Marks & Spencer charge extra for larger sized bras – should they?

Marks_and_spencer_bras

This week Marks & Spencer have been coming in for a fair bit of stick for their practice of charging extra for some bras that are larger than a DD cup. 

Women with DDs or larger can expect to pay around £2 more than their smaller chested sisters for some styles at M&S, which has led to cries of discrimination. A Facebook group has been set up in protest, with members describing the increased price (around £2) as a "tax" on those with bigger busts.

Is it, though? Let’s look at the evidence…

"Standard industry practice?"

The retailer itself has apparently defended the move, calling it "standard industry practice". Now, that’s now quite true, is it, Marks? It’s certainly standard practice within the childrenswear industry (you pay more for a dress made for an 11 year old than one made for a 7 year old, even although they’re the same style and material) but in the UK at least, it’s certainly not "industry practice" for adults, who pay the same price regardless of whether they’re buying a size 6 or a size 22.

In fact, it’s not even common practice within M&S itself: they don’t charge extra for the larger sizes in their clothing, which makes the additional charge for bigger bras – and the justification for it – even harder to understand.

Bigger sizes, more fabric, higher costs?

What’s not so hard to understand is the further clarification, which is that bigger sizes use more fabric, and therefore cost more to produce. That additional cost has to be covered somehow, hence the additional charge.

This actually sounds pretty reasonable to us, to be completely honest. If something costs more to make, it seems only logical that it would also cost more to sell. And yes, that does sound harsh, especially if you need the larger size, but you could also argue the reverse: that it’s unfair for smaller women to have to pay the same as larger ones, when the clothes they buy use less fabric and therefore cost less to produce. In fact, you could call that a "tax" on small people, if you wanted to take the argument full circle…

Of course, all of this is academic given that the disparity in price here applies to only one item of clothing: bras. Perhaps it it was the industry standard to charge different prices for different sizes, just as it is in childrenswear, M&S wouldn’t now be finding themselves at the centre of this debate. And yes, when it’s just bras that are subject to the additional price, it does seem like a tax on the bigger busted among us.

What do you think, readers? Are Marks & Spencer right to charge more for larger sized bras, or should we be hauling them off to the Fashion Police jail?

Image: Marks & Spencer ‘Ceriso’ polka dot padded bra

[Source]

32 Comments

  • July 11, 2008

    Han

    Would it make people happier if they raise the price on smaller bras? That’s all it is with the other clothes costing the same size– people buying a smaller size are paying more for less material.

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  • July 11, 2008

    Danielle

    I say it’s price discrimination against women with larger breasts. It’s hard enough for someone who has a large cup to find a proper bra. Why should they be so blatantly discriminated against when they do actually find a bra?
    They should have created a line especially for large-busted women and charged more. There wouldn’t have been an outrage then.

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  • July 11, 2008

    Sian

    If it happened everywhere, then sure, it’d be understandable (although still NOT acceptable). But is doesn’t. Cheeky little blighters.
    The bra actually looks better in a bigger size though.

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  • July 11, 2008

    Am

    Yeah, It is totally unfair. And what a shame – M&S have great bras, but I might transfer my affections elsewhere, even though I’m a D cup!
    Throw them in Fashion Jail for a long long time, bust discrimination is just as bad as any other type of discrimination!

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  • July 11, 2008

    Natasha

    Well, as for the quantity of fabric issue – why doesn’t it apply to coats or trousers? I mean, how noticeable is the difference with something as small as a bra?

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  • July 11, 2008

    K-Line

    OK, it’s patently unfair re: cost for extra fabric (that 3 inches) – esp. given the industry standard for charging the same amount for size 6 or 16 adult garments. However, as a woman with an ample chest, I know that the architecture behind a larger bra is far more complex – and (potentially) more pricey. I generally buy Freya or Panache or Fantasie and those bras run me from 100 – 150 bucks Canadian. So 14 pounds sounds pretty good to me. Almost too cheap to provide adequate coverage that isn’t totally dowdy.

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  • July 11, 2008

    Jilly

    As a woman with a chest size of 28B, I understand where the women who are bustier are coming from. It is incredibly hard to find a bra that fits, considering that the standard bra shop only carries 32NA-42DD. I have to pay quite a bit more money than someone who is a 36C (the industry’s
    “perfect size”). And my bra has LESS material! I think it is unfair from a personal view, but as someone who used to work at a small bra boutique, I understand the business standpoint. I still feel that it is discrimination against those with an ample bust and also against those who are not as blessed. Why should we have to pay more because we have a hard to find size?

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  • July 11, 2008

    katy

    This is completely fair. This is not discrimination any more that having plus sized clothing be more expensive. As a flatter chester girl I know that smaller sized bras have way less material padding and wire.

