What I Wore: Universal Standard x J. Crew Dress

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universal standard x j crew review

The very day that the Universal Standard x J. Crew collaboration launched, I placed an order. No stranger to Wardrobe Oxygen will know that I've become quite a Universal Standard fangirl. As for J. Crew, it has been one of my besties since college. A perusal of my archives will see some of my very first outfit posts in J. Crew, and 13 years later there are still several J. Crew pieces in my closet and in my outfit posts. So yeah, two of my faves collabing and having sizes XXS to 5X got me excited, especially this gorgeous dark red dress. It reminded me of the dancing emoji, I ordered the dress expecting to add it to my closet, along with a few other separates to review for the blog that may or may not end up returned.

universal standard jcrew red dress

The bag came, I first pulled out this dress. Even before I tore open the plastic bag, I wasn't feeling the dress. It looked as though it was made from a pair of sheets. The creases from folding were hardcore, making me worried that it just would look a mess after a day of sitting and bending while sweating in the summer heat. But I slipped it over my head, tied the waist, and adjusted the dress before checking out my reflection.

Shop the Look:


jcrew universal standard red dress

It looked like I got all Maria von Trapp on a handmaid's cape. I didn't like the sleeves, it reminded me of scrubs. I felt overwhelmed by the fabric, thinking it would be a better choice for someone larger. I tied the waist in the front, to the side, in the back. Nope nope nope. I was already writing the review in my head – only consider if you're over 5'6″ and the more curves the better this dress will look but for me, it's a miss. I tried on the other pieces, fell in love with these pants (they're currently at the tailor being shortened to my 5'3″ existence), and didn't take another glance at the red dress until the day before the shoot.

I pulled the dress and the other pieces from the rolling rack in my office (when you're a fashion blogger, you have things like rolling racks of clothes in random rooms of your house) to steam them, the red dress the first item. As the steam softened the creases, it also softened the fabric. No longer did it look to be made from very stiff percale sheets, it had a bit more drape and you could see the detail in the seaming, the tailoring. I hung the dress on the back of my bedroom door to cool and dry for the next day.

universal standard j crew red dress review

I didn't put the dress back on until I was at the hotel where we shot these photos. The hotel bathroom didn't have a full-length mirror. I decided to tie a bow in the front, liking how its sweetness complemented the flared skirt while contradicting the stark minimalism of the sleeves and bodice. Since this wasn't an outfit shoot but for a product review, I didn't think about styling with shoes, jewelry, and accessories. In fact, I didn't bring any for the shoot, these shoes were for a different outfit I planned to have photographed at the next location, the earrings and bracelet what I had on that day.

universal standard j crew dress review

I didn't look at these photos until after I carefully folded up all my returns and mailed them back to J. Crew. Looking at these photos I wonder if I should have kept this red dress. I really think steaming this dress transformed the fabric. And this fabric's crispness is what will feel amazing in the summer heat, will soften in the humidity, and with washings over the season and into future years, the fabric will soften more, possibly fade a bit, and with it possibly become even more badass than it already was in 2018.

jcrew universal standard review

If you decide to get it, for reference I am wearing a size Large. I usually wear an XS in Universal Standard and a petite whenever it is available. In other brands I am usually a 14, sometimes a 12. I am 5'3″, and while I have collaborated with Universal Standard in the past, I was not paid for this post, I bought the dress with my own money, and no brand knew I was writing this.  If you click on a link and make a purchase, I may make a small commission.

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  1. FWIW, I think I’m basically the same size and shape as you, though slightly taller (I’m 5’5″), and we wear the same US size… but in the collab, I ended up with a medium in the dresses.

    That said, though the dress I tried on (the other one in that same gorgeous red) was super flattering, it was also very wrinkly and I decided not to get it. I was trying on in the store, and I had them steam the dresses for me before I tried them on. A quick scrunch in my hand and wrinkles returned and stayed, so I think it’d end up looking like a hot mess by the end of the day.

  2. Interesting how commenters are so divided on this one. My first impression was, “Wonderful choice!” I fully expected to read a glowing review. However, I agree with Jessica. How you feel about it is all that matters.

  3. The color is gorgeous on you. The fit is perfect, I too think a little steaming and maybe another belt would have totally elevated this look.

  4. This comment thread is fascinating. Some people like it on you, others are in the “not so much” camp. One referenced it not fitting your style, some referenced the fit being off, while yet others thought the fit and color were really good on you. I think this is so indicative of how varied opinions can be about wardrobe choices, color, fit, and style – and just reinforces to me that in the end, I’m the only one that needs to be happy with what I wear each day. It doesn’t matter that some of my colleagues, friends, or family think I wear too much leather, or too much black, or that I don’t look “pretty” enough in my clothing choices. I love what I wear, and I feel great in it – and so I will keep on with my strange mix of black and brights and leather and camo and denim.
    (And Alison, I think you made the right choice to return it, not because of my opinion on how you do or don’t look in the dress – but because YOU didn’t like something about the dress on you. It doesn’t matter what that something was. It’s like the Spanx faux leather leggings all over again, haha!)

  5. I like that dress and would possibly try it for me as that deep red is my color. I think that unless you absolutely love love love something, it’s OK to walk away, even with a bit of regret. I do think that color is a good one for you and I don’t find the style to be unflattering on you. It’s what You Look Fab might call JFE: Just Flattering Enough.
    Thanks for letting us know that the fabric softened with steaming. All these facts can help others made good choices. I also like that you acknowledged that upkeep of a garment should be part of the factors you weighed in keeping it. If someone hates ironing and a garment looks high maintenance in that area, then it’s probably not the garment for you. I don’t mind ironing so that would not be a deal breaker for me.

  6. The style, the color look fabulous on brunette you! You own the Katy in blue, the Geneva in blue, and several black, white and neutral tones which appear the staple of your wardrobe. It is refreshing to see you in red with a Spanish flair, which suits your curly long tresses and free style.

    However, the length and having to wear platform shoes is too limiting. The photos would have sold me on it, but the length means you can’t wear flats or or barefoot, without dragging the back of the dress.

  7. I think it looks great and interesting on you …. but can you clarify do you mean a J.Crew size large – so a Universal Standard size XS? the sizing has me really confused … I too was considering the dress but I’m a little shorter than you so thinking just even length wise it will not work. Thanks for all the thoughts on it!

    1. Universal Standard has unique sizing, where a 10-12 is an XS. J. Crew’s sizing is in align with other retailers and this collection followed J. Crew’s sizing method instead of Universal Standard’s. It IS confusing! I am a 12/14 and in this dress I got Large, but if it was sold on the Universal Standard website I would have gotten their size XS. 🙂

  8. I looked at the photo and thought ‘oh, no, she’s lost it’. Too big, not flattering. The top is better than the bottom, but the neckline is just boring. Definitely one to send back, however hard you tried¬ But yes, a great colour, I agree.

  9. I think the red Universal Standard JCrew dress looks great on you! I also bought this dress in the Black Large ( I normally wear L or XL in some brands). However, I am returning it because it seems too big. I have reordered it in both black and in red in the size Medium, which I hope works better for me. The skirt seems voluminous, and the size Large is very roomy. I do like the dramatic effect of the skirt! I have seen some comments that the red color reminds people of Handmaiden’s Tale Red which I find interesting, but I don’t care! I think the red color is beautiful and rich looking.

  10. The color suits you beautifully but the dress is hideous and looks cheap, like curtains or dyed sheets. It did not flatter you at all and as someone else said, did not seem to reflect your personality or usual style. I’m biased because I don’t care for J. Crew or Universal Standard. Good for you, though, for giving it a second chance and then returning it.

  11. I agree that you need a petite in this and it probably would have been a win. Great color on you though!

    I got the black jumpsuit from this collection. Is it the most flattering – nope. IS it totally comfortable – yep! It’s my new summer uniform. I did size up so that it had more of a loose fit.

  12. It’s a miss for me as well. I think if you keep it, you’d try it on for an event but end up picking something else for 2 reasons 1) fit. I think you need a petite version. There are 2 many areas where the fabric bunches (maybe that’s the design?) and it overall looks too long. 2) Style. While steaming may have softened it, the style is still pretty conservative. It’s a beautiful color but it just doesn’t seem to suit your more edgy style.

  13. This happens with our design clients all the time…we have to look at the whole picture sometimes to really see how wonderful things are. Dress looks fab on you. Perfect color, fun and flirty yet business for sure. Great photo shoot really shows this off.

  14. I saw the photo on facebook and thought it an unusual choice for you. I’m not feeling it. Looks like it belongs to your taller big sis and you’re just trying it on. It’s a miss for me. But you do look fabulous in that color.

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