Turns Out We Aren't Safe from the Evil Sexist "Pink Tax" Even at Clothing Stores
Ladies, it's not just toiletries that you are paying more money for than men — it's clothing, too.
After analyzing numerous designer brands, the Business of Fashion has released a report logging many instances of price disparities between almost identical "female"- and "male"-designated clothing items. From Saint Laurent and Valentino to Dolce & Gabbana and Balmain, woman are often being charged up to $1,000 more for the same items.
In one example, as BoF points out, Saint Laurent was selling a men's striped sweater for $950 and a women's for $1,190. In this case, and many of the instances they found, the item's design, color and materials were identical.
We've seen the "pink tax" — the term referring to the money added on to women's products — before. A study completed by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs on 800 female and male items, including toys and clothing in addition to beauty products, found that women's products cost 7% more than similar products for men.
We typically see the tax referred to with hygiene products. A 2010 consumer report found that many women's hygiene products, like razors and deodorant, cost up to 50% more than men's versions. In January, Mic senior style writer Rachel Lubitz saved $23.38 after switching to men's beauty products for a week.
But the tax also comes into play in fashion, which might otherwise be thought of as a female-friendly space. The New York City study found that non-designer clothing brands like Club Monaco and Urban Outfitters were also charging 28.9% and 24.6% more, respectively, for women's products than for male-focused equivalents.
WTF? Why is this happening? As BoF discovered, brands are pretty tight-lipped when it comes to discussing the rationale behind cost disparities. The only company that commented for BoF's report was Saint Laurent, saying, "the company's policy is to align the prices of its women's and men's collections, but price differences still occur because most of its women's garments require more workmanship than its men's."
It's hard to believe that this is true in all instances, especially when the products for both genders appear exactly the same (as seen with the Saint Laurent sweater above.)
But it would appear, perhaps ironically, that it's a matter of volume and demand that jack up prices for women. Women's clothing is more trend-driven and has a faster turnaround in stores, and therefore is produced in smaller batches. "Women's merchandise is more perishable from a fashion point of view and therefore is typically produced more often in smaller production runs which makes the merchandise at hand more expensive at wholesale," Mark A. Cohen, director of retail studies at Columbia Business School, said in an email. "Men's merchandise has a greater balance of basic to [higher] fashion than women's, which inherently allows men's merchandise to be less expensive."
The price increase on women's products may also have to do with brands' awareness that women shop more than men.
"Willingness-to-pay refers to the maximum amount a customer is willing to pay for an item," professor Catherine Liston-Heyes, economist and director of the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa, said via email. "Companies can sometimes separate groups according to their willingness-to-pay."
In other words, a brand can increase the price for a women's striped sweater because they believe a woman is more willing to spend that amount for it than a man, despite no difference in design.
Before you go all Nicki Minaj "what's good" on the fashion industry, it's important to note that this is not the case for every clothing company. As seen in the the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs report, the "pink tax" didn't seem to be an issue for brands like American Apparel and Uniqlo.
Nonetheless, price-gouging an item, whether it's deodorant or a silk sweater, is unethical. Seeing that many companies don't plan to do anything about it, much less admit it's happening, ladies might have to start parsing through the men's section to get the items they want at a "discounted" price.