'That's A Lot Of Skin.' The Complications Of Being A Tall Girl In A Short Skirt
The Debrief: A girl was banned from prom for wearing a skirt because its length might cause 'impure thoughts.' In reality, it was because she was tall.
Photograph by Rosie Kliskey
Depressingly enough, slut-shaming is nothing new. But last week's vomit-inducing example couldn't be a more pertinent example of just how prevalent it is for girls today: a 17-year-old girl, dolled up in a (mum approved) sparkly dress, was thrown out of her high school prom in Richmond, VA, because dads attending said its length might cause their sons 'impure thoughts'. (Only in America, right?)
'The only dress code specified on the registration was "Ladies, please keep your dresses fingertip length or longer,”’ Clare, who has no surname, wrote on her sister's blog. Her silver dress complied – yet, she was immediately told it was too short. She tried to explain to the (incidentally short) teachers who were complaining. 'I just have long legs, everything looks short on me, but it is fingertip length I just showed you,' she wrote. 'When I got into the ballroom, I laughed because I was surrounded by girls in much shorter dresses than me, albeit they were shorter, and therefore stood out less in the crowd, but it was frustrating.'
Clare is 5ft 9. Which might seem incidental to those of average height. For me, it couldn't have resonated more. Because, as a tall lady, I've also experienced my fair share of height-induced slut-shaming when it comes to what I’m wearing. I am 6ft tall. My legs measure 35 inches and I have a pretty solid set of 'swimmers shoulders', apparently.
In short (pun intended), I might be a size 10, but I am by no means small. Which means that dressing isn't always easy. At school, teachers gave me lunch-time detentions for 'rolling up my skirt'. I didn't. My legs were so long that my PE skirt looked almost pornographic (I was the only person in school to have been thankful for gym knickers) and trousers looked definitively as though I'd grown out of them at least two years prior.
At school, teachers gave me lunch-time detentions for 'rolling up my skirt'. I didn't
Later, at the pub, I became defined by the length of my limbs. I was known as 'the tall one', or 'Zoe long legs'. Creative, right? My body slowly started to become public property: in clubs men would press their sweaty bods against me to prove how tall I was 'for a girl' and if I wore a mini skirt, like my mates, they'd think nothing of prodding my thighs at the bar as if to prove they were real.
I've been sent home from work because my grey office skirt was deemed 'inappropriate', despite being frustratingly similar to a fellow colleague's. She was 5ft 4. And at weddings, where I've tried desperately to buy something modest without looking like a middle-aged mum-of-three, my hemlines have attracted questioning looks.
Surprisingly, it's not just blokes who pay my height undue attention. Girls like to stand next to me and gleefully tell me how 'tiny' they are in comparison, or how they really wish they were tall so they didn't have to wear beautiful heeled, calf-defining shoes all the time. (Right.) And, though they might not mean it maliciously, they can be quite demeaning.
Last week, I put on a (pretty inoffensive, but shorter-than-usual) dress to celebrate a mate's birthday. She took one look and said only: 'That's a lot of skin.' I changed immediately into a jumper and knee-length skirt – and I haven’t taken the dress out of my wardrobe since.
Because, like most women, I have plenty of insecurities about my body – and being tall only exacerbates them. Constant comments, good or bad, inevitably prompt constant, subconscious analysis of your shape. I can't blend in because everyone looks when I walk in a room. And being 'on show' all the time means all of my flaws are on show too.
I can't blend in because everyone looks when I walk in a room. And being 'on show' all the time means all of my flaws are on show too
So I've started to get savvy: now, I avoid jumpsuits at all costs, lest be faced with a painful front-wedgie and subsequent camel toe. I buy jeans low on the hips to get as much length as possible and balance the leg-to-torso ratio. Midi dresses and high-waisted mid-length skirts are good (Reiss or Whistles are winners for this); anything prefixed by mini is bad. I only ever buy tops at Zara, never even try a dress at Urban Outfitters and thank the gods of Arcadia that Topshop do long-length jeans. I’ve also learnt to scrap heels and anything the colour green – 'jolly green giant' jokes are embarrassing, but inevitable.
I know I shouldn’t be shamed into changing the way I dress because of something genetics have given me but I can’t help it. No one wants to feel more self-concious than they already are in their teens or when you’re just starting work as a new graduate, for example.
But on the bad days – days when I look at my fellow 5ft 2 friends in Sophia Webster shoes they’ve saved up for and are flaunting in a way that makes me feel irrationally angry – I try to remember the positives of being 'outsized' as a woman.
Even though it can be intimidating to be constantly noticed, when people meet me, they usually remember me – at work, I simply can't fade into the background. My boyfriend loves my long legs, I can run fast and I feel less vulnerable than my shorter friends. Also, I can always reach the best wine, even if it's on the top shelf. And if that's not something to be thankful for then I don't know what is.
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