Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Standing tall

I came across some random Finnish style blog a few weeks back. The author, a very sweet, beautiful young woman, had received a comment in her inbox about her height. The comment went somewhere along the lines of "why do you insist on wearing ballet flats because you are so short ". Rightfully so, the girl defended her right to wear flats, as well as admitted that she was perfectly okay with her height, and that there was nothing wrong with being petite. Her post got me thinking about the numerous times I have been told that I don't "need" to wear heels, or that I shouldn't.

I was relatively tall growing up; I was the second tallest girl in first and second grade, but then for a few years several of my classmates towered above me. When I was 13, I was told by the school nurse that I probably wouldn't reach my big sister's height. My entire family was tall, and I was going to be the shortest. I remember feeling devastated. I was 5'6", or 168 cm. The school nurse was wrong, though, because I grew until I reached 5'11" (180 cm) at 18.

Being tall doesn't really carry a stigma per se (in fact, studies suggest that there are advantages), but there are certain obstacles tall girls face anyway. In our teenage years we look even more awkward and clumsy than our friends. Hiding from attention is difficult, but boys don't like us because we are taller than they are. We tend to slouch and have bad posture because we try to be on eye-to-eye level with our shorter friends. Some of this carries through to later in life. The clumsiness goes away and some of us re-gain the control of our limbs and look poised. We certainly draw a fair bit of attention just because we stand out, quite literally. But a lot of tall women try to look shorter than they are, a lot of them have really bad posture, and a lot of men steer away from us. (When I started going out to bars and such, I spent nights out with friends, almost always without any male company. If I was approached by men at all, it was always by idiots with a tall-girl fetishism. Yep, nothing makes you feel more special than a man whose first words to you are "I have always wanted to sleep with a really tall woman.")

I learned to really enjoy my height and started to wear heels in my late teens and early 20s. Some of this was due to modeling; I was surrounded by girls my height and they all wore heels. A huge factor was my mother, who at 5'9" always wore 4" heels when I was growing up. But even more importantly, my first-ever-boyfriend was not afraid to be shorter than I was, and he encouraged me to wear heels. I didn't realise it at the time, but in hindsight, it meant the world to me that I met someone early on who didn't have a problem with my height. Later, however, there were times when I was told to not wear heels so that whichever-boyfriend-at-the-time (or sometimes even female friends) would not look "stupid" next to me. I'd often take that as a challenge and wear the highest heels I owned, just to spite them. I was not going to look like Nicole Kidman next to Tom Cruise; there was no way I was going to start feeling uncomfortable with my height next to anyone else. I don't wear heels as much these days, but there are still occasions when I hear the dreaded "why do you wear heels? You are tall already." I just say that I like the shoes, and that I don't mind being tall. There really isn't much else you can say.

Being tall makes buying clothes difficult at times. Most clothes are cut for the bodies of women with average height. I have a hard time finding properly-cut short jackets, blazers, blouses or shirts because my back and arms are too long. I am lucky that my upper-body type is boyish - I often end up buying men's sweaters and shirts because the sleeves are long enough. Luckily, these days a lot of clothing manufacturers offer 36" inseam lengths for jeans and trousers or collections specifically tailored for tall women. Properly fitting tights and leggings are tough to find, though. I usually end up with a pair of tights whose crotch is somewhere close to my knees, unless I go up two sizes and have to deal with loose waistbands and extra fabric.

My only real problem with my height is posture-related. I immediate hunch when I am with shorter people, it is almost like a reflex. The posture issue is a work in progress and I will have to live with it and keep figuring it out for the rest of my life. The fact that my torso is very long doesn't help any. In connection to this, most chairs feel ergonomically wrong somehow, and my body wants to slouch automatically when I sit down. I can never feel comfortable traveling on a plane or a bus. I also have to watch my head in low spaces, but that's the type of stuff that comes with the package. You learn to adapt. The flip side is that I can always reach the top shelf of my bookcase. I can always see the band at a concert. If Chris and I lose each other in the supermarket, he can find me easily. I don't have to change seats at the cinema because another tall person is sitting in front of me.

