polka dot dress with red boots

You see this dress, readers?

This dress is from the Topshop Tall collection. Yes, TALL. For women of 5″9 and above.

I am not tall.

In fact, I’m just a smidge under 5″4 (that “smidge” is important, by the way. Not least because it makes me just slightly too tall for the “petite” section, but still too small for the “regulars”. Won’t someone please think of the women who are 5″4!), so when I ordered this, back in the summer, I thought there was absolutely no danger of it being too short. In fact, I was feeling pretty smug, because I felt sure I had stumbled upon The Answer to all of my “too short” dress woes: just shop from the Tall section! Get easy access to dresses which fall just on, or just above the knee, without having to scour the earth from them (or, er, buy them from Bettie Page or Stop Staring, which let’s face it, is what I normally do..)!

This, you see, is an issue which is starting to get on my last nerve. Why must clothing manufacturers assume that every woman in the world wants to either walk around with her ass hanging out, or dress like a nun? Why is there no middle ground? (Other than the aforementioned Bettie Page/SS middle ground, which is an expensive bit of ground, let me tell you.) Why is it that every time I spy a dress I like hanging in a store, I’ll get it into the fitting room, only to discover that if I bought it, I’d have to walk around like a robot, never daring to lean forward or raise my arms even a fraction, lest I show the world my underwear?

This dress is obviously not QUITE that bad. It’s still fairly decent, albeit shorter than I’m really comfortable with, which is why I’ve had it for months, but had to wait until now to actually wear it, because I feel I can only really get away with it with tights. Did I mention how much I HATE wearing tights?

It’s a first world problem, to be sure.

polka dot dress red boots

Oh, and just to add to the confusion: Fi also has this dress. It’s roughly the same length on her as it is on me. And Fi is 5″11.

The lesson? There is no rhyme nor reason to hemlines. Most dresses are too short, regardless of what height you happen to be. (Um, except midi-dresses. Those actually ARE all cut for people who are very, very tall. Don’t even get me STARTED on that one…). And if I tell you I’ve had a bright idea regarding ordering clothes from the Tall section? Just ignore me…

  1. UGH I hate that!!! I have been having the same problem – especially with dresses billed as “wear to work.” No, Gap, I cannot wear your dress to work if it’s five inches above my knee – no matter how adorable it might be! Ridiculous!

    1. It’s very frustrating… I get that some people DO want super-short stuff (I did myself when I was younger!) but a bit of variety wouldn’t hurt: it feels like EVERYTHING is short these days!

  2. Preach it!

    There needs to be a name for the scrolldown disappointment of “cute fabric…cute neckline…cute sleeves…OMG THAT DRESS IS FOR A SMALL CHILD OR A HOOKER.” Modcloth is my worst offender: apparently an extra 4-6″ of dress length is just too damn much to ask for. ::sigh::

    1. There really does! I’ve never tried Modcloth because of the international shipping, but I’ve heard other people say the same thing about them. It’s a shame because I’m always seeing things I love there, but I’d never risk it because of the cost of shipping something to the UK only to discover it’s designed for a small child…

  3. Excellent post! Yes, the sizing would have been great for me when I was 9. I think they are saving on fabric cost by not producing anything longer than 31″ People still buy it because “you can wear it with leggings”, which would often make me look like an overgrown toddler.

    I am 5’7″ and never considered myself particularly tall, but I was not able to find a proper dress at one of the more teen oriented stores in years, and even though I am over thirty I cannot really afford to shop at more upscale places. In addition, I am long-waisted, so most ‘dresses’ end up looking like empire style tops.

    Amber, I love your dress collection, but sadly I can tell that most would not fit me, so it has prevented me from ordering anything from ASOS or Topshop, although I had some hopes for the tall section.

    1. Oh, I feel you on the long-waisted thing! I am too, and I’m so sick of everything looking empire-line on me because the waist is somewhere near my chest! I also hate the “you could wear it with leggings” argument… I mean, yes, I could, but I don’t want to: I want to wear it as a dress, not as a tunic!

  4. So true! I am a lawyer (but taking a break from work right now and living in Paris 🙂 and am tall – so I would buy things online because so often I didn’t have the time to shop in the store (sadly), I would try the dress on, my fiance would laugh and say I don’t think that will work in court. There should be a blog about sharing different takes on brands true sizes!

    Anyways – I am also insanely jealous of that shoe rack – my god! Gorgeous! I just found your blog and really like it so far!!


    1. There should be a blog about sharing different takes on brands true sizes

      I’ve actually started doing fitting room reviews over at my other site, for this very reason: I was thinking if I could get enough people to submit their reviews it could make a really handy resource – sometimes things are just completely different in real life than how they look on the model!

