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I Am Tall

pink vegas outfit

The simplicity of the statement “I am tall” belies how important this fact has been in my life. I’m 5’10”. That makes me taller than 50% of the men in my country and 6″ taller than the average woman. I cannot blend in in a crowd.

I hit 5’10” at the age of 12. This made me feel awkward, ungainly, and horribly uncomfortable in my own body. I couldn’t imagine how boys could ever like me since I towered over all of them. (Although I didn’t know him then, for reference, my husband was 4’10” when he was the same age.)

While I’ve worked hard to get over some of the negative effects of being tall, there are still residuals – I think twice before wearing heels, I sometimes struggle to feel feminine.

In recent years I have worked hard to focus on positives and my height does have many positives. I may not be able to blend in, but people remember me. I can reach things on kitchen shelves that most people can’t. I can wear a broad selection of styles and shapes.

I think the thing that most helped me get over a bunch of my height issues was a conversation with my husband, who is several inches shorter than me. I was asking him if it ever bothered him that I’m so much taller than him. He told me that when a tall woman walks in on the arm of a short man, people look at the man and think “dang, he must be a rockstar to attract and keep a tall woman” so it’s an ego boost for him that I’m tall and he’s not. And that’s super sexy.

For me, the most important legacy of being tall is the fact that I sew. I started seriously sewing my own clothing when I was 12 because I couldn’t find anything that was long enough for me. It helped me relate to my dad’s mother – she was an amazing sewist who sewed all her own clothes for many, many years because she was 6′ tall in the 1940’s – who helped me sew my first pair of pants. Sewing is one of the most important things in my life and I’m not sure that that would be true had I not been encouraged to sew so much because of my height.

Is there an aspect of your physical being that encouraged you to start sewing? Or an aspect you have better been able to respect or appreciate because of your sewing?

#IAmaWIP

Each week this year I’m going to reflect on an aspect of myself and how it affects me as a sewist, crafter, or blogger. It may get deep, it may get emotional, it may get totally silly. It may be something I’m proud of, it may be something I cringe at, it may be something I aspire to. I may say a lot, I may say a little, I may ask questions, I may not answer them. I don’t quite know where the project will take me, but I’m excited about the journey. I’d be honored to have you join me on this journey. Chime in any time this year in my blog comments, on Twitter, Instagram, or your own blog. Join me in my theme for the week or make up your own.

Comments 56

  1. I have an ~ 14″ difference between my hips and my waist. It is next to impossible to find trousers or a fitted skirt for that kind of ratio. Plus I can sew much nicer clothing than you can find in the shops.
    Bravo for your husbands response. And for your grandmother for teaching you to sew.

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  2. I hear ya girl! I started sewing for the same reason. I didn’t hit 5’10” that early but I’m pretty much there now! I bought my first pair of heels two years ago just cause I figured every girl needs at least one pair. One advantage of our height is we don’t NEED to wear them… ;)
    My great Aunt, who I only met a few times, would grab me by the shoulders and pull me up saying, “Girl, be proud of that height!” She was the oldest sister to 4 boys and she meant business! Glad you are enjoying it more now…

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  3. Hi Erin, I was 5′ 10″ at age 13, and now I am 5′ 12″ (heh, heh). My height is a major reason I sew. I love to make myself pants and jackets that are long enough. The feeling of not being attractive or girly or womanly is hard to get over. Getting older helps. Unlike my high school experience my current significant-other was worried I wouldn’t want to go out with him because he’s shorter than me. Hahaha! Luckily, I have a beautiful daughter who is my height. I can see how her height enhances her beauty, rather than taking it away. We are all works in progress. Thank goodness. It would be so boring to “arrive” at our destinations with no more growth!

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  4. Being 5’10” tall too, I was always on the search for long enough sleeves and pant legs. To this day (I’m 62), I will not wear any shirt/top or pant in any form that is not long enough! But I did not consider sewing until I was married and started gaining some weight. I was forced to shop in the plus size section and the styles were horrendous…looked like Mama’s House! I taught myself how to sew and now I design and sew some of my own clothes without pattern pieces. Actually I have been buying vintage saris on Ebay and make wearable art tops out of them.

