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Size and Sustainability: 3 Brands that Make the List

Sizing and sustainability are common problems female shoppers face. This article examines three companies trying to fix them.

Two Women Sitting on a Couch
Credit: Pexels/Mart Production

Finding clothes that fit right, feel good, and include effective sustainability practices are common problems female shoppers face in today’s fast fashion market. While most name brands do not uphold sustainability practices, there are various brands that do.

The clothing brands Reformation, Girlfriend Collective, and Universal Standard are taking revolutionary actions for either sizing, sustainability, or both. Reformation is a brand that recently gained popularity for its elegant yet trendy designs and its radical mission for sustainability. Girlfriend Collective is also known for its inclusive sizing and low environmental impact, while Universal Standard is known for its radical approach to sizing.

However, to determine the impact of each, we need to take a deep dive into each brand’s sizing and sustainability initiatives to see which one has the best approach to both. Any criticisms are only intended for growth, not to put a company down. Each brand has its uniqueness that serves to revolutionize the fashion industry.

Sizing at Reformation

Reformation claims, We believe the perfect fit is the most important part of our clothes. We spend hours fitting on different bodies and have a meticulous approach to our fits.” They live up to their standards, as Reformation offers sizes XXS-3XL.

Their website is also transparent in the exact measurements of the models wearing their clothing, such as their size, height, hip width, waist width, and bust width. This offers the customer full transparency on how their measurements would look and feel.

Sustainability in Brands - A Woman Wearing Jean Jacket and Pants from Reformation
Credit: The Reformation

I especially like the measurements they give on their pants, the overall length, inseam length, front rise, and leg opening. Many women find it challenging to find pants that fit well, so this is a major plus. Similarly, product reviewers of Girlfriend Collective’s leggings have commented on how its leggings don’t ride up, which is also a common problem among shoppers.

Reformation also has a reputation of their sizing not running too small. If anything, the only problem I’ve found from their sizing is that they can run too big. Their website, however, also states that any alterations are on them. On the other hand, Girlfriend Collective and Universal Standard specialize in sizing concerns. Reformation is like a hidden gem in regard to sizing, whereas the other two brands stick out more because they speak out about this issue.

Sizing at Girlfriend Collective

However, Girlfriend Collective runs from XXS-6XL for every article of clothing, making their sizing more inclusive than Reformation. They also provide the model’s height and their clothing’s inseam measurements.

What makes it that much more impressive is the fact that Girlfriend Collective is an activewear brand. It’s a common problem among women’s activewear for the clothes to fit correctly, so Girlfriend Collective solves that problem.

Woman Wearing Activewear from Girlfriend Collective
Credit: Girlfriend Collective

Girlfriend Collective addresses other common problems not just in leggings but also in sports bras. Reviewers have noted that the sports bras have longer side lengths, preventing the issue of spillage over the top of the bra that commonly happens. The bras also provide ample back coverage and wider straps that prevent shoulder discomfort.

Although the clothes of Reformation and Universal Standard aren’t breaking standards like Girlfriend Collective, reviewers have said that all three companies are very comfortable to wear. The only issue I could find surrounding Girlfriend Collective’s sizing is that some reviewers have reported that their one-piece bathing suits and skorts ride up too much. This is most likely due to those particular pieces not being made for longer bodies.

Its skirts, however, are made to fit longer bodies because they fall much lower than the average skirt. In fact, Girlfriend Collective’s black mini skirt went viral on TikTok around 2022 in part because it’s so comfortable and has a longer fit. Just like Reformation and Universal Standard, however, they do say what the inseam length is under “Fit and Sizing,” so I recommend knowing your own measurements.

Sizing at Universal Standard

What makes Universal Standard’s sizing so special is that they base their sizing on the fact that the average woman is a size 18, whereas other companies consider a medium to be a size 8-10. Universal Standard’s size range, therefore, is 4XS-4XL. Universal Standard considers a size 8 as a 2XS and a size 10 as an XS.

The co-founder and CEO of the company states, “We believe this is the right way to express sizing in the apparel industry because it actually represents the American woman as she is, and we hope that other brands consider adopting this sizing as well.”

Woman Wearing Yellow Top Outfit from Universal Standard
Credit: Universal Standard

This drastic approach to sizing gives confidence back to the consumer because it’s based on the actual average size of the American woman. Most often, companies determine what size people depending on their standards. This creates a lot of problems as sizes will vary depending on the place, making it harder for shoppers to know and find their size.

No other company does this, but Reformation is also unique in offering a specialty collection for larger-chested girls, something not commonly found in mainstream fashion brands. Most brands, either carry sizes of an average women, however they fail to take into consideration the sizes of larger and even smaller-chested women. If this is a problem that you face when shopping, then check out their collection here.

