Lack of size diversity remains a widely recognized issue in the fashion industry — not just on the runway, but also in actual stores. It’s counterintuitive from a profit standpoint, because the average American woman is a size 16, amounting to a considerable untapped consumer base. If you thought the plus-size clothing market was being underserved, though, it’s got nothing on the plus-size jewelry market, which is so overlooked most people don’t even realize exists.
Enter Universal Standard, a plus size-inclusive brand that recently launched a limited-edition, size-extended jewelry collection. “The most basic problem is just that it doesn’t fit,” Alexandra Waldman, co-founder and creative director of Universal Standard, said in an interview with Mic. “Regular jewelry isn’t made to scale. This is a line of jewelry that is meant to look native on a bigger body. The longer necklace falls exactly as it should on a longer body. The rings fit. The jointed choker always lays flat on the chest, and can be worn on a larger neck really beautifully.”
In other words, the collection is designed to fit correctly and *lay* correctly on a plus-size body — two factors that are rarely considered where most jewelry is concerned. It’s a plus-size fashion problem that Waldman says isn’t well-known mainly because it just doesn’t occur to people who aren’t plus-size.
Universal Standard’s collection is comprised of six, silver-plated pieces: a bracelet, a pendant necklace, a choker, two rings and a pair of earrings. Prices range from $40 to $70. The aesthetic is sleek and minimalist, with a wearable, go-with-anything type of vibe.
I was chatting with Emily, Man Repeller’s visual manager, who has spoken and written at length on Man Repeller about her gripes with the limitations of plus-size fashion, and while she was pleased that plus-size jewelry options are becoming more available, she’s frustrated there is yet to be a collection that veers toward the maximalist end of the personal-style spectrum. “There is a growing repertoire of minimal jewelry for plus-size women, which is great,” she told me. “I’m glad there are more options in general, but there are no options for cool, exciting, high-end maximalist jewelry. Fun jewelry is one of those things that should be universal. I am already discouraged and disappointed enough when it comes to the limitations in the plus-size clothing market, but to then not be included in the excitement around jewelry either is doubly annoying.”
She also described the relief of rare moments when she doesn’t feel limited by size exclusivity: “I recently ordered a straw hat for summer, and it was so refreshing to be able to choose my size and not feel limited, or like I’m not worthy to wear the hat due to my size, which is how I’m often made to feel with jewelry.”
Waldman commented on this complicated feeling of “worth,” too, as it pertains to fashion: “For a very long time, we were taught that you get what you deserve for being bigger,” she told Mic. “Your lack is a state of being in response to a bigger body. But I think with everything happening right now, it’s turning on its ear. We want to be able to make things for this woman that straight-size women have had for years.”
Kudos to Universal Standard for moving the needle for plus-size jewelry. Here’s hoping more and more brands start to nudge it further.
Photo via Universal Standard, collaged by Ana Tellez