    My husband is also several inches shorter than I am. It might be a boost for him, but I feel very self conscious (still after 38 years of marriage), feeling like people are thinking, “jeez woman couldn’t you find anybody tall enough?”

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      So sorry to hear that you feel self-conscious next to your husband. I work hard not to let the thoughts of others bring me down (sometimes more successfully than others), but I hear that thought in my head sometimes too. I try and counter it with my own thoughts of how amazing my husband is, and his height may not be his biggest asset (pun intended!) but nobody is perfect and why should I have discounted all the other amazing things about him just because he isn’t tall?

  5. I’ve only recently started sewing (again… there have been some false starts along the way) but one of my reasons is: I am short. Although the ‘average’ woman is said to be 5’4″, and I’m only an inch shorter than that, storebought trousers are always too long! Sleeves are always too long too.
    I always remember one shopping day with a friend of mine who is 6′ tall. We both tried on the same trousers, and when we came out of the dressing room, my feet were completely hidden, and she was wearing floods. That moment made me stop complaining about how “all pants are made for tall people!” because I realised that there must be only a TINY percentage of people who fit into clothes right off the rack.

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      I can totally picture you and your friend shopping together! It’s so true that clothes off the rack don’t perfectly fit so many of us, regardless of what our physical uniqueness is.

  6. The reason I began to sew in the first place is indeed because of the physical proportions. I’m just 1m55 (around 5′ I guess) and I must’ve been one of the first in line when upper bodyparts where ‘handed out’. Because I’m a petite I had to re-hem all of my pants. When one day my mother made me a dress for a retro party, I was hooked. For the first time the upper part of a clothing piece didn’t feel uncomfortable when I wasn’t wearing knits. It felt just right. The latter was the reason why I began to really sew instead of just hemming. Although I do wear store bought pants and tops, the ones I really like are handmade. I don’t wear any store bought shirts because the darts and fit are always wrong and since I sew, it’s something I notice and bothers me.

    Besides the fitting issues on my body I simply love creating something that fits me well. That’s the reason I keep on sewing :)

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      I think it’s a truism for so many sewists that once you start sewing, it becomes very hard to buy RTW because you learn exactly how something is supposed to fit and you will no longer settle for darts in the wrong place!

  7. Be proud! :) I’m 6ft tall, and come from a family of very tall people (I’m the tallest woman). My mum, who obviously suffered from her tall height as a teenager in the 50s, had a mum who told her “walk proud and tall like the hanger is still inside your jacket!”, which she passed on to me. So, no space for slouching or feeling ashamed.

    Now, I grew up in Sweden, where there admittedly are a lot of tall people – especially men which was good when I started dating. But when I moved to the UK when I was 19, it became a different story. But still, I always remembered my mums words – so I really never felt that too conscious about it. Except when wearing heels (which I very rarely do).

    I would never swap my ‘extra’ inches for being shorter. It used to be an issue when buying clothes, I’ll admit that, but not since I started sewing. And, if nothing else, people seem to respect you more when you’re towering over them ;)

    So again, be proud over your glorious inches.

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      Thanks for sharing your story. Your mom has great words of advice! I do think it’s true that tall women immediately garner more respect in many situations and I know that I noticed it when I was a practicing scientist – I was often taken more seriously than my petite female peers (and all of us were taken less seriously than men, but that’s a completely different topic).

  8. same around here, I’m 5’11”! being tall for me has never been a problem under a garment point of view: I was already very selective when I was buying clothes, so I could find what I loved (most of the time). maybe it’s because in Europe the lenghts charts are different from those in the US? who knows! I adore being tall and always adored! keep up the good work Erin!

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      That’s really interesting that you haven’t had problems finding RTW to fit. I hadn’t heard of lengths being different between Europe and the US but that could certainly be true!

  9. What a beautiful post! I’m looking forward to read the rest of this series!
    The sewing community has actually improved my body image a great deal.
    It’s been a good reminder that everybody has their insecurities and that bodies come in all shapes and forms with their personal fitting issues. I recently picked up sewing to cater to my height (5’11), small waist and broad hips. In RTW I’m always compromising on fit (not to mention quality and style). I’m looking forward to develop my style and to create great fitting items! Long sleeves and hems, here I come!