I have come across a lot of short women who wish that they were taller, and a lot of tall women who wish that they were shorter. It is weird how it goes; we are so rarely comfortable in our own skin. We worry about other people's perceptions of our bodies, and often only see what we don't like. As a tall woman, it is important to me to have the freedom to be who I am, to live comfortably in the body I have been given, and to do it boldly and proudly. As a tall woman, I choose to wear heels if I feel like it. I have found my own comfort zone hovering above others. There is serenity in that extra space.

Men's sweater: Kohl's

Polka-dot skirt: Salvation Army

Boots: Vialis

Pendant: Petrune Vintage

Vintage hair pin: Rambling Rose Antiques

Kitties: Masa and Illusia


Michele at A House Called Nut said...

For years (believe it or not) I was the tall girl in school, and even though I stopped growing at 12 or so, I still have the bad posture to prove it. It amazes me that it's taking so long to undo the habits of those years. Good posture has been a new year's resolution many times, and I'm still not sure if the situation has improved much.

I'd have interpreted the 'you don't need to wear heels' comment as, 'heels are uncomfortable and you are already so lovely and tall.' Not as 'you're so tall and therefore shouldn't wear heels.' But maybe that's just because I think heels are torture devices.

Great post xx

Franca said...

Great post as always. I'm 163/5'4" and I'm totally fine with that. I mean, I wouldn't mind being taller because my boyfriend is a foot taller than me, but I don't even feel short. It actually really annoys me when people that are my height or barely shorter go on and on about how they are such short arses. No, we're not! I am the average size for a woman in Scotland.

Camelia Crinoline said...

This was so interesting to read. I'm at the opposite end of the spectrum being about 5' 1" but I have many of the same problems. Buying clothes is always difficult, people make comments about my height (or lack of) etc. I find it interesting that people feel they have a right to comment on a woman's (I rarely hear people commenting on how tall or short a man is or telling a man what he should or should not wear) height given that it is something that is entirely out of our control. It is largely due to our genetics and no one should be made to feel bad about how tall or short they are.
I'm glad that you still wear heels and that you are comfortable with your height.

Madeline Quaint said...

I've always been the smallest in my class, and my best friend was the tallest girl. We must have looked a bit funny together, but it never ever crossed my mind.

By 18 I reached a totally normal height (168), and now my boyfriend is smaller than me. And I still don't care. :)

Wear whatever makes you feel comfortable - for instance I always wear heels when I have to stand up to someone, as feet comfort is less important at those times than the comfort and confidence of my soul. :)

Anonymous said...

I hope I didn't offend with my "giantess" comment yesterday, it was NOT intended as such.

My husband is your same height and has worked as a carpenter his entire life. He has commented that the world is designed for a person of average heighth--so in his workshop, he has built things to be comfortable to his dimensions. He also has a health problem or two that he has been told are characteristic of tall people. He complains of the slouching too.

Shey said...

I think tall women have a certain charm, like you said they do stand out and I always like to see a tall woman who carries herself well with heels or flats. I can't say I'm very tall, I fall in the average height for the American woman, however in Mexico it's another story, the average men's height is 5'5 or 5'6' (which is my height) at school I was always one, if not the tallest one and stupid boys used to bully me about it in high school, I felt so bad that they would call me things like "she-monster" just because I was tall. I'm glad I left that place. I liked and still like my height except for that time. =D

Teeny said...

I'm not really tall, I'm 5'7, and i remember trying to make my hands look smaller by holding them half closed....i still do this now - but by accident, it's a reflex now. I have a very petite friend who harbors a very old desire to be tall...she talks about her friends as being "lovely and tall" - funny eh. You're gorgeous, glad you've had some positive encounters with being tall.x

Marjolein said...

