The discrimination that plus-size people face is palpable in our day-to-day lives, and on top of it all we also end up paying more money for our size.
I’m sure most of you have heard of the fax tax, but for those of you who haven’t this word is used to describe the difference in cost for various products that are sold specifically to plus-size consumers.
The market is full of products that come with a fax tax and the fashion industry is no different.
But, why are plus-size clothes so expensive?
Plus-size clothing can be more expensive to make because it requires extra fabric. It also takes more time to create the patterns and to construct plus-size garments. However, being a niche market, the retailers can also dictate their own prices for extra profit, which is the main reason why plus-size clothes are more expensive.
Let’s explore all the reasons why we end up paying more for plus-size clothing, whether that’s fair and what our alternatives are.
Are Plus Size Clothes Expensive?
I can’t give you a clear yes or no answer here, because it truly depends on the type of retailer we’re talking about and what you consider to be expensive.
For example, Torrid is a plus-size clothing brand that can be considered pricey. Mind you Torrid is an exclusively plus-size retailer. However, they are still big enough to be less expensive compared to a plus-size indie brand like LoudBodies which appeals to a smaller number of plus-size folks.
You can also find very cheap plus-size clothes made by fashion brands like PrettyLittleThing, and even though they tend to run small, you can still get them to work for you.
Basically, not all plus size clothes are expensive, at least not anymore, and there’s great variety between styles, quality of garments, and their price, however, you may notice that certain retailers that are not exclusively plus size, charge more for the clothes in the plus size section.
Why Are Plus Size Clothes So Expensive?
If you’ve noticed that you end up paying more money for clothes that are in the plus-size category then you are in the right to demand some explanations.
So, let’s see why some retailers choose to charge more for their plus-size clothes.
Reason 1: Plus-Size Clothing Is a Niche Market
I truly think that demand is the main reason why plus-size clothing is more expensive compared to regular clothing.
If a retailer exclusively sells plus-sized clothes then they are considered a niche brand, which means that they can dictate their own prices and since there aren’t a lot of plus-size competitors these brands can charge you whatever price they want.
Similarly, brands that have a plus-size and curvy line will try to make as much money as possible. You could blame it on the fact that larger sizes might be less in demand, and so they produce a lower quantity of plus-size garments. But I truly believe that mainstream manufacturers can simply get away with it, and they know that the plus-size community doesn’t have any other option.
Reason 2: Plus-Size Clothing Requires More Fabric
Another reason plus-size garments tend to have a higher price tag is the extra material that is needed to create them.
I can agree with this point to some degree because the quantity of materials used can definitely affect the income of smaller retailers, or brands that use high-quality fabrics.
However, larger retailers, especially fast fashion brands, buy their materials in bulk on a much larger scale and they are known to use cheap synthetic fabrics that don’t justify the cost increase of plus-size clothing.
More so, retailers have the option to come up with a uniform pricing strategy across all the sizes they cater to. If you think about it, an XS t-shirt will also use considerably less fabric compared to an XL, but they will be priced the same.
Reason 3: Developing a Plus-Size Base Pattern
Another argument for pricing plus-size clothes higher than their regular counterparts is pattern making.
I’ll admit that it’s not always possible to use the same base pattern for plus-size garments that was used to create a regular-sized garment. Some companies spend extra money to design base patterns for plus-size clothes that will actually fit their customers well.
In some cases, you need to hire designers and pattern makers specifically for the plus-size selection.
However, I do need to give a counter-argument here, because most of these brands also produce petite and tall sizes, that also require different patterns but they are usually sold at the same price.
I also want to add that if you’ve ever shopped from a fast fashion brand as a plus-size individual then you know that their clothes are often a hit-or-miss situation when it comes to fit, so I’m not sure if they actually spend extra money to make sure that plus-size clothes actually fit well on different body types.
Reason 4: Plus Size Clothing Production Is More Expensive
When we’re talking about production, we mean the pattern making, the material, the designers, the tailors, the equipment, the real plus-size models, and the photoshoots.
It’s true that all of those things can increase the price point of plus-size clothing, however, most of these things also go into the production of regular clothes, so the additional cost isn’t necessarily excused.
Aside from the extra materials, I can understand that the time it takes to make plus size clothing can affect the price. Sewing a larger garment is more time-consuming, and that can slow production down, and this can definitely affect the income of smaller retailers.
The time it takes to construct a garment will also depend on the type of clothing we’re talking about. A simple maxi dress, or a t-shirt whether it’s plus size or not shouldn’t really affect the garment’s cost.
On the other hand, a more complex garment, with lots of panels, zippers, and hand embroidery, will of course require more construction time, especially if it’s a larger size.
All of those points are legit, but I still believe that larger manufacturers should increase the cost of their garments proportionately, including plus sizes. After all, plus size people are part of society and we should be treated appropriately and not be charged extra simply for existing.
Should Plus Size Clothing Cost More?
While I don’t think plus size clothing should cost more, I can’t simply give you a black or white answer. So, let’s break things down a little bit more.
It’s true that upping the price of clothes just for being in the plus-size category is discriminatory, and it’s alienating a community that already has been dealing with discrimination in so many other facets of their life.
Of course, I’ve heard other plus-size folks talk about how it’s fair to charge more for plus-size clothing since they require more material. However, sizes from 0 to 12 are also very different and they also require different amounts of material, but they are all sold under the same price tag. Let’s not forget that most brands don’t charge more or less for tall vs petite sizes.
We also don’t see a price change when it comes to shoe sizes. A size 15 shoe requires more materials compared to a shoe size 7, but they are both sold at the same price.
I must admit, however, I could justify plus-size clothing being more expensive if I were to buy from a small and independent seller. That’s where the extra fabric can make a difference however fast fashion brands like Shein will pay less for cheaper fabrics when they are buying them in such large quantities, compared to a small atelier.
The number of workers working for small private businesses also dictates the price of the garment, and I can see how it can take more time to construct, sew and produce a plus-size garment on a small scale. However, the same can’t be said about large companies, which are selling already overpriced, poorly made clothes using cheap labor and fabrics in the first place.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think fast fashion is in any way ethical and that plus-size clothing should be made as a result of exploitation. However, charging more for plus size clothes doesn’t mean that the extra money is going into the pockets of the people who are making them, the problem is much deeper than that!
Where Can You Find Cheap Plus Size Clothing?
If you want to buy affordable clothing there are a few options, the easiest one is to buy from fast fashion brands like the Rainbow shop and Hot Topic. While in most fast fashion brand cases the plus size and curvy clothes are still going to be more expensive than their regular-sized clothing, they are still crazy cheap.
You can also try thrifting, but in my own personal experience finding plus-size clothes at a thrift store is not easy.
For those of you who don’t want to spend your money on fast fashion brands, and don’t have the time or patience to start thrifting, things get substantially more expensive no matter your size. However, you can be on the lookout for sales and discounts, in more or less affordable shops, like The Standard Stich, as well as the Girlfriend Collective, Hours, and perhaps Loup.
The plus-size clothing market has always been limited, but in the last few years, especially with the body-positivity movement, we’ve seen a change. However, the big brands that brought this change made sure to profit from it, so along with the body diversity came the extra charge.
Some people might be thinking it’s fair that plus-size clothes are more expensive, and there are a few arguments on our list that explain why this might be a thing, but at the end of the day, we all know that the decision to make plus-size garments more expensive is rooted in discrimination, especially when we’re talking about mainstream retailers.
There are alternatives out there and nowadays it can be easier to find plus-size-only retailers or even more affordable fast fashion options, but we still have a long way to go!