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      I completely agree that the sewing community has improved my body image. It’s wonderful to see so many woman of so many different shapes and sizes looking beautiful and comfortable in clothing that fits!

  10. It is so interesting to read this Erin. Funny enough in 5th grade I was among the three tallest girls in my class and wished I was more petite (dreamed of taking ballet classes)…but I stopped growing pretty fast…I am now only 5.3. Always dreamed of being taller and having long-legs! So it’s still surprising for me to read that taller ladies may have ‘issues’ with their height! Actually I don’t sew because of my height (though I did learn to take up my own hems pretty early on)…I sew because it’s fun for me to create my own clothes. I enjoy the process…though admittedly less when it’s a failure ;o)

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      I’ve had many not-as-tall women tell me that they find it hard to believe that it could be hard to be tall. But it does seem that the grass is always greener because so many traits that we may envy (large bust, hourglass figure, long legs, etc.) can be challenges for the women who have those traits.

  11. Interesting post. I’ve always thought if I could change anything about myself I would like to be taller! At 5′ 6″ I can hardly say I’m short :) I guess we all have something we’re not happy with. I sew my own stuff because I can’t fit my top half into rtw clothes that fit my bottom half! I’m getting really good at fba’s :)

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      It’s so true that we all seem to have something we’re not happy with. Although I love hearing that sewing helps each of us become more comfortable with ourselves, regardless of our perceived flaws.

  12. i’m 5’9″ and also started sewing because i am tall. so nice to have waists in the right place, skirts that cover my bum and maxis that don’t finish mid calf!

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  13. This is great. I think all “odd” shaped people should learn how to sew just because it gives you back the power. Instead of going from shop to shop (read: website to website) you can make what you actually want to wear. Great post.

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  14. I’m 5’9. I did not start sewing because of my height, but I can relate to everything else in this post. Fortunately now, though, I look at my height much differently and I wear heels very proudly lol. I still think my height intimidates a number of men but who wants a man intimidated by something I can’t change ;-)

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  15. I’m not as tall as you, but at 5’8″, I can relate to a lot of this. I also sprung up really early – by age 13 – and felt horribly awkward for a long, long time. I’ve since learned to accept the things I can’t change about myself and simply embrace them as part of who I am. Sewing has definitely made a huge impact on how I view my body. It’s really liberating to stop comparing your body’s proportions to standard sizes and just make clothes that fit, period.

    As for heels, if I worked in an office and could drive to work, I’d be wearing 4-inch heels everyday. Who cares if they make you even taller? I think it’s fantastic! Rock those heels!

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  16. I am neither tall nor short. In fact, I’m so extremely average that I envy tall girls, but never realized that it could be a problem to be tall! As far as I’m concerned, I came back to sewing because I was inspired by great sewing bloggers and indie pattern makers.

  17. I hear you! I’m 5’10” too. The Dutch are tall people overall but I was still among the tallest growing up. It made me hunch my shoulders throughout puberty. Sewing has liberated me especially because of my long arms and torso, but also my waist – hip difference of 12.5″. I’ve become more aware of my height recently because we moved to France, and people are a lot shorter here. I am not the person who wants to stand out in the crowd, but with a height like this there’s nothing you can do about that. I try to own my height now, I love seeing tall women with a straight back and a confident stride!

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  18. I’m on the short and stubby side of life. My grandmother said to me when I was only 12 or 13 that all the women in our family were built like brick shit-houses. We may be short and squat, but we are STURDY. Its true, too. I’m strong for my size and despite my height-weight ratio (5’2″ :160lbs), I’m healthy. My grandmother is about to turn 90, and its only after being hit by a car last March that she’s started to really weaken.

    Despite all of our different shapes, I think its great that someone in our families took the time and effort to reassure us that its okay.

    PLUS- Let’s hear it for sewing. I could never afford my wardrobe of skirts and dresses that make me feel pretty on my teaching salary. Sewing means we all can wear clothes that we feel good in!

