Joining us in 2015, a warm welcome to Elizabeth Harvey. Elizabeth applied to be a contributor late in 2014, reporting that since becoming a mother, she had discovered a new comfort and appreciation in her long, lean frame. Now as a mom of three likely-to-be-very-tall children, she is joining The Height of Style to be a positive role model for her kids, as well as to “empower tall women who have not yet learned to appreciate how fantastic they truly are”—a mission we all believe in here at The Height of Style. Born and raised between South America and California, Elizabeth has lived abroad as a writer, editor and “sometimes runner” in Australia, having returned to the Bay Area two years with her husband and family .
Elizabeth Harvey, 6’2″, for The Height of Style
Tell us a little bit about your experience as a tall woman. Were you exceptionally tall growing up?
EH: I’ve always been the tallest kid in class, but I can distinctly remember shooting up to my current height the summer before eighth grade. We’d just moved back to the US from a tiny town in the middle of nowhere in South America and I went from being the tall blonde kid in a little mining town to the super tall new kid in a big, all-American middle school. It was a rocky few years, trying to figure out life in a new country as well as coming to terms with the fact that I towered over everyone else. I can remember desperately just wanting to fit in…
A chance meeting at the start of my junior year with a girl passing out flyers for the local girls rowing team changed the course of my fairly ho-hum high school existence. I absolutely loved every second of the sport and went on the row for the last two years of high school and into college. While a back injury took me out of the boat, it gave me the opportunity to get involved in coaching—first while I was finishing university, and then in Australia where I moved after graduation. I coached for years and still look back at that time fondly. Not only did I love the physicality of the sport (and how glorious it was to find something my body was absolutely perfect for), but all of a sudden I was surrounded by other tall, strong women. It was such a novelty to be part of a group of powerful and awe-inspiring women (some even taller than me!). Those years gave me a greater confidence and a total appreciation for all 6’2″ of lanky self. My height became an unbelievable gift and somewhere along the way—as I found myself married to a much taller man and the mother of three beautiful children—it stopped being the curse my younger self used to think it was. I can honestly say now that I love it.
From one rower to another, I can agree that the sport is transformative for body confidence! So what are some of the challenges you’ve faced as a tall woman? What are some of the triumphs?
EH: Oh, the challenges… never being able to find clothes or shoes that fit is fairly standard tall girl fare (a wedding dress and maternity clothes were the toughest challenges to date!). Always standing alone at the side of the school gym at dances, always being put in the back row for photos, struggling to find boys who were remotely interested in a woman of my height were also on the long list of difficulties.
The unwanted attention has probably been my biggest challenge. There is just no hiding when you’re a foot taller than your peers, no skulking about in the background when a bad hair day strikes, or when you’re wearing your oldest, comfiest holey sweater. You are out there for the world to see, day in and day out, and for some reason that opens you up to a running commentary. I’m still not sure why people are so eager to comment on my height, whether it comes from an insecurity they might have over their own appearance, or a jealously perhaps.
For every one of those challenges though, there have been about a hundred triumphs. