Tall’n Small

Do you have a friend who is taller or shorter than you are? I think that’s why I was interested in this old photo depicting women with obvious height differences. My friend Margot is quite a bit taller than I am. (I stand at 5’4″ in bare feet.) It’s not really an issue with me…unless she wears something that looks great on her nice tall figure. Something I know I  could never make work on my smaller one. That’s when I wish I could stretch myself an additional three inches!

The new magazine ‘the gentlewoman‘ must have been reading my mind.  They have a timely article on a dilemma all women face- picking the right clothing to fit us whether we’re tall or small. The magazine’s first challenge- summer shorts.

Marta (small) and Sofia (tall) are models and best friends. The shorts they’re wearing are from two different designers yet the hems fall at the same point on each girl. *Fit is crucial.

Both are in silk shorts by Marc Jacobs. But the proportions are different. Notice how Marta’s shorts show off more leg than her friend’s shorts. This gives the illusion of added height. (The platform shoes help, too!) Sofia’s shorts suit her long lean frame. *Think about proportions.

Marta’s one button white shorts from American Apparel and Reiss tank top with thin stripes are scaled to her tiny build. Bolder stripes on the Uniqlo shirt and three button A.P.C. shorts are better for Sofia. *Don’t forget scale.

(Vintage photo, c.1900-1915- my collection. Fashion photos- Daniel Riera)


78 thoughts on “Tall’n Small

  1. I so like the natural relaxed feeling of your vintage photo. I experience these women as “women with substance.” Their comradeship is palatable. The magazine photos depicting what shorts to wear – doing the job well – but the women could be plastic or plaster.

    I know this is off purpose for tall n’ small and I likely wouldn’t have noticed except for the strength of that very first vintage photo. Thank you so much for including it.

    1. creativepotager- I’m glad you shared your thoughts about this post. I thought the magazine article lacked a certain touch (I’m not a big fan of headless people shots either)… something for readers to relate to about height differences and fashion. Adding the old photo was like finding the missing piece to a puzzle. :)

    1. Raul- I know a lot of women who pay more attention to the size numbers rather than getting the right fit…and really the later is more important.

  2. I’m ALWAYS taller than my friends. I’ve been 5’10 since 8th grade. It’s only now, living in Sweden, that I run into many women as tall, or taller then me. It actually feels weird to NOT be the tallest woman in the room.

    1. Melanirae- Oh…eighth grade! In your class…did they line you up according to height? I hated that! I was always near the end.

  3. I LOVED their body!!
    well it is the same with me and my sister; I’m the tall one and she is the skinny one.
    I have to admit it, its good to be tall cause alot of people think that I’m skinny ;)

    1. onceinurlifetime- I almost forgot about that…how quickly weight shows up on shorter people. Ugh….:(

  4. The images are perfect and if everything isn’t scaled perfectly you might as well be wearing a potato sack.

  5. It’s like a fashion lesson online, hehe
    I am small, and I love high heels. But sometimes it is not a wise thing to wear when traveling backpacking:D

    1. Lulu- I have a love/hate relationship with high heels. I love the looks but find them so uncomfortable…I can’t wait to get out of them.

      PS- You’re right…definitely not for backpacking! :)

  6. My best friend in high school was 5’8 to my 5’0. I envied her something fierce, having all that height when I thought of myself as kind of stumpy.

    I found out later that while I envied her that dramatic height, she envied me my dramatic hourglass figure. It was kind of funny to find out that we both wanted an attribute of the other person’s body so badly!


  7. This is such a lovely and original post.

    For me, height is not so much a problem with my friends as we are all roughly the same, but it is with my boyfriend.

    I’m 5’9″ in my bare stockings and he is 5’6″ (in heels, ha ha!).

    I could pander to his ego and wear ballet pumps, but my love of heels – so high you’d get vertigo – only makes our height difference more apparent.

    The interesting part? Neither of us care. He is perfect to me and I would adore him whatever his height…

    Aw, shucks. :0)

  8. Sarah- You bring up an interesting question.
    Readers- Would you date/marry someone shorter than you are? When I was dating I wanted the guys to be taller than I was. Now…like you, Sarah…it wouldn’t matter.

    1. My new boyfriend–educated, funny, thoughtful, man of integrity–and I are exactly the same height at 5’6″. I like so many things about him but the height is a recurring stressor… I’m worried that people will look at us and think that we don’t look good together… are you saying that it’s something that won’t matter/isn’t important for the rest of my life? If so, that’s great news for me! :)

  9. Love this! Wonderful examples of how looks work at different statures. (I’ve always been the “small” – and some looks won’t work on me whatsoever. But many will, scaled back a bit for proportion.)

    Funny – being a tiny woman – it’s mostly tall men who seek me out (love it!) and I do enjoy men in the 6’0 to 6’4 range… what can I say? (Hitting the 5′ mark on a big hair day.)

    But necessary? No. Brains, humor, and compassion tower over almost everything else.

    Great post!