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  • July 11, 2008

    Mona

    I think it is a bad move to raise the price on something that is harder to find – from the customer satisfaction point of view. It could be that if they sell less of the larger bras (or not-average sizes), maybe they have them produced in smaller numbers, hence the higher price? Or are less likely to sell all of them? So it does not have to be the amount of fabric, which seems negligible in my opinion, as larger bras probably do not need all the padding (at least I do not want any, and I wear a C). I guess they try to get away with charging more, and people do not have a choice but to buy it anyway if they happen to like it. Still do not think it is fair. They do not make shoes in larger sizes more expensive either.

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  • July 11, 2008

    Mona

    I think it is a bad move to raise the price on something that is harder to find – from the customer satisfaction point of view. It could be that if they sell less of the larger bras (or not-average sizes), maybe they have them produced in smaller numbers, hence the higher price? Or are less likely to sell all of them? So it does not have to be the amount of fabric, which seems negligible in my opinion, as larger bras probably do not need all the padding (at least I do not want any, and I wear a C). I guess they try to get away with charging more, and people do not have a choice but to buy it anyway if they happen to like it. Still do not think it is fair. They do not make shoes in larger sizes more expensive either.

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  • July 11, 2008

    Ella

    The “bigger size=more fabric=costs more” argument has always made sense to me. I see clothes that I could quite frankly use as blankets, but they cost the same as the clothing I wear…
    Although, I do think it is unfair to apply it *just* to bras. If they did it consistently with pants, jackets, dresses, and everything else, that would be one thing, but to apply it to just one item?

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  • July 12, 2008

    nanny

    You usually find that while the bra in the larger size may be in the same range, it’s usually a slightly different style than the smaller size bra.
    And to be fair, Marks and Spencer are actually very reasonable for the larger size bra, whether or not it’s more expensive than the smaller cup size equivalent.
    As a 32G, I find it incredibly difficult to get underwear on the high street, and am usually looking at shelling out £30+ PER BRA, so am more than happy to pay an extra £2 over the smaller cup size and still be paying less than many other shops and mail order companies charge.

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  • July 12, 2008

    Glamfille

    No, it is not a discrimination, because, in fact, the items in question are not “the same”. A-size bra and DD-size bra differ by size.
    It would be a discrimination if they make larger brested women pay more then women with smaller breasts for the bra of the same size.

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  • July 12, 2008

    Veronika

    I think it’s not discrimination. and frankly I don’t understand why people are getting so worked up about it. It’s just 2 pounds, shesh!

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  • July 12, 2008

    Becca

    I think its fair enough but a bit unfair if you compare it with the fact it doesn’t happen with clothes. I’m 15 and being a 30E I find it really hard to find bras anywhere and if I do they are usually pricey.
    I don’t mind them being slightly more expensive. I just wish they had more of the sizes. Maybe I’m not the most common size but when I got fitted in a huge M&S shop they could only find 2 bras in my size.

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  • July 12, 2008

    amy

    it happens with larger sized shoes as well,
    when was the last time you saw size 9 /10 womens shoes for less than £40
    yeh me niether, I have to wear mens shoes or sqeeze my poor feet into 8s
    discrimination exists, becasuse the size is not the ‘norm’ of an average or ‘perfectly sized’ women does mean we have to spend more time and money on items the same as everyone elses

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  • July 13, 2008

    ellie

    I honestly don’t think that it’s discrimination. In plenty of stores the extended sizes run a little bit higher. I haven’t seen it in Bras before, but it isn’t THAT scandalous.

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  • July 13, 2008

    Eva

    What I think is discrimintation is that you can’t find a decent F-cup under 25 punds while smaller sizes frequently cost half of that. And that you can’t bloody find G-cups and above anywhere except really expensive shops. And that except for bravissimo most places who sell beautiful underwear only go up to a D-cup.
    As for Marks&Spencer it is a little stupid to charge more for a bra that uses a few inches more fabric but otherwise _is the same model_ as in the smaller sizes, when clothing cost the same regardless of size.

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  • July 14, 2008

    Robyn

    I agree that more materials = more cost. It’s the same between small clothes and plus-sized clothes. And the engineering behind a bra for huge boobs is more complex. Bras for big busts have to deal with supporting a large front, often weighing several pounds, by evenly distributing the work throughout the bra’s back and straps. The straps have to avoid cutting in and the bra must support and flatter. That’s a lot of extra design work that must be paid for, and poor small-boobed me doesn’t think I should have to help cover that! I understand why it sucks from the perspective of a big-boobed person, though.

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  • July 14, 2008

    Robyn

    I saw a show on BBC the other day about how hard it is to find bras when you are very large chested. But you can imagine that it wouldn’t be economically feasible for stores to stock up on rare/less common sizes. It must be hard.

