldn’t the shorter, high-waisted woman have a lot of alterations to do? Maybe they hadn’t taken the time to develop a half size pant block. Or was the half sizes market beginning to fade?