Unfortunately, charging more for plus sizes is nothing new in the fashion industry. But when you find out your favorite former boy-band member turned heartthrob superstar could be responsible for such practices, it feels as devastating as it did the first time you ever heard of it happening.
Harry Styles kicked off his solo tour Tuesday in San Francisco, and people were disappointed in his tour merchandise. Not with the designs — there are avant-garde T-shirts with black-and-white photos of Styles, customized for every concert; cute pink sweatshirts with his name embroidered in tiny pink letters on the top left of the chest; and T-shirts and notebooks splashed with “TREAT PEOPLE WITH KINDNESS.” What people didn’t love was the revelation that T-shirts in sizes XS, S, and M were $40, while the same shirts in sizes L, XL, and XXL were $5 more. This was brought to the public’s attention via Twitter.
| Harry’s merch prices. pic.twitter.com/AvXYrnqK78
— Harry Styles Updates (@HSupdating) September 19, 2017
Fans started speaking out immediately against the higher prices for larger clothing, asking questions like, “OK but why is it cheaper for skinnier people?”
BIGGER SIZESS COST MORE OMG IDK IF I Should cry or laugh
— Litzy (@lonelylitzy) September 19, 2017
— Carolyn (@HeyItsCarolyn) September 19, 2017
ok to everyone saying that the extra $5 for a bigger size is horrible, don’t get mad at harry!!! definitely not his idea!! management !
— liiins (@lindsfasano) September 19, 2017
Another woman pointed out that whoever is pricing these items is basically asking her to pay for the size of her breasts.
I’m not overweight but have to get a large always because of my breasts and I have too pay extra for that
— Leslie ✨ (@_leslieeperez) September 20, 2017
Some people pointed out that it costs more to make larger sizes because more material is needed.
it’s less material to make the smaller sizes. the only way to even it out would be to charge everyone $42.50 or not.
— deespring (@dee_springs) September 19, 2017
Live Nation Merchandising, the company responsible for the merch and its pricing, has since clarified that the pricing was incorrect and Styles had nothing to do with it. “There was a mistake in size pricing at last night’s show; Harry and his team were unaware, and this has now been rectified,” Live Nation Merchandising told Seventeen.com.
While it’s positive that this particular sizing discrepancy has been righted, it doesn’t change the fact that many brands have and continue to charge more for larger sizes. Victoria’s Secret charges more in some cases for larger-size bras. In 2015, for instance, it was called out for charging $4 more for larger sizes.
Additionally, in 2017 people called out ASOS for listing items that cost more in plus sizes. In 2014, when a petition against Old Navy’s plus-size upcharging — only for women — took off, the brand defended the pricing. “For women, styles are not just larger sizes of other women’s items; they are created by a team of designers who are experts in creating the most flattering and on-trend plus styles, 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,” Gap Inc. spokeswoman Debbie Felix said in a statement to the Today show. “This higher price point reflects the selection of unique fabrics and design elements.”
Research conducted by the size-inclusive clothing company ModCloth found that plus-size women are willing to pay the price, so to speak. “They understand they’ll pay a bit more, but don’t do it in a way that feels inequitable, because they feel like ‘it’s already unfair that I have so many less options than my friends when I’m shopping,'” Susan Gregg Koger, ModCloth’s co-founder, told Today.
So while the Harry Styles sizing issue may have been a mistake, it certainly folds right into a larger reality that people (especially women) buying larger-size clothing often have to pay more money for the same goods. No wonder it sparked such speedy backlash.
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