Thursday, November 7, 2013

Growing Up Tall

Quite some time ago (longer than I care to admit, actually) a reader asked me to talk a bit about growing up tall, including how my personal style evolved as a tall girl.  It took me so long to write this (sorry, Terra!) because I wasn't sure I was the right person to do so because growing up tall wasn't really a struggle for me.  But, then, I realized that maybe that's why I am the exact right person.  Because I didn't agonize about fitting in or adopt terrible posture to seem shorter or worry about being taller than all my friends.

And why didn't I?  In a word, sports.  I know it seems cliche and I understand that not all children are athletic but I believe very strongly that sports are good.  Especially for girls.  And especially for tall girls.

Sports were great for me for several reasons.  One, being long of limb can often be awkward; sports helped me be more graceful and to feel more confident in my body.  Two, playing sports was a great way to meet other tall girls.  Not all of my friends are/were tall, but many of them were/are and I met many of them through playing sports.  It was definitely nice to know I wasn't alone.  And three, sports gave me confidence.  Not just in my movement, but in my height.  I was able to walk down the hall without slouching because of the confidence I gained from being an athlete.

In fact, I'd say fashion and style was one of the few issues I had with growing up tall.  And even then, I don't think it was as bad as it could have been because I was an athlete.  Athletes, for better or for worse, often get a pass when it comes to style because they're so often in sweats coming to or from practice.  A lot of athletes take advantage of that and just wear sweats constantly because, especially for women, finding anything other than sweats that fit properly could be a nightmare.

Especially back in the day.  I don't recall a single retailer that offered tall sizes when I was growing up.  Al Gore hadn't invented The Internet yet so your only hope was to stumble upon a pair of Levis that seemed slightly longer than most.  At which point you counted yourself lucky and bought them in multiples.  Shoes were difficult as well because there were never larger sizes in youthful styles.  You could sometimes find up to size 12, but they were more suited for grown women than teenage girls.  Back then, shoe designers apparently thought that tall women wore a size 9 until they turned 30 and then suddenly their feet grew to a size 12.

Now that I think about it, the same was pretty much true for pants and shirts as well.  You couldn't find them in youthful styles or brands.  If you did find tall items they were almost always more office-appropriate than high school-appropriate.  Again, retailers seem to be laboring under the impression that tall women didn't actually become tall until their first day at the law firm.  Like having a job is what makes you shoot up to six feet!

So, how did I develop any personal style at all given the dearth of available stylish clothing?  Well, the first thing that I did was stop worrying about being trendy.  Even if I could find Guess jeans long enough, I couldn't afford them so I looked for alternatives.  Like wearing a lot of skirts and dresses.  Especially once I got through middle school.  I was a tomboy until then when my final growth spurt made it impossible to find pants that were even remotely long enough.  Once I got over the need to wear what everyone else was wearing, I began shopping thrift stores to find pieces that appealed to me in color and fabrication the way retail offerings didn't.

Today, I still wear a lot of skirts and dresses.  And I still do a lot of thrift shopping.  But, happily that's because I want to, not because I have to.  

What about you, Reader Friends?  Did you grow up tall?  If so, how did you cope with the clothing shortage?

Happy Thursday, All!