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      Your grandmother sounds like a true inspiration and I agree that it’s great that someone in our families took the time and effort to reassure us that being different is okay. If only that were true for everyone!

  19. I’m not at all tall and really am just pretty average in all ways, but sewing has totally helped me feel better about all my perceived flaws (and there are A LOT of those). Making clothes to fit me and not trying to fit my own not-good-enough body into RTW has really helped reframe my thoughts toward clothing and myself.

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      I think one of the wonderful things about sewing and this community is that we can use our skills and knowledge to turn “perceived flaws” into “differences” because we learn that it’s not a problem with your body that means RTW doesn’t fit, it’s a problem with the RTW clothing.

  20. Another tall woman with a shorter husband. Bust the stereotypes, I say! After twenty years of marriage it seems perfectly normal, and I rarely even think about. I have grown to love my height because it gives me a presence my unassuming personality doesn’t. Like you, love to sew so that I can get that perfect fit, although lately with some woman wearing crazy high heels, it has been much easier to find long lengths. And someone needs to say it once more; all sizes and shapes are beautiful- it’s how you play the hand God dealt you.

  21. I’m (only) 5’7″, Erin, but for my generation that was darn tall, and I too towered over all the boys through most of grade school and junior high. I too struggled to feel feminine sometimes, but I think that may also be in part because “traditionally” feminine things are not my style (i.e. pink and ruffly). Now that I am in my 6th decade (really? how DID that happen?) I can say with confidence it takes a lo-o-o-o-o-ooong time for most women to feel comfortable in their bodies. May not be height for all, but for sure it is something. I am happy to be a WIP, because it means I am still growing, changing, overcoming, celebrating! Here’s to LIFE!

  22. Yes!!! Own that height! Me? I am all boobs and waist, and no hips or butt. (Hence the reason I coined the phrase “über boobs”. This is not *why* I sew, but it sure is handy that I love to create my own clothing!

  23. BOOBS, always the boobs! Never bought a dress that fits both boobs and waist, now my daughter has the same issue – so I will crack this fitting thing! You must have really felt tall in Asia! When I go, they giggle at my Eu41 feet! Never mind, my hubby giggles at their bras!

  24. I did not think that you are very tall until I read that the average female adult height in the USA is 5’5″.
    A big difference to what I’m used to, as in the Netherlands that’s 5’6,5″, and I’m 5’8″ tall, so from my point of view you’re not that tall ;) as I have a lot of friends who have your height.

  25. I too am 5″10, although I didn’t reach my final height until I was about 17…! Late developer anyone? Well, that and perhaps some seriously competitive sport training had slowed my growth. Being late to reach my height meant that I’ve always embraced it (I was still naturally ungainly as a teen though ;-) but was quite average at school). I LOVE being tall. My mum is 6″ though and has always described how awful she felt growing up taller than others and I think that she still doesn’t like being so tall. I, however, have always loved having a mother that I could never lose in the supermarket! I also have very broad shoulders and slim hips. I’m happy with my physique and feel blessed in many ways but buying pants, and fitted shirts have always been tricky. Buying a dress to fit both my shoulders and hips was simply impossible. In fact, the first things I taught myself to sew for myself were fitted woven dresses. It felt like a miracle that I could finally wear a dress that fit me perfectly and complemented my figure. Fit is still paramount to everything that I sew. And I think this makes me even more intolerant of RTW fashion.

  26. When I was a little girl, I was very, very thin and I had the most wonderful aunt who designed & sewed fur coats for a living. In her spare time, she made me clothes. I still remember the feeling of putting on something made just for me that fit! I started learning to sew from her. I’ve always stayed very thin, and the only way to have clothes that fit was to make my own. (To say nothing of making what I like!)

  27. Hey! I’m 5′ 10″ too! (and pear-shaped) so, I never even look for clothes in stores.

    Why bother, right? Why are there Petite Departments and Women’s Size Departments but NO Tall Departments? Whatever! We’ll just sew our own clothes!
    :-) Chris

  28. PS I had a long-term boyfriend that was a few inches shorter than me, and I asked him if it bothered him. He said “No! It makes me feel like I pack a wallop!” LOL!

