Fast Company

Daring to Scale—Downward

Universal Standard gained a cult following for its plus-size clothing. It’s now pushing into smaller sizes, upending the industry and testing its fan base.
Universal Standard cofounders Alexandra Waldman (left) and Polina Veksler want to bring down the barriers between plus- and straight-size clothing.

Consider the pencil skirt, a wardrobe staple for working women. The ideal version should sit snugly at the waist, hug the hips, and taper down to the wearer’s knees, while still allowing her enough room to stride (rather than waddle) across a boardroom. A good pencil skirt, in other words, requires the right fit, which is precisely what’s bedeviling Alexandra Waldman on a recent morning at the New York headquarters of upstart fashion brand Universal Standard.

The company’s cofounder and creative director is scrutinizing a line of seven models, sizes 6 to 32, all wearing a version of a black pencil skirt with an elegant geometric pattern. “The width needs to be wider on the size 6 so she can walk comfortably,” Waldman says, making notes for the factory, which will start producing the garment in a week. “The pattern is bunching up on size 18. What can we do to flatten it?”

Most brands determine the fit of a piece of clothing on a single model, and then simply increase or decrease it

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