Why Are Clothing Options So Limited For Tall Women?

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Photography by Getty Images

“Is this a dress or a top?”

By Annika Lautens

Date August 11, 2022

Let me clarify: At 5’11”, I know I’m tall. You know I’m tall. So I don’t need you to tell me I’m tall. It doesn’t matter whether I’m meeting a Bumble date or a new colleague, for some peculiar reason, people feel the need to verbally acknowledge my height as if I’ve got something in my teeth and haven’t noticed. For the record: I have noticed. I was the tallest in my class for eight consecutive years. I don’t fit into most bathtubs. And I often walk into low-hanging branches.

But what really tipped me off to the fact that I’m tall is shopping for clothes. Mini skirts and dresses are virtually out of the question unless I want to pull a Paris Hilton circa 2004 and flash some unsuspecting bystanders. All jeans are ankle length, which can get particularly chilly in the winter. And finding a jacket that reaches my wrists is like trying to figure out who Gossip Girl is, and the result is similarly disappointing.

Enter Tall Size, an online fashion marketplace curated for tall women, created by Canadian Olympian and basketball player Kayla Alexander (6’4”), her sister Kesia (5’10”), and her childhood friend Nicole Murphy (6’0”). Tired of scouring the internet for “anything other than sweatpants” that would adequately fit them, the trio decided to tackle this problem themselves. And they’ve made serious strides. The platform currently hosts over 500 tall-friendly items (including extra-large shoes!) in various styles from about 21 different brands.

“I grew up loving my height, but when it came to shopping, I hated it,” reveals Kayla. “Back to school shopping was horrible because all I could find that fit me were t-shirts and jewellery.” During our call, Nicole recalls a similar experience shopping for dresses for the school dance. “All my girlfriends would be swapping outfits, and I would literally be sitting in the corner waiting for everyone to finish getting ready because I knew I could only wear my own stuff. So I just avoided fashion altogether.”

Although they toyed with the idea of designing their own tall-specific clothing line, Nicole explains that during the initial research stage, they discovered quite a few smaller brands already catered to this market. The problem was the lack of exposure. “Tall women have it hard enough, so we wanted to do the research for them and bring all these brands together in one place,” says Nicole. Kayla adds: “It’s not just about our customer or us. We’re also helping small female-led businesses, so there’s a lot of women empowerment going on.”

As such, each piece of clothing added to the TallSize website has been vetted by its founders for quality and length. But one of their main focuses for the next year is to increase their options for extended sizes and trans women. “As we grow, we’re looking to get more women on our team representing different body types,” shares Kesia. “Tall women come in a variety of shapes and sizes too!”

Gigi and Bella Hadid street style Photography by Getty Images

And indeed, there’s something ironic about the fashion industry casting 5’9” and taller models but not adapting the clothing to fit the taller public. Gigi Hadid  and Kendall Jenner (both 5’10”) might wear a pair of pants perfectly, but when it comes time for other tall women to try them on, the pants look more like capris. Nicole, Kesia, Kayla and I label this frustration as “tall-washing,” based on the term “curve-washing,” a marketing tactic used by brands that include size-diverse models in ad campaigns or runways without actually selling those same sizes.

Now in fairness to big businesses, tall women only make up about 5 per cent of the world’s population, and most of them are likely from Scandinavia. However, that’s still roughly about 300 million people, so it’s a bit of a head-scratcher as to why tall women have been ignored for so long. But really, Tall Size’s goal from the very beginning has been to create a community. And even just speaking with the trio for a little less than an hour, I’m surprised by how therapeutic the experience is. It’s almost been like a group therapy session, where we’re all free to share our daily height-related struggles. “We always say that tall women are everywhere and nowhere at the same time,” begins Nicole. “So our mission is to give them a voice and make sure they’re seen, heard and understood.”

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