  5. Oo, I had my eye on that Topshop dress but decided it was too short – I didn’t even think about the Tall section.

    I tried on a lovely dress in New Look but it was to the bottom of my bum! I’m only 5ft 3 so it must be indecent on a taller person…

    1. I don’t think I’ve ever bought a dress from New Look, for this very reason… I have plenty of their shoes and other clothes, but their dresses are always indecent on me, and have the waistline somewhere under my arms (although I think that’s my weird shape rather than their weird sizing) – so frustrating!

      1. Have to second you on the waistline issue at New Look – again, love a lot of their clothes but the waists on dresses always seem to fall too high on me, which with my curvy figure makes dresses look a little, erm, ‘maternity’.

        1. I’m relieved it’s not just me! I absolutely HATE empire waists, they just look awful on me and I swear ALL of New Looks dresses look like they have them!

  6. Oh god. THIS. So much! I bought an otherwise gorgeous dress from A Wear and while it’s long enough to wear to work on me, I’m 5ft 1 and it’s about an inch above my knee. It’s got a full skirt and it doesn’t make any sense for the dress to be so short. With the exception of those lovely River Island dresses, I haven’t bought a dress from the high street for the longest time – every single thing is too short. And I’ll say it again – I’M VERY SHORT!

    1. I know I seem to say this a lot, but River Island is a little goldmine – they seem to go either very, very short, or *just* right, so it’s always worth a look.

      All of this does make me appreciate how hard it must be for tall people to find things that are the right length!

  7. Oh I am so with you on this one! I’ve ranted about this on my blog on more than one occasion.

    Hello designers, I may only be 27, but I’m a grown up and a professional and therefore don’t want to flash my bum/cellulite/general wobbly bits at everyone, it’s just unseemly.

    This is one of the reasons I’m planning on getting back into dressmaking, can’t wait to be able to have skirts and dresses that are a decent length without having to shop in M&S.

    1. Oh yes, I wish I had the patience/skill for dressmaking: sometimes I think it’s the only way I’ll ever find the perfect fit in stuff. Well, until I become filthy rich and can have everything made to measure, obviously 🙂

  8. You arent kidding. There are several more caviats to add to this:

    Why are all sweaters turtle necks or close. I understand I want to be warm, but I do like looking a little less modest than a nun! The only answer currently, is to wear cardigans and an undershirt. UGH.

    Also, What is with EVERYTHING being empire waisted! That only works on a tiny, tiny bit of the world. The rest of us, and certainly anyone who has love of their womanly curves cannot find anything in the shops that doesnt make us look pregnant. WOO!

    Sequins. I love them, dont you? Well there is a problem. While some processes for making sequined tops make the sequin sit flat and unobtrusive on the fabric, MOST processes have the crappiest made sequins or the sequins are not secured entirely flat against the fabric. This results in me slicing up my inner arms. WTH!?

    And finally, I totally agree with your rant about shortness of dresses these days. I am a woman whose body fits the 40s and 50s styles best (and some 60s). I love things, especially things I wear to work to be appropriate and also stylish. Why does every style out there currently assume that if you are 30, you want to look like a nun? and if you are 16, you want to dress like a slut and show your ass.

    1. Why does every style out there currently assume that if you are 30, you want to look like a nun? and if you are 16, you want to dress like a slut and show your ass.

      Totally. I’m seriously starting to think we should start a campaign. And I am SO with you on the empire lines. I remember a few years ago they seemed to be the ONLY type of dresses you could find: I was in HELL that year. Although it did save me quite a bit of money, I suppose 🙂

  9. This sounds really frustrating. I don’t like wearing short skirts and dresses either, and it’s really difficult to find one with a proper length. That’s why I prefer pencil skirts, and dresses.
    Of course you have the perfect silhoutte and you can wear anything you like, but I understand that you don’t feel comfortable in them. However, this dress suits you perfectly, and it’s really decent. I also loved your booties, and I must say the color of your hair, and your hair in general here, is fantastic. You look gorgeous!

    1. Oh, bless you for saying that! I thought it was decent too, with the tights, but I sometimes don’t quite trust my own judgement on these things! (Mind you, my mum gave it the thumbs up on the length front, and mums never lie 🙂 )

      1. This is true, though I always double-check with my father first as well. Once I was walking out of the house to visit friends (this was quite a while ago, when I was still in secondary school, but I’ve only grown half and inch since then, so the length would be the same on me now…), and my father stopped me before the door and made me change. The kicker, of course, was that I had borrowed the outfit from my mother, and we were about the same height…

  10. I have the same problem with tops at the moment. Every one I think will be cute is either so short I cant lift my arms without flashing tummy or so shapeless I look like I’m wareing a sack when I try it on. I was starting to wonder if it was just me, as judging by the people at uni leggings and short tops seems to be the fashion

  11. Oooh, I hate that dresses/skirts are too short! I’m “only” 5’7 and whenever I see an advert proclaiming 40s style tea dresses I know they’ll not be 40s lengths. I always go and look anyway, just in case but alas and alack, they’re always mid thigh!!

