Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
After years of customers asking why J.Crew doesn’t make larger sizes, the brand is stepping up to the plate. On Tuesday, J.Crew debuted a collaboration with Universal Standard, the fashion startup dedicated to extended sizing, on a collection of clothes that will be available from sizes XXS through 5X.
The 37-piece collab has some classic J.Crew looks, like gingham blouses, striped tees, and poplin drop-waist dresses. There are also clean, simple clothes like long tunics and wide-legged jumpsuits — the aesthetic that’s helped Universal Standard build its following.
The size-inclusive company has been around since 2015, and it’s become a go-to for plus shoppers. Its minimalist aesthetic has been so celebrated that tastemakers like Goop queen Gwyneth Paltrow and Net-a-Porter founder Natalie Massenet invested in the company earlier this year, and Universal Standard extended into smaller sizing.
Aesthetic aside, it makes sense that J.Crew is teaming up with Universal Standard. Lisa Greenwald, J.Crew’s chief merchandising officer, calls the brand “experts in the field.” While Racked has previously found that offering additional sizing isn’t always as hard as many brands claim, J.Crew has plenty on its current to-do list. In the face of competing with fast fashion and the decline of mall brands, it’s been struggling with slumping sales and over $1 billion worth of debt. The company has responded to this plight by slashing prices and putting Madewell, its stronger sister brand, into stores. It’s also planning for a relaunch this fall, so outsourcing extending its size offering to a seasoned brand like Universal Standard seems like a no-brainer.
In a promo video, Universal Standard co-founder Alexandra Waldman said that the collaboration “is going to make a lot of women, hopefully, very happy,” and she’s almost certainly right. While J.Crew’s Greenwald says the company is “on a mission to make great style available to everyone,” the J.Crew Group, the brand’s parent company, is no stranger to controversy regarding plus-size shoppers. Both J.Crew and Madewell began offering extended sizing in denim earlier this year, for example, but the company didn’t make nearly enough, and the jeans sold out right away. Racked recently reported that Madewell has been guilty of size appropriation — that is, using plus size models for its ads while failing to offering clothes in all sizes.
To its credit, though, shoppers will certainly celebrate one detail: The new collection with Universal Standard will be available in 12 stores throughout New York, California, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Texas, Minnesota, and Washington, DC. Most brands that offer extended sizing only make it available to shoppers online, which is one more factor that makes the shopping experience for plus-size women so isolating and frustrating. Perhaps J.Crew has internalized some feedback ... or maybe it’s got the right partner in its corner.