Universal Standard: The Future of Women’s Fashion

Universal Standard: The Future of Women’s Fashion

Universal Standard: The Future of Women’s Fashion 1440 428 Chute Gerdeman

In the US clothing industry, sizes 14 and above are typically considered plus-size. It’s a bit of an outdated term considering the average American size is between 16 and 18, and 70 percent of American women are over the size 14. Let’s also ponder the fact that 35% of women are considered to be plus-size by age 25 and 44% by age 33.

While those statistics might seem to suggest a logical shift in the apparel market, many plus-size shoppers still feel as though they’re underserved in the fashion market. In fact, 72% don’t believe that fashion designers create fashions with the average American woman in mind, but almost 78% would be willing to spend more money on clothing if more designers offered plus-size options. Industry figures support the desire too. According to market research firm NPD, US sales of women’s plus-size apparel reached $21.4 billion in 2016, and the category is growing at double the rate of the total US apparel market.


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The body positivity movement has shifted cultural attitudes towards plus-size women and has inspired major brands and retailers to take notice and consider this unrepresented consumer. Ecommerce brands have flourished over the last several years and found a place with youthful, digitally savvy consumers, while major retailers have expanded collections to include plus-sizes. There’s still a long way to go in terms of fashion equality though, but one women’s apparel brand is pushing to change that.

Launched in 2015, Universal Standard is moving beyond plus-size and straight-size clothing in favor of inclusive sizing for every body. The idea for the brand was born after a shopping trip where co-founders Alexandra Waldman, who is a size 22, and Polina Veksler, who is a size 6, were kept from essentially shopping together. The need to end segregated shopping was clear. After exiting their careers in finance and marketing, they launched the fashion brand Universal Standard online with an overwhelmingly positive response from consumers.

The mission was to provide elevated essentials with quality fabrics and a great fit for sizes 00-40. Eliminating the guessing game out of putting together a complete look they even created 3-8 piece starter kits ranging from loungewear to workwear that give customers the flexibility to reimagine pieces in an entirely new way. Taking into consideration the weight fluctuations women of all sizes experience, they also launched the Fit Liberty line. It offers customers the opportunity to exchange items that no longer fit within a year of the purchase for free, removing the anxiety associated with purchasing new clothes. The gently worn items are then donated to Dress for Success and First Step for women returning to the workforce.

To bring women together in-store though, Universal Standard opened showrooms earlier this year in Seattle and New York (with plans for three more showrooms on the way). Offering sizes from 6-32, women are now shopping from the same rack. Inclusive, yet personal, shoppers can book complimentary appointments with stylists, as well as preview and pre-order pieces that aren’t even on the site yet. Embracing a hands-free approach, stylists place the orders online and clothing items are shipped to your doorstep. For those outside the Seattle or New York area, Universal Standard also offers Virtual Showrooms where individuals can conduct a video chat with a virtual stylist to the entire collection, get styling tips, and place orders.

“We wanted to, not just in our store but in general, show the industry that this can be done can be done really well to the benefit of all,” said Co-founder, Alex Waldman.

Rather than compartmentalizing consumers, Universal Standard has established a mass-personal approach truly addressing consumer needs in a holistic way and offering fashion freedom and empowerment. Consumers are demanding more than fresh new styles when it comes to apparel, and those brands that take the time to understand “her” will find a deeper level of connection and loyalty.

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