    (He actually turned out to be kind of a jerk later, but that’s another story…)
    :-)

  29. Another tall lass checking in! Plus I have a booty waaaaay too big for… well, everything. Clothes shopping used to destroy my self confidence & it was one of the reasons I started to sew. Now getting something to fit my bubble butt & long limbs is just another part of the fitting process and not a reason to start hating on myself. I love your idea for a monthly reflection; can’t wait to read more :)

  30. Don’t have any height issues. But am really glad to hear that most of are getting/ have gotten remarks from caring people about walking tall. I’ve seen (mostly) younger people walking as though ashamed of their height, it bothers me. One has to wonder about the long term effects on the spine.

    The heels thing is troubling too. I can’t wear heels, being slightly knock kneed means the inner thigh muscles will pull apart and weaken. I was about to warn a friend who always wears heels, and to my shock she told me she has to wear for her flat arch condition?! Huh…

    interesting discussion topic

  31. Height, or lack of it in my case, is what really started me sewing. My mother and grandmother both taught me how to hand sew and work with patterns, but I didn’t really start sewing in earnest until I realized that nothing fits me. I’m 5′ 1″ and very curvy, so even petite clothing is proportioned badly (and petite styles are often pretty matronly, as if being short is automatically aging). I love being able to make something that fits, flatters my shape, and has details I really like. I’m an RN and make my scrubs, too, so they fit and have all the pockets I like in just the right places. Bonus: no one has scrubs anything like mine!

  32. I’m also 5’10” and my story is exactly like yours, Erin, except that my husband is 1″ taller (we joke all the time about who is actually taller, but it really is him). I’ve ALWAYS felt uncomfortable in my skin, especially when clothes shopping. Pants have always been a particular nightmare. Now that I’m diving into some garment sewing, I’ve been able to make a couple of tops that are way long and perfect! I love it! Thanks for a great post that I relate to :)

  33. I love the idea for this series! I am tall too – 5’11” actually! Sewing my own clothes is much more satisfying than scouring the stores trying to find something that will fit me properly.

  34. Hi there…I learned to sew so I could drop the hem on my pants. Pants and my narrow size 10 feet are the bain of my existence since I cannot wear jeans in my profession. My height shot up 11 inches during middle school so that at age 13 I was 5’11”. At that point I stopped growing taller. While that growth spurt was awkward, I don’t mind being tall. After a certain point, you are you and your height is a part of you. It is a confidence that is uniquely you—for me, swimming and horseback riding during those days provided two sports I loved and was good at when I was much too gawky for anything else. Now I am picking up my sewing again as my go to companies are starting to cut back on the quality of their pants where I need the extra length. Going to start on a few fun tops and dresses before I get to pants though as it has been many years!

  35. I started sewing because I am both tall and curvy (5’8″ and a 13″ hourglass). RTW tops never feel right — either they are too tight in the chest, or they fit in the chest and my shoulders, back, and waist are swimming in excess fabric. Even as a child, my mother put tucks in the back waist of my pants to keep them up. My grandmother was born in 1898 and was 5’8″ as well (taller than all but one of her six siblings), and her mother was 5’10”. My grandmother always told me to be proud of my inches and never try to hide them.
    It also helped that my Dutch-born father (6’2″ himself) came from a tall family (his mother was 5’7″, his sisters around the same height), and all the women in the family sewed. I am actually in the middle of my female cousins in height (some of them are well over 6′). In the context of family, I was normal.

  36. I’m just now starting to figure out how to sew my own garments rather than try to *fix* the ones that I have purchased off the rack.

    I hit my full adult hight of 6′ when I was 12 years old. Back then I used to buy two pair of jeans so I could use the cuff from one pair to sew onto the other. Then I would roll it up to hide the seam as if I had a too long pair of pants that were only just cuffed at the bottom.

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      That’s a really creative fix for too-short jeans that I’ve never heard of before. I guess now that I sew all my own clothes, I don’t need to use it, but I love the idea!

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