Since Universal Standard was founded in 2015, its goal has been to create a more inclusive approach to fashion. That began with sizing—its first collection came in sizes 10 through 28—but also with projects that spoke to other gaps in the market: It helped J.Crew expand its sizing across the board; it collaborated with actress Danielle Brooks; it brought attention to the lack of plus-size jewelry options out there. But its latest launch might be its more revolutionary: a line of T-shirts available in sizes 00 through 40.
“This was always a north star,” Alexandra Waldman, co-founder of Universal Standard, tells Glamour of Foundation, a capsule of seven shirts made for layering and its more exhaustive size offering yet. “We started 10 to 28, which were both outside of the traditional ‘plus size,’ because we wanted to plant our flags there. Then, we went 6 to 32. Now, we’re going 00 to 40 because we want to show the world that it’s possible to make beautiful clothes for everyone and it’s not just the privilege that single-digit-size girls get to have.”
The brand “knew [Foundation] was going to [start at] 00, we didn’t know how high up we could go,” Waldman explains. “It made so much sense once we understood the lay of the land and how many people are going without.” Universal Standard landed on 40 because of “intuition” and out of a desire to address “the forgotten within the forgotten,” like shoppers above a size 32. To develop its product, the brand uses a micrograding technique, “which is to change the grading between each size rather than use a formula to grade across. We pay a lot of attention to detail, to make sure it looks native to each body size,” in addition to measuring samples on models of every size, according to Waldman.
The name of this capsule is derived from foundation (as in, the beauty product), because “it goes from least coverage to most coverage, like foundation [makeup] does—you have a bandeau, a cami, then you have a short-sleeved T-shirt, a long-sleeved [T-shirt], then you have a turtleneck, a crew, and a V-neck included. We wanted to make things that were so incredibly comfortable you could wear them on their own or you could wear them underneath as a layer.”
Even before Foundation launched, an image from its lookbook went viral: It featured La’Shaunae Steward wearing one of Universal Standard’s tanks, with many praised as a depiction of plus-sized bodies you don’t typically see in fashion photography. “We wanted to show someone who we thought was exceptional and beautiful and strong and deserved representation,” says Waldman. (The model shared the photo on Instagram, writing: “[A] shoot that was so special and important to me. [Being] a model that people constantly look over or being a curve model that [isn’t] conventionally attractive or ‘fat in all the right places’ and always finding myself only posting angles [I] felt were more appealing. [T]his angle shows everything [I] fought being insecure about and shows every part of me that people told me would have to be smaller in order to be accepted.”)
The response to the lookbook—which included “a lot of ‘this brought me to tears,’ a lot of ‘thank you,’ a lot of ‘I feel seen by a fashion brand,'” per Waldman—was incredibly moving for the founders: “A few times, we would read them and we were brought almost to tears, because they were such emotional responses.” And there’s only more to come—Waldman promises that “this is the beginning of the entire collection moving to 00 through 40.”
See Universal Standard’s groundbreaking size-inclusive collection ahead.