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  • July 15, 2008

    Chichi

    To me paying the extra £2.00 is nothing when you compare it to the price big feet people like us would have to pay for a decent fashionable shoes. When I have asked why? I was told that it too extra material to make big feet shoes. Therefore I guess Marks and Spencer are simply using the same principle.

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  • July 17, 2008

    Karen

    Why is it that when I buy a size 8 or 10 dress, jumper etc at Marks and Spencer it costs exactly the same as if I bought a size 20, yet because I have a slightly more generous chest I have to pay more for a larger size bra? I wouldn’t mind if the same policy applied to all clothing but it doesn’t and how much more material is required for a size 20 dress compared with an 8 or 10?

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  • August 6, 2008

    Mary Hartly

    Yeh I like tottaly think it’s fair to like let them charge more ya know. more fabric more cost thats the way most stores including mine do. Mark&Spencer are like totaly off the bra hook in my book!!get it instead of off the hook it’s off the BRA hook since IS a debate about bras Ha jk lol Laters BI!!!!!!!

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  • August 10, 2008

    Sova

    I know that this is now an old post, but I’d like to point out that those two bras are not technically the same model, even if they’re marketed as such. Closer inspection (keep your dirty minds to yourselves!) shows that the small-sized bra has a large band of lace around the top of the cup, a smaller amount of ribbon at the “bridge” of the two cups, the bridge itself being quite small, and no lace/white band around the bottom of the cup. In contrast, the large-sized bra has a small band of lace around the top of the cup, a lot of ribbon, a large, robust “bridge”, and a band of white around the bottom of the cup.
    Just saying, y’know. It may be normal for larger sizes to be constructed and styled quite differently, but with the evidence presented, it seems quite reasonable to me that the two different models should have two different prices.
    (Not to mention that the large size looks like the better bra, anyway.)

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  • August 18, 2008

    sue

    No, why should I pay more just cos i’m a 44E.

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  • December 22, 2008

    Chrissy

    First off, many companies do charge more for larger sizes. In the US, at least, most stores charge several dollars more for size XL and up, because fabric and labor costs are higher to make the garment.
    Also, larger bras don’t just require more fabric. They require a larger underwire, which costs more. For bras with foam pads, these must be larger as well. Depending on the bra, it can cost quite a bit more to manufacture a D cup bra than an A cup.

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  • January 14, 2009

    Niki

    It’s an interesting debate, one which I am doing a speech about in Paris this weekend. I thought you’d all like to know that my company does AA to G cups, and we charge the same no matter what size you are.
    http://www.madebyniki.co.uk

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  • April 17, 2009

    fran pridgeon

    I am a 30E. I dont believe that my size uses any more materiel than some of the larger back sizes. Plus there is a very narrow selection in 30E. This size is not even offered on the Marks & Spencers Web Site!
    Fran Pridgeon

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  • May 6, 2009

    Tracy

    I have just watched GMTV and can not believe 8000 women are that daft! I have a bigger bust and think it is great that M&S offer such a variety of pretty and comfortable bras in larger sizes, which are at a reasonable price – especially compared to other high street shops.
    I have never made a bra before but even I can see the difference between a standard small sized balcony bra and a DD+ sized bra. There is more material and more panels that offer the extra support that is required, so I would imagine that this costs more to produce. By using the comparison of a top or skirt costing the same no matter the size is ridiculous as it is the same product, the same style, the same pattern, the same manufacturing process…. Am I missing something? There is a huge different between a standard bra and any plus size bras.

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  • May 6, 2009

    Tracky

    I think M&S bras and prices are fab. I think it is very funny that other shops / online stores are jumping on the bandwagon ALL stating they charge the same whatever the size. YET their prices are a lot higher than M&S… more than double? This debate is over £2. If you don’t like it that M&S charge £14 for a bra rather than £12 go somewhere else and pay £40 plus.

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  • September 7, 2009

    Diandra

    This is totally stupid to me.
    It makes perfect sense to charge a tiny bit more for larger sizes because not that many people need those sizes, and so you’re paying for the production of something that was a little harder to make. It’s like customizing something! Besides it’s only $4 more (I think) we should be glad they even make those sizes!

    If you have an unusual size then you’ll have to pay more for it, that’s the way it goes! it’s not a big deal because not alot of people have those sizes! Most people don’t have anything larger than a DD cup. It’s ok if you do. These inconveniences are all over! Smaller girls have to pay more to have their clothes tailored, don’t they? Everyone has some kind of inconvenience like that, it’s nothing to complain about.

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  • September 21, 2009

    Aimee

    I just compared my 32F bra with my friends identical 38C bra…hers would be cheaper by Marks and Spencers standards yet used considerably more fabric. To say that I should pay more for the privilidge of less fabric is silly.

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