New in Town is a blog series dedicated to exploring Seattle anew. Every week I’ll highlight a place, person or thing I’ve uncovered on my mission to experience all Seattle has to offer. Read the last installment here.
Moving is a great excuse to reimagine your personal aesthetic. When everything around you is new, and you’re new to everyone around you, it’s easier to embrace wardrobe upgrades and shed clothing choices that no longer serve you. At the very least, you might find less internal friction when slipping into that funky jacket you convinced yourself was too loud for your old haunts. (My pink snakeskin-print jacket with big pearly buttons says hi.)
As I learned at the Museum of History and Industry’s Seattle Style: Fashion/Function exhibit this fall, Seattle’s aesthetic has long embraced practicality, for better or worse. Around the same time I checked out the exhibit, I purchased my first real raincoat at the REI flagship store after realizing the windbreaker I’ve carried around for years did absolutely nothing to repel water. The coat looks a bit like a tarp, but it keeps me dry, folds up into its hood and fits so nicely in my impractical purse—I’ve had no choice but to embrace it.
Aside from the weather-inspired wardrobe additions, I’m working through a move-fueled style revival and a New Year’s resolution list heavy with aesthetic aspirations for a new decade. As I expand my collection of statement pieces (that pink jacket now has a bright green blazer friend), I’m also working to upgrade my essentials as I veer away from fast fashion and search for everyday clothes that better reflect my evolving taste.
Cue Universal Standard: The brand has local roots and was founded with a mission of size inclusivity; it specializes in modern essentials available in sizes 00 through 40, with prices similar to those found at J.Crew and Banana Republic. They’ve got a “Fit Liberty” program for certain items so you can exchange them if your size shifts over the course of a year (with a special collection for moms), and when shopping online you can see how certain different-size pieces look on a full range of models. Style and social writer Andrew Hoge wrote about the company’s revived Belltown showroom when it opened as a 1:1 space last year, a place to try on clothes with one-on-one style guidance that also serves as a space for community, and when the Universal Standard team invited me for a custom styling consultation last week, it felt like a perfect opportunity to gather inspiration for the essentials portion of my winding style journey. (Styling consultations are free—sign up online for a group or solo appointment. They’re running a special promo for groups through March 1.)
Naturally, I showed up with a list of questions (How do I make cropped pants look cool with my shoes? Sweaters: are they for me?) but found time better spent trying on and talking about outfits pulled by the style team in their cozy dressing room, with bright floors and plants, big mirrors and warm lighting. It was so nice to peel off my good-enough black jeans and pull on some denim that’s actually comfortable, with big front pockets and back pockets that sit center-cheek. And don’t get me started on these classy joggers. Jessica Branning, Universal Standard’s Seattle director of retail and curation, encouraged me to try on a long, relaxed dress I never imagined myself wearing, and showed me how to rock it with white kicks and a cropped hoodie. She also introduced me to the Nailah, a sheer tunic that could help give all of our blazers a break this summer; I love how it elevates jeans and a t-shirt into something special, and its varied styling possibilities.
The gathering space is bright and inviting, with a massive open bookshelf and big leather couch, plus a kitchen and dining table with seating for eight. Here they host public Wine Down Wednesday gatherings once a month (including tonight’s tarot reading), and invite clients to book the space for their own events—for free.
“Seattle holds a special place in our hearts,” Alexandra Waldman, co-founder and chief creative officer of Universal Standard, wrote by email. “It’s where we had our first showroom and watched our community grow and become friends right before our very eyes. Seeing those friendships forming inspired us to create more opportunities for deep and genuine connections, which you don’t really get while shopping online, and so we decided to transform our first-ever showroom in Seattle into our first Universal Standard 1:1 location to give our customers a unique retail experience. It’s an extension of their home where they can bring their communities on a journey. Our mission is to create access for all, and we’re sticking true to our mission by creating a space where everyone feels included through diverse programming and by not charging anything to use our space.”