    Hence why I have a wardrobe of 30-40 skirts (and dresses) that I’ve made myself…it’s the only way….even if I do get angry sewing these days! LOL!

  12. Do empire style tops have any connection to either A) The evil galactic empire from star wars or B) biscuits with icing? If not, then I think I might not have fully understood this one…

    1. I never heard of Empire biscuits, but they sound tasty :-). Empire style refers to the fashion of the First French Empire (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empire_waist) generally to high waist lines under the bust. It can look really pretty, but I feel personally longer skirt lenghts are necessary so it does not look like maternity wear – wich might be how the whole empire style started off (e.g. corsetry), but I am not quite sure.

    2. Oo, I had my eye on that Topshop dress but decided it was too short – I didn’t even think about the Tall section.

      I tried on a lovely dress in New Look but it was to the bottom of my bum!I’m only 5ft 3 so it must be indecent on a taller person…

      Do empire style tops have any connection to either A) The evil galactic empire from star wars or B) biscuits with icing? If not, then I think I might not have fully understood this one…

  13. I think the length of the dress you wear above is just right. It also pretty much marks my own comfort zone in terms of how much skin I’m willing to show (though I do wear most of my skirts and dresses with tights anyway). However I understand everyone’s different about this.

    I’m 5’5 and wear a lot of ASOS, Dorothy Perkins, etc. and found the dresses pretty much spot-on in terms of length most of the time.

    A big nod to the empire waist thing though. I find them so unflattering and way too girly for grown women to wear. I’ve seen so many otherwise beautiful babydoll dresses lately, but this silhouette just ain’t doin’ it for me!

  14. Hey!
    Thanks for the link. The dress looks awesome on you (it’s way shorter than that on me) and you’ve given me an idea for a pair of boots to pair mine with too.

  15. I totally agree. Being 5 foot 4ish I’m not really that tall and dresses here in Australia are the same story, too short. I often look at dresses and wonder if they’re a top or a dress and then the tag says it’s a dress when it’s clearly too short to cover your butt. And don’t get me started on the crappy material places use so that all clothes are see through..

  16. I’m petite. I’m only an inch and a half shorter than you, but it still means that when I shop in the petite section, the dresses/pants are inevitably three inches too long and I have to take them home and spend the extra energy hemming them. (I recently chopped SIX INCHES off the bottom of a pair of “average” length pants, which means that the average wearer in the U.S. must be 5’8 1/2″, with that extra length all in the legs. So frustrating.)

    I am often shocked that I can try on dresses and have them be absolutely indecent on me, despite the fact that I have shorter legs. If it won’t cover my butt, how do they expect it to cover anyone else’s?

  17. Roisin and I were having this converasation at the weekend while shopping. I’m 6ft… It’s a nightmare, skirts and dresses should be my safe haven in a world where trousers just aren’t my friends, but mostly I have to shop vintage to get what I want. X

  18. I’m 5’9 and I assumed that was the problem. Amazed to hear that it’s the same for everyone. What are these shops thinking?

    I end up buying anything that looks long enough, even if I don’t really like it. Of course, then half the time the thing shrinks an inch the first time I wash it and it’s unwearable anyway.

  19. Ah I do love Topshop Tall, one of few places clothing fits me! This dress totally passed me by, I’m loving it tho. I’ve recently been given more free rein regarding my work wardrobe as long as I only wear plain black and ‘nothing too short’… This has proved a bit hard to work around! Altho I did find a cute jersey dress in Debenhams maternity section – knee length ish and clevage covered, maybe I should move sections too! 🙂

  20. I’m 5st and even the petite range is long on me in trousers but sometimes I come across really short dresses and skirts that don’t cover my bum, I can’t imagine someone taller being able to wear them without hefty tights and granny knickers

  21. I hear you on hemlines… For years it’s been hard for me to find decent skirts/dresses that weren’t so short I couldn’t sit without them riding up and leaving my butt in contact with the seat (imagine how pleasant that can be when one uses the tube/buses daily)…
    Lately there’s also been this trend of mid-calf length, which makes me look like a dwarfy nun, since it visually shortens my legs and makes me look stumpy.
    Given all that, finding average, normal lengths became nigh to impossible, and yet… Just the other day I snatched up a baby blue cotton dress at H&M’s kids section, size ’14+ yrs old’, with the intention of using it as homewear… But when I tried it in the dressing room it hit just above my knee, it was simple yet flattering, the waist hit at my natural waist, and hilariously it didn’t make me look like an overgrown baby, which happens with most of the too-short dresses in the adults section. Well, I’m not gonna complain, I’ll buy what fits me nicely wherever I can find it, but still, it’s a comically sad paradox that in order to find a dress with the right length one has to shop at the little kids section! 😀

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