I can relate to a lot of things in your story, especially the hunching, bending over to hear what your friends are saying in a crowded place etc. I'm 182 cm. But I have never had a man comment on how tall I am. Sometimes hairdressers try to keep adjusting the chair but that's funny :p
I never wear heels though, not because my friends will feel stupid, but because I will. Plus the last time I wore heels I had to take them of after two hours because my feet were hurt 8)
Thanks for sharing :) I love your blog and your style!

Anonymous said...

Dresses! Dresses are the biggest nightmare when it comes to clothing for me (177 cm, which is about 5'10"?). Whenever I try any on, it usually turns our a tunic or a minidress.
Plus, when you're tall, you can see all men around you getting bald. But that's about it when it comes to disadvantages of being tall. You can't change it anyway, now, can you? so it's better just to embrace it and love it.

Becky said...

Ooh, I know exactly what you mean. I'm not super super tall but I am tall, and I had to deal with height comments, bad posture, and shorter boys since I was twelve! Buying clothes is a huge hassle, but yeah, it's so nice to see people are finally making pants at least for us. I recently discovered Long Tall Sally, which sells a ton of basics including tights for a reasonable price AND for tall ladies (their inseams start at 34" and go up from there).

metscan said...

Oh, this is an interesting post. Thanks for the cat pictures too!
Having reached my certain age, I have come to learn, that being tall ( 177cm ) has never actually been my problem. It was my mother´s problem and she pasted it on me. Luckily I still hope to have some healthy years left to wear my high heels and enjoy my height ( no mother any longer ). My two daughters are just about as tall as me, and I know, that they have no complex about their height.
Buying clothes, has never been a problem for me and none of my long ago boyfriends minded my height.
The only situation, I feel uncomfortable, is when people, especially short people, come too close to speak to me ( you know the types )!

Artfully Awear said...

I love the necklace and polka dot skirt. And I, too, have learned to embrace being tall--I think the sooner you can be happy with the way you are, the better it is for everyone! Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Great post are, of course, perfect, to me!! oxox, CR

Elly said...

What a lovely post...thank you for sharing! (I had no idea you were so wonderfully tall!) I'm 5'6", a bit above "average," but will always feel short next to my 5'9"-5'10" mother. I always had this impression that part of "growing up" would be finally becoming as tall as, or even taller than, my mom. I guess I'll never be a "grownup" then.

Ana said...

My height (6' even) is the one aspect of my body and self-image I've learned to embrace and really enjoy. I wear high heels. I don't slouch. My husband is 4 inches shorter than I am, and while not a height fetishist -- thank goodness; I've run into more than a few in my time -- regards my height as sexy and wouldn't even dream of getting weird about me towering over him. For all the practical problems it can bring, I wouldn't give up an inch of my height. That wasn't always the case, but now being tall is such a part of my identity that I can't even imagine being otherwise.

Leah said...

I found you through Already Pretty, and I have to respond with a big "YES, YES, YES!"

I'm 6' tall myself, and all of your experiences are very familiar. Awkward, bad posture (I fight this every day), self-consciousness, boys are afraid of you, etc.

At 33, I love being tall, but clothes are a pain. I find that dresses are the hardest thing to find because of my long torso. The waist is often empire, whether it was intended that way or not!

I have never liked heels, but I'm starting to inch in that direction (I didn't intend that pun).

Katie, Interrobangs Anonymous said...

I'm just over 6 feet, and I AM the short one in my family!

Height can definitely be a frustration - my length is all in my legs, so pants, skirts and dresses are usually too short. Counters are too low, chairs are too small, etc.

But I wouldn't trade my height for anything. I love all the things these long legs can do! In fact, I so adore being "the tall girl" that I find myself slightly jealous when I see a girl taller than I am (in flats, that is. If she's taller than me because she's wearing heels, that's just cheating)!

Alterations Needed said...

Hello from the other side of the height spectrum! At 4'11", I am an entire foot shorter than you...and love everything you said here. Being at either end of what is considered "average"introduces difficulties, but also makes us unique and memorable. Great post!

Gracey said...

