"Pinkflation", when fashion is more expensive for women #463


A recent study shows that women’s clothing is subject to much higher inflation than men’s. This is “pinkflation”, a direct reference to the famous pink tax.

In terms of sexism, the 2022 summer season will have been another great vintage. After learning from Libération that climate change exacerbates domestic violence, after feigning surprise at the fact that even in summer women’s mental workload does not take a holiday, and after using artificial intelligence to measure the fact that female characters are four times less represented than men in literature, the time has come for “pinkflation”.

Inflation for no apparent reason

“Here we go again! The more alert may have immediately grasped the meaning of this neologism. For the rest of us, just say that capitalism is almost disconcertingly cynical. An evaluation by the NZZ am Sonntag, the Sunday edition of a German-language daily newspaper in Zurich reveals that women’s fashion has become increasingly expensive over the years, while the prices of men’s and children’s clothing have hardly changed at all.

In fact, at the beginning of the new millennium, women’s fashion was 6.5% cheaper than it is today, while men’s fashion has hardly seen any price increases.

A direct reference to the ‘pink tax’, a term used to describe a gendered price difference between similar products and services at the expense of female consumers, ‘pink inflation’ is difficult to explain. For example, women’s and men’s clothing are generally made from the same raw materials and in the same factories. Moreover, the sheer number of players in the women’s fashion sector should discourage brands from raising prices, thus respecting the sacrosanct laws of supply and demand.

“From a competitive point of view, there is no apparent reason why women’s fashion has become more expensive, whereas this is not the case for men’s and children’s fashion,” explains Michael Kuhn, an expert on consumer issues at Comparis, a price comparison service that participated in the study.

A question of appearance?

So how can this discrepancy be justified? Could it be another stroke of Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” or simply a matter of chance? For the NZZ am Sonntag, the explanation is a little more rational: “Female customers react less elastically to price increases in fashion items”. Men, on the other hand, “seem to be more inclined to sometimes give up or switch to the cheapest product when a garment increases in price. This is at least what the producers fear”, the Swiss media develops. In other words, the textile industry is speculating on gendered consumption patterns.

Dominique Grisard, a lecturer at the Centre for Gender Studies at the University of Basel, told the NZZ that “prices reflect the fact that women in our society attach more importance to the way they present themselves”, an element from which retailers benefit.

Above all, it should be remembered that the constraints on women regarding their appearance are much greater than for men. As the online media specialist Welcome to the Jungle points out, “a team from the University of the West of Scotland (Scotland) has highlighted the higher propensity of recruiters (both men and women) to judge a candidate on her appearance when she is a woman. However, taking care of one’s look has a cost: an annual hairdressing budget of around 200 euros (compared to 92 euros for their male counterparts), a make-up option that is almost indispensable, given that “more than two-thirds of employers admit that they are reluctant to hire a woman who does not wear make-up” and, of course, the outfit is no exception. All this to be paid … 22% less than their male counterparts.