Universal Standard also offers a unique sizing system that helps customers determine their size at the company based on their usual size. For example, if you’re normally a size 14, you click on the icon that says 14, and it reveals that you’re actually a size small at their company. No other company does this either. Both Girlfriend Collective and Universal Standard have a unique approach to sizing built into their brand that grabs attention.

Sustainability at Reformation

Reformation commits to making their clothes 100% recyclable and biodegradable. They’re achieving this in part by having 92% of their materials having an A or B rating in their A, B, C, D, E, and F rating scales. 29% received an A rating, and 63% received a B rating.

They also impose multiple restrictions on the chemicals permitted for their fabrics. They restrict certain chemicals using the Restricted Substance List (RSL), a Manufacturing Restricted Substance List (MRSL), and an OEKO 100 list that adheres to European REACH standards.

Sustainability in Brands - A Woman Wearing Blue Striped Blouse from Reformation
Credit: The Reformation

Reformation is committed to their clothes being produced solely from recycled material by 2025. They also want to be 100% circular by 2030. This means that all the clothes sold are either worn or recycled back to them to make new fabrics.

They’re doing this via their RefRecycling program. With this program, they pay their customers to send them their used clothes they don’t want anymore. From there, they recycle the clothes they receive into new fibers. Girlfriend Collective also has a recycling program just like Reformation called ReGirlfriend

Reformation is a Climate Neutral Certified company. What this means is they partner with the non-profit Change Climate to measure and offset their carbon emissions. It’s also important to note that Reformation partners with South Pole. South Pole is a provider that uses renewable energy, when possible, in the creation of clothing for Reformation. Although Girlfriend Collective has no initiative to limit greenhouse gases, the composition of micro-fibers that make up their clothes indirectly reduces their climate impact.

Sustainability at Girlfriend Collective

Girlfriend Collective has a much smaller sustainability initiative than Reformation. They also make their clothes out of recycled materials such as recycled PET plastic, ECONYL (Regenerated Nylon), and recycled polyester to create their clothes. They also use lower-impact, non-toxic dyes and are completely OEKO-TEX® STANDARD 100 certified. Girlfriend Collective also ensures that their supply chain’s wastewater is treated and discharged properly.

Their ReGirlfriend program lets you send back any old or even stained clothes from their company to reuse. Moreover, they even allow people to send clothes not from them, and they reuse them for new items. To set up a more effective recycling program for clothes, they took the necessary steps.

Sustainability in Brands - A Girl Wearing Sports Bra from Girlfriend Collective
Credit: Girlfriend Collective

However, they don’t reveal the exact data on how much clothing was recycled back to them like Reformation. The reward is $10 per item of store credit for their brand clothes and $5 per item for non-brand clothes. With this kind of marketing, the brand is able to convince and reach more people to take part of this initiative.

They also limit the amount of chemicals, water, and wastewater used in production. Girlfriend Collective explains how “we even engineered our core fabrics (like Compressive and FLOAT) to have the optimal fabric content for them to be easily broken down, recycled, and re-woven into brand new fibers.” Universal Standard’s Foundation and UltimateS lines are also made of biodegradable fibers as well.

Sustainability at Universal Standard

Universal Standard, by comparison, has a significantly smaller sustainability initiative. They have a clothing line called “Eco-Conscious Classics”. Certain clothes in their Foundation and UltimateS lines are made of biodegradable fibers.

These fibers are specifically Lenzing Micro Model fibers- which are composed of semi-synthetic polymers. These polymers are a more affordable option to more natural fibers and take up less water to produce.

Woman Wearing White Top
Credit: Universal Standard

Moreover, the UltimateS clothing line also includes cellulose fibers that take up 50% less water. Other clothing lines use fabrics made of Reprieve Polyester. This fabric is made up of plastic water bottles. They also claim to use 65% recycled yarn and dead stock yarn whenever possible. Reformation and Girlfriend Collective both use materials that are better for the environment in all their clothes.

Universal Standard takes certain measures to create a sustainable clothing line. There is however a limit to the amount of clothes they sustainably source. The majority of the clothes under the “Eco-Conscious Classics” don’t actually say that they’re sustainably sourced. Consumers also can’t find this section on their regular site; only if you search specifically for their sustainability line can you find this tab.

As a society, we are burning through our natural resources faster than ever before. Brands like the ones highlighted in this article are one of the many different ways you can help prevent that. If you’re interested in seeing another company achieving sustainability, check out the article UpWest: The Future Of Sustainable Fashion.

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