    1. biglittlewolf- I agree…in college I was infatuated with a tall basket ball player. Did I marry him? Nope. I ended up with a guy just a little taller than myself. I’d add to your list of ‘brains, humor, compasssion’….a guy with integrity.

  10. I love my heels but there are days when I don’t care and wear my flats – I am 5’2″, throw in an Indian frame!! :) Enough to make me feel conscious! Among the choices above, I would wear the silk shorts by Marc Jacobs. Thank God that my legs aren’t that bad ;)

    1. Apar- I live mostly in flats (sandals and brogues are my favorites)… except, of course, for the occasional wedding or dinner out. Then I’ll wear two or three inch heels.

      PS- My husband tells me I have great legs. :)

  11. Great post! I’m a 6′ girl who lived in Asia for a while, so extreme height discrepancy feels natural. If I’m wearing heels, some of my girl friends are too short to hear me when we walk down the street together.

  12. We always thought that even great legs look better in high heels. Anything less was “tacky”. I lived in high heels even though I was 5’8″. Now I have to question the wisdom of that.

    I don’t recommend a sudden and permanent change to flats later in life. It seems to have screwed up my lower back.

    All things in moderation – right?

    1. lifeaftereighty- I always thought that wearing heels exclusively can cause major back problems…

  13. I’m in the same boat as BigLittleWolf… I’m 4’11”! It’s even harder to work with kids that are the same height/taller than you. I love heels and looking nice, and am always looking for more fashion ideas!


    1. Victoria- Have the kids noticed that they are the same height as you are? Do they challenge your authority because of it?

  14. Ugh, my cousin is 5’11 and then there’s me… 5’7.
    Practically a midget compared to her.
    I’m loving the heels, although I wear flats most of the time… IRONIC.

  15. Great post! Me, being the short one, always wished I would be tall with beautiful long legs, so I could wear those shorts in the pics, but hey- they look just as fabulous on the shorter model!!

    1. Songbird- Being short doesn’t mean you can’t wear what you want…it just takes a little more effort and thought.

  16. Helllo! I saw your post on the WordPress Dashboard.

    I’m married to a man four inches shorter than me. I never felt comfortable with men more than a couple inches taller but often forget that he’s shorter.

    Almost all of my female friends throughout my life have been shorter than me. Some of them are about a foot shorter–I’m 6’0″. Summer shorts are such a hassle to pick out that I rarely buy them. Besides, girls in high school weren’t kind when I wore anything that extenuated my legs, and that left a long-term impression.

    Friends of the same height seem to spend a lot of time right beside each other. When I talk to people, I sit or stand several feet away so they can see my face clearly. Many of my friends forgot how tall I am for this reason (until I need to stand closer).

    To help disguise my height, I certainly have to look for different details in my clothing than many woman do. Thick horizontal stripes, knee-length skirts, lighter colors for bottoms, etcetera are my friends. (I’m lean as well as tall.) What I wear would look awful on most of my friends. On the other hand, some of the outfits that look totally adorable on them would make me look slutty or freakish. It’s all about perspective.

    1. Ann- You bring up some interesting things. How many of us had our self image formed by kids in school? And it still has an impact on us years later. Why is that?
      I didn’t realize that tall women are dealing with their own set of issues regarding height…

  17. I met a guy on an internet date who seemed really nice when we were chatting online. He was funny, sweet, good looking… but when I went to finally see him it turned out he was 5’4″. I am 5’7″. I felt like how Nicole Kidman must have way back when. My vanity and love for heels just made me feel like this relationship was never going to be able to happen. DAMN SHALLOWNESS!

  18. Hey, shorty!! just kidding, my closest friends have always been way shorter than me. LOVE the shorts, but they are too short and I am too old to wear them now; I wear them to my knees. But I love the post, thanks!

  19. My husband is 6’7″ and I’m 5’2″ and he is literally twice my weight — extremes! I’ve noticed that really boyish clothes, like boatneck striped shirts, look silly on him, like he’s a huge kid. But then again, that sort of thing (especially sneakers) look equally as bad on me, like I’m a LITTLE kid. It’s gotten to where I feel self-conscious in flats. My legs feel truncated, and when we’re walking together, I feel like I’m Out With Dad or something. Gross!

    1. Susan- I know what you mean. I was visiting a taller friend’s home with her larger pieces of furniture. I sat in one of the chairs and I felt like a kid…my feet didn’t even touch the ground!

  20. from another short girl (5’4″ as well), this is a great recap and dissection of shopping for different heights. thank you for this, will keep these guidelines in mind on my next short shopping trip.

    hope you are well, Martha!

    1. Hi Roberta- Glad you found this helpful. I’m doing well. I have an idea in the works and will email you soon about it. :)

  21. ohhh this is just like me and my friends. I’m the shortest among my friends (1.53) and sometimes it feels strange to walk between the tall girls:p

  22. Concerning the wish to be (or appear to be) shorter or taller:

    o Beware that the grass is always greener on the other side.

    o If you try too hard, you do more damage than good, e.g. by walking like a drunk in too high heels or by crouching in an unattractive posture.

    o A beautiful smile has a greater effect on a woman’s attractiveness than any single other thing. If you do not smile, any other concern about looks is secondary. (And looks are not everything in the first place…)

  23. Very useful article! I’m rather tall, too (5’11”) and finding clothes, mainly skirts and dresses that actually reach the point that they’re supposed to is always a challenge. I think that they should do an article on other types of size difference, too, though — like petite vs. curvy and skinny vs. round(er).