As a fellow tall woman (I am 6'0" in my stocking feet), I just want to thank you for this post. It was very eloquently written and absolutely wonderful to read. I always love finding other tall bloggers and am thrilled to have found you!


M said...

I am 168cm, so not particularly tall, but then not short either. My boyfriend is pretty much the same height. I have often found myself wishing I was a little smaller, petite and cute looking because thats what society seems to think a woman should look like next to her man. I shouldn't think like this, and no one has ever had an issue with my height, it is something silly I have put on myself. I think we always want something a little different about ourselve. You are gorgeous by the way :)

Erin said...

I feel you on this one, I'm 5'10". I love being tall, but the relationship dance gets old after a while, the concerns you mentioned here, and (my personal favorite) tall guys who say "you're absolutely perfect, but... I really only date women that are little. You're just too big". Honey, are you look for a woman or an accessory with those guidelines?, because you sound like you're picking out a purse.

Jen said...

I got to be 5'10 at 10 and stayed there. I have always wanted to chop a few inches off. A lot of tall guys want short girls, or so I think. The grass is always greener on the other side.

I also have bad posture but I thought it was more attributed to my large chest that weighs my shoulders down then being tall.

Anonymous said...

I found this post really interesting as although I am the same height as you (5'11, maybe even a bit taller), I don't really feel that tall. I notice that I am tall, obviously, and sometimes people will say something like "Wow, you're really tall!", but I don't really feel that I stand out that much. There seems to be a lot of girls around me that are at least as tall as me and loads of men that are much taller. Maybe this is just Ireland but I don't think we are much taller on average than many other nations.

Kimberly said...

I love your post! I am 6' (and reached my full height by 15)and thankfully I have pretty much always embraced it. I think it had to do with my father and my grandmother always telling me how beautiful I was and how I could be a model if I wanted to. I didn't even realize that my height was why some of the boys rejected me in grade school because I just didn't see it as a negative. However, I have never really been a high heel wearer and now at 41 I am just starting to venture into that territory. Last week I wore a a pair of rockin' sandals with a 2.5 inch heel and I walked around feeling like a supermodel! lol I'm not sure I could ever feel comfortable in 3-4 inch heels but you never know. I am also going to get my style blog, Fortysomething & Fabulous, up and running within the next couple of months. I am learning to embrace myself (and my height) more than ever before and it's exciting!

FoofandFaff said...

Loved your post and can totally identify with all you've said! I'm 5ft 10 and it took me until fairly recently to feel comfortable with it, altho I've always worn very high heels for no reason other than I love them! I may be saying the opposite of everyone else here but I've never dated anyone shorter than me, just cause it would make me uncomfortable, but I think its great that most women are ok with it. The clothing is a bit annoying but I love that someone else wears mens clothes for the length (I had to buy my work trousers from the mens section cause nowhere stocked black cargos long enough!) :)

fleur_delicious said...

your post is ringing true with all the tall girls still trying to correct their posture! I am the same height, and have four yearbooks full of slouchy evidence of my insecurity. I'm still adjusting to where the arms and legs actually END, do you know what I mean? I meet so many other tall girls that have trouble tripping over their ankles or running wrists and forearms into things; it's funny what a difference a few inches makes when the world is not to scale for you.

And yes, my high school boyfriend told me I was too tall for heels. It's quite a destructive thing, I think, for someone you love and trust to tell you you aren't allowed to have the body you have, that you have to mask and hide it, to inflate his ego. What a relief when my subsequent boyfriend (who is now my husband) told me he didn't care one whit if I donned heels. "You look good in heels!" he would said if I was wavering. "Who cares if you're taller than me?"

For me the worst is trying to find a sheath dress. The nipped-in waist hits my ribcage, and the hips flare out around my waist. It is the funniest thing, because it is just so obvious that something is SERIOUSLY wrong when I try one of these on; I still have NEVER found one that hit me in the right places. Ah well, small price to pay; I wouldn't give up being a long tall sally for anything now.

Kristen Romanelli said...

5'11" here! I love this post. Thank you! :)