The retailer, owned by San Francisco-based The Gap Inc., found itself in a quandary when a customer named Renee Posey went to its website and noticed that plus-sized women's jeans cost $12 to $15 more. When she checked the prices for plus-sized men's jeans, she found that the price was the same as with regular-sized jeans.
"I was fine paying the extra money as a plus-sized woman, because, you know, more fabric equals higher cost of manufacture," Posey wrote on a petition on Change.org, which has drawn more than 23,500 signatures. "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."
RELATED: How Do YOU Feel About The Victoria's Secret 'Perfect Body' Ad?
Her petition asks that Old Navy "stop charging plus-sized women more for clothing than you do straight-sized women and men and 'big' sized men."
For its part, Old Navy took the time to respond to the claim, noting that, in its view, it has a valid reason for charging more for bigger women. "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," the company said.
In essence, Old Navy is saying that plus-sized women's clothing requires extra design detail that trickles down into higher prices.
But Posey wrote that she wasn't buying the explanation, calling it "spin."
"Don't your regular women's clothes include figure-enhancing elements? Or do you you only charge extra for them when they're for big women?" she wrote in response.
Of course, gendered pricing is a time-honored tradition. Getting a haircut? For women, that will set you back $44 on average. For men, it's only $28. Higher pricing for women extends into a huge number of products, from shaving cream to pain relievers, with items targeted toward women costing as much as 50 percent more than those sold to men.
It's not chump change, either. Women end up paying an extra $1,400 per year on tacked-on fees and prices simply because the products are geared to women. It's bad enough that it's caught the attention of some officials, with France's finance ministry planning to investigate why products with female-centric packaging cost more than otherwise identical products sold to men.
For cynics, it seem that companies charge more for pink-packaged products simply because they can. And with women representing more than half of the population, there are tidy profits to be found in jacking up prices on items with female-focused packaging.
Likewise, the plus-sized population of women is, well, sizable. The average American woman is now a size 14, and Business Insider estimated there are 100 million plus-sized women in America.