    1. Anwa- Don’t you wish magazines (namely Vogue) would do more than one issue a year on ‘shape and sizes?’

  24. Being 6’2″ you’d think I notice the height difference around my friends (females 5’5″ to 5’10”) but I don’t. That is until I see pictures of us. I hate seeing me towering over others. True that being taller allows one to deceive in the weight category (I did win a teddy bear at a ‘guess your weight’ booth) but clothes are geared either for the shorter or tall and skinny folks, neither of which I am.

    You win some you lose some. Based on another blogger’s comments, looks like I’m moving to Sweden! Although I think them meeting an Hispanic woman named Ingrid would surprise them! Thanks for discussing this topic!

  25. At 5’3 I am very, very short. But I never put on heels to make me feel taller. I don’t feel the need to hide how short I am. I don’t need some illusion that only makes me seem like I’m taller. I’m fine with my height. Some women are short. Some are tall. I find beauty in this diversity. Whenever I wear heels it’s because I love the way the heels look and because they are comfortable and not because they give me extra height.

  26. Any girl is beautiful, no matter how long her legs are! :) I agree with you, fashion can make it work for everyone, it just has to be a Perfect fit .

    Good blog!

  27. Ah! I like your post! I’m 4’9 the shortest in my family and friends :) my ex was 6’4 and conservative. so no shorts and tank tops for me.. i struggled not looking like his child daily! =p

  28. i just adore this post! i am five foot so if you can imagine, most of my friends are at least somewhat taller than me and some much taller than “somewhat.” excellent photographs and discussion. happy memorial day.

  29. Love the Vintage Pic, I am 5’7″ not that tall but had a few friends much shorter than myself thru out my life time and I always wished I was short like them, like “fun size” things change as you get older & wiser. My daughter 5’10” since High School has always dealt with the same issue… Thanks for sharing!

  30. Hey! I’m 13 and 5’2″, so yes, quite short. My best female friend is 5’9″ and most of my other friends are tall too, so I can look like a bit of a freak. I really hate my height…I was one of those people who used to be rather tall, then hit puberty early and is now at the bottom end of the height scale, and I’m still sort of getting used to the change. It’s nice to see someone discuss height and how best, especially for shorter people, to use clothes to our advantage. Thanks.

    – Naomi

    PS; There seems to be a lot of online confusion as to average female height, but I think most places claim it to be about 5’4″. So I wouldn’t call you short. :D

    1. Naomi- You’re right…the average height of an American woman is 5’4″…so that put’s me right on the line between petite and regular. It’s interesting too that 150 years ago men and women made their own clothing or had it made by a tailor. No problems with fit then. :)

  31. I adore your vintage photos! I myself am always the shorter one in any group I am in. Standing in at only 4’10” and 5’3″ in heels so the only experience I have of being “the tall one” is when I stand by my students!! You can imagine how awkward it is when fifth graders are taller than you are! This is a really great post though, particularly the tips/photos of the styles of clothing for each body type. I have to admit though, there are advantages of being so short: my dresses are often cheaper because they are really blouses that I’ve altered…and at least I’m almost always guaranteed to date men who are taller than me! Sometimes though, I wish I had legs that went on for miles (seemingly) like some of my girlfriends do!!

    1. treehuggingvegan- Being short does have some advantages in shopping…I know quite a few women, me included, that go into the boy’s department to buy shirts, etc….which cost less.

  32. I have always had the problem with what to wear, I am only 5ft 5 and find that every store makes clothes for women who are at least 4 inches taller than me, a really great blog to help those who are both tall and short. A lovely boost to my week to know that even models are short too!

  33. I am shorter than all of my family/friends! I’m glad that some designers are finally taking this into consideration; however, it seems that for the most part, I will be sticking to hemming as a pasttime. ;)
    Great post, the first photo is my favorite–it’s hilarious.

  34. I never know women thought about their height in comparison to another woman.
    But I think the article makes a good point and this could apply to men as well.

    I’m 5ft 11 inches myself and I have to admit I love tall women.

    1. baju wanita- I think there are things every one of us, consciously or unconsciously, wish we could change about ourselves. But you’re right…in the long run…it doesn’t really matter. What does matter is accepting ourselves as the unique individuals that we are.

  35. I’m 5’3 and I live in Sweden. Which is a constant reminder of my “lack of height”. But I’ve never really been bothered by the fact. I’ve grown up, working with what I’ve got. Which is something everyone can do, if they put their mind to it. I have tall friends who are bummed out that they can’t use heels, because that would make them “too tall”.

    But who do we actually feel we are “too tall” or “too short” for? Is it other women, or is it men?

    Just a thought. Love the first pic too. Feels so much more real than the headless ones :)

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