Disparities between men and women in retail

Matt makes an interesting point in my post about Women and Money, leaving a comment that made me think:

Also, it seems to me that women are under a lot more spending pressure than men. To look “put together” you have to buy a lot more clothes than guys do.

I realized this when I went clothes shopping with my gf and she bought all clothes she needed for job interviews and working and spent over $400. I think I threw up in my mouth a little. Then I looked between my legs and thanked my lucky stars.

Agreed, but I think this comment is a good platform to extend the discussion a bit further.

Note: I am not trying to fix society, or say that it’s unfair that society expects us to act and look a certain way just to do the same job as our male colleagues – we just have to play with the cards we are dealt.

Women shop more….

And this means, there are more shops for women available (the range is incredible, most malls look like they are 50% geared towards women’s clothing, with one or two lone men’s clothiers located in the far back corner).

But it also means that with increased retailers, comes a wider range in quality, style and price. You can certainly find $1 – $20 deals on suits, but to look polished, suits come in the minimum range of $100 – $500 each.

(Thank goodness us IT folk don’t need to really dress up in a suit to impress computers!)

That is the same for men, but I did find that the quality of suits that were available to men, were limited, but overall cheaper as a whole.

I went to Filene’s Basement a couple of times in the States, and it was incredible the deals you could find in high end designer men’s garments from Gucci, Armani, for only $40 – $70 a shirt.

For a woman, a heavily discounted designer blouse runs at least $75 up to $100 a blouse, and there is NO guarantee it’s a classic white, or pinstriped sort of neutral. If the blouse is heavily discounted, it is almost sure to be some f*cked up pattern or colour that no one else wanted to buy at full retail.

Men, aren’t as adventurous in terms of fashion (at least, most men aren’t), and therefore most of their clothing choices are basic classics. They can walk into any store and find a decent, white collared shirt in their size, with very slight, subtle patterns that are suitable for the workplace.

Women? Not so much. With so much choice in fashion (which is both wonderful and awful), we see the whole gamut of gorgeous to hideous.

All retailers do this double standard markup

This markup is not limited just to women’s clothing. Haircuts are $5 – $10 more, drycleaning is $2 – $3 more per shirt.

When I had my suits drycleaned back in the day as I was trying to land my first big job, I had to stand back once and say: Why the heck am I paying $3 more? It’s the same fabric, and in a smaller size to boot!

How were they using MORE liquid to clean my clothes than a big burly man’s?

Our shoes also seem to cost more for the same quality.

We don’t need more shirts or pants, but we need more support underneath

A proper bra, and proper invisible panties (so that the dreaded VPL or Visible Panty Line disappears), as well as pantyhose (support or not) are the minimum of things that men don’t need because their bodies are not as curvy as women’s and they aren’t required to wear pantyhose since they don’t wear skirts or dresses.

Or if you’re in a dress or skirt, you may need a slip underneath.

Maybe a girdle to smooth out the lumps.

Let’s face it, women need a bit of makeup to look natural, that is, advertising natural.

Now before you get all up in my stuff, you have to understand that women are (like Matt said), under a lot of pressure to look good.

We are being compared to the image of women being portrayed in media, where it took them 5 hours to make a model look effortlessly natural, and then society can’t figure out why we have visible pores or marks on our skin when we go (really) natural.

I think I blogged about this once, with pictures of celebrities who supposedly were bare-faced and natural for a photoshoot.

I could believe some of it, but with the trick of excessive lighting, and just a SMIDGEN of makeup, and a bit of Photoshop magic, they looked incredible in the shoot, but hum drum in real life.

I need at the bare minimum, brown eyeliner on my upper eyelids, and concealer under my eyes, with a bit of blush on my cheeks just to get through the day without comments like:

  • You look stressed.
  • Are you okay? You look sick. (Read: pale and ghosty)
  • You look SOOOOO tired. (Read: my NATURAL under eye circles caused by genetics makes them uncomfortable)

..and this is all on a GOOD DAY when I feel perfectly fine.

My bare face just looks naturally tired because we aren’t used to seeing women in advertising or in magazines look truly natural, and not advertising natural.

Their bags under their eyes, slightly saggy cheeks, fine wrinkles, have all been erased by the magic of Photoshop or if they are on TV, they are put under a LOT of light so that shadows cease to exist any longer, which makes you think they have smoother, firmer skin than they really do.

Men, don’t need to wear makeup (although I have a sneaky suspicion some of them do).

Lastly, without accessories, we look like a Plain Jane

I hate to say it, but without ANY accessories, not even a watch, we look a bit drab.

The clean, simple look doesn’t work unless the suit has a bit of detail to it, and you have a slim watch or a ring at the very least.

Without ANY accessories in a severe black suit, heels and a white shirt, we do look like plain Janes, devoid of personality or even femininity, which is again, a double-edged sword in the workplace.

We need a little pair of earrings or something, to finish the outfit.

Men, don’t need anything.

Women are definitely, as Matt said, under more spending pressure. On average, with the twin pressures of society and retail, we can’t help spending more.

Naturally, this is not a post to justify that we should all give in, throw in the towel and spend $1000 to look well turned out.

But if we don’t spend slightly more money than our male colleagues, we can end up looking cheaper than they do in the end.

What do you think?

About the Author

Just a girl trying to find a balance between being a Shopaholic and a Saver. I cleared $60,000 in 18 months earning $65,000 gross/year. Now I am self-employed, and you can read more about my story here, or visit my other blog: The Everyday Minimalist.