Cotton On prompts uproar online with 'insane' $108 price tag of basic midi dress

Sarah Strozkiy in the dress on TikTok
Yes, a dress from Cotton On that costs NZ$108. Photo credit: @shessoseasonal / TikTok

Cotton On has long been a fast-fashion favourite across Australasia for its trendy pieces that don't break the bank: which is why fans of its affordable and accessible price-point are in an uproar over a new dress which comes with a hefty AU$99.99 tag. 

Yes, a dress from Cotton On that costs NZ$108. 

In a video shared with her 75,000 followers on Instagram, Australian stylist Sarah Strozkiy - also known as @shessoseasonal - made a PSA to her audience that the Australian retailer has introduced more upmarket pieces to its range, calling attention to its "skyrocketing" prices. 

"I got a message from someone who said it's getting harder and harder to shop on a budget. Do you agree?" Strozkiy captioned the clip. "Would you spend $100 on this Cotton On dress?" 

Taking to her local store, Strozkiy managed to find the dress in question - the 'Ella Embroidered Midi Dress' in Dark Oak - and sure enough, the price tag read AU$99.99.

Trying it on in the changing room, Stozkiy modelled the dark brown piece for her followers to see, showcasing its floaty, mid-length skirt, spaghetti straps and a loosely tied bow on the neckline. She teamed it with a pair of strappy printed sandals and had her sunglasses perched on her head as she posed. 

Over the footage, Strozkiy noted that despite selecting her normal size, the dress barely fit.

"I also got another message saying that prices are going up but [the] quality is down. Oh my," she continued in the caption.

"[And] another message saying that they STOPPED buying from Cotton On because the quality was radically reduced but prices skyrocketed. Is this so?" she went on, jokingly adding: "Soon we will be dressing in air and sunlight." 

"So here it is. First Target and now Cotton On… what's going to be next?" she concluded, referencing the $100 dress in the discount department store Target that went viral last year. 

In recent times it appears the brand has attempted to shed its 'cheap and cheerful' label and shift towards a higher-end approach in the vein of Zara, with more and more items sitting in the $70-and-over bracket and several pieces currently priced over $100. At the time of writing, the most expensive piece of women's clothing on the Cotton On New Zealand website is the Born This Way Foundation Denim Jacket - which is part of its partnership with the Born This Way Foundation - at $130. This is followed by the Faux Leather Oversized Bomber Jacket and Drop Shoulder Trench Coat, both $129.99 apiece.

Cotton On New Zealand is not currently selling the Ella Embroidered Midi Dress. 

The highest priced items on Cotton On NZ's website as of October 19.
The highest priced items on Cotton On NZ's website as of October 19. Photo credit: Newshub

The feedback in the comments was overwhelmingly negative, with the majority of viewers agreeing they wouldn't splash their hard-earned cash. Many othres reacted with outrage to the price, with one branding it "crazy". 

"I absolutely wouldn't spend $100 at a brand like Cotton On for one item," one of the most popular comments read, with another exclaiming: "I stopped buying from Cotton On years ago. Not only is the quality terrible, but I can't fit into even their largest stocked items, and I'm not even considered plus-sized." 

"If it's over $40 I'm not interested," a third woman weighed in. "I noticed that too and thought, 'who in their right mind would pay that for such garbage?' Kmart still knows what's up though, and their fashion pieces are actually getting much better too." 

"I am struggling, [I] need a whole new wardrobe (significant size change) and quality vs price is mind-blowing at the moment. I can't justify it. Everywhere that I would expect to at least grab some essentials is so expensive or so terrible," a fourth shared.

Others also shared their shock and horror on TikTok, with the same clip attracting over 237,000 views on the platform. One commented, "Cotton On are fully having a laugh. Their prices are insane now." 

"Yep, Cotton On has lost the plot," another agreed, with a third adding: "It looks nice but that should be like $60." 

Newshub has contacted Cotton On for comment, but at the time of publication, had not heard back over the claims of pricing and quality.