Old Navy Tries To Explain Why Women Pay Extra For Plus-Size Clothes But Men Don’t

On the Old Navy website, women's plus-size bootcut jeans range from $30 to $50, while women's regular bootcut jeans start at $22 and max out at $30.

On the Old Navy website, women’s plus-size bootcut jeans range from $30 to $50, while women’s regular bootcut jeans start at $22 and max out at $30.

When men go shopping at Old Navy, it doesn’t matter what size they buy; prices don’t vary. But that’s not the same for women, who may have to pay extra if they purchase plus-size items. In just a few days, nearly 19,000 people have petitioned the retailer asking it to end this policy, but Old Navy claims there is a reason that it charges more for larger female sizes.

The Change.org petition was started late last week after its creator noticed that plus-size jeans at Old Navy were selling for upwards of $15 more per pair than the smaller sizes. Meanwhile, men’s jeans were the same price regardless of size.

“I was fine paying the extra money as a plus-sized woman, because, you know, more fabric equals higher cost of manufacture,” writes the petitioner. “However, selling jeans to larger-sized men at the same cost as they sell to smaller men not only negates the cost of manufacture argument, but indicates that Old Navy is participating in both sexism and sizeism, directed only at women.”

Additionally, the petition points out that there is a “Women’s Plus” section at Old Navy but no equivalent in men’s apparel.

We reached out to Old Navy parent company Gap Inc., where a rep for the company told us the retail giant has a reason for charging more for the plus-size women’s items.

The rep explains that while men’s bigger sizes are merely larger versions of the same clothing, Old Navy puts in additional work behind the scenes for women’s clothing.

“They are created by a team of designers who are experts in creating the most flattering and on-trend plus styles,” says the rep in an e-mail to Consumerist, “which includes curve-enhancing and curve-flattering elements such as four-way stretch materials and contoured waistbands, which most men’s garments do not include. This higher price point reflects the selection of unique fabrics and design elements.”

UPDATE: After seeing Old Navy’s statement, petitioner Renee Posey tells Consumerist that the company is trying to “obfuscate the truth, appease the plus-sized female consumer, and frankly make this whole thing go away.”

She claims that the “curve-enhancing” and “curve-flattering” design elements, like contoured waistbands and and four-way stretch materials, are also included in Old Navy’s regular women’s line.

“So the implication that these elements are something extra not included in their regular line, and thus worthy of the up-charge, is blatantly false,” writes Posey.

She also questions Old Navy’s investment in a special design team for its plus-size products, as there are fewer options for larger sizes. Posey claims, for example, that the regular women’s size range offers 161 choices of coats while the “Women’s Plus” only offers 32 options.

“Overall, their assertion that the higher price reflects the ‘selection of unique fabrics and design elements’ falls flat,” writes Posey. “They have been called out on unfair pricing practices and they’re simply trying to spin it back in their direction so they can maintain incredibly high profit margins by keeping up business as usual.”

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  1. Mapache says:

    Could it be that Men don’t buy clothes as often as women and selling for a lower price is a way to entice men to buy some pants?

  2. theoriginalcatastrophegirl says:

    i’d also like them to explain why they generally don’t have anything in women’s plus in the actual stores. at least the two stores near me never do. as a round and irregularly shaped woman, i stopped shopping for any pants or fitted items at old navy after i gained weight and nothing in stores was in my size. i can buy my t shirts and stretchy stuff online but i want to try on pants. particularly “contoured waistbands” which may not match my contours
    as someone who spent many years in smaller sizing and then put on weight and moved into the womens/plus sized department i can tell there is a huuuuuuge difference in the way the clothes are presented, priced and available at so many stores.

    • jdgr says:

      I have had the same issue that you have. As someone who moved to plus-sizes later, it was pretty interesting to see the differences at the different stores I’d been shopping at. I stopped shopping at Old Navy after they quit allowing plus sizes to be returned to local stores. At one point, they had stopped the free returns by mail, which was when I stopped even looking at their site, because it’s difficult to know if clothes are going to fit properly with the wonky “sizing” that each separate store has. It looks like they do allow some items to be exchanged or returned by mail for free, but it’s been so long since I’ve even thought of them for clothes for these reasons anyway. I, too, need to try pants on before I purchase them, because even pants of the same size from the same store but a different color or style may fit differently and I can never be sure that lengths are the same either. There just isn’t much selection either, but that’s not just an ON issue.

  3. CzarChasm says:

    I don’t know enough about fashion to know the difference, but Old Navy’s explanation seems plausible enough. I wonder if Ms Posey would be happier if they just raised prices on the smaller sized clothes?

  4. webalias says:

    Unfair pricing practices? The idea that pricing of clothing or anything else should be “fair” or necessarily correspond to the cost of manufacturing the product is just plain silly. Old Navy is going to price and market its wares in whatever way will make Old Navy the most money. That’s not sexist — if Old Navy thought it would benefit the bottom line to start charging double for men’s clothing tomorrow, they would obviously do that. Is an Apple IPhone or tablet necessarily worth the premium Apple charges over its competitors, which gives Apple higher profit margins? It doesn’t matter — Apple customers think so. A product is worth what a customer is willing to pay, and will be priced accordingly. And there is nothing evil about “incredibly high profit margins” — unless we’re talking about products or services where consumers have few choices (Comcast, et al). Posey doesn’t like Old Navy’s pricing strategy? Then she should shop somewhere else. It’s not like Old Navy is the “company store.”

    • Xenotaku says:

      Comparing one company’s offerings to another company’s offerings doesn’t work. In this case, you’d have to compare multiple products from the same company.

      We’ll take your iPhone analogy. I know that there are two sizes on the newest one. An analogy that would match this situation would be that white cases for both sizes are the same price. But because (so they claim) they have to watch out for how darker colors wash out when they’re larger, the larger colored cases cost more than the smaller ones. Except for the fact that a) there’s no problem with the white cases, and b) the machines make both the smaller and larger cases the same way, so there shouldn’t be any extra costs involved.

  5. StevenPierce says:

    For the same reason Women are charged more for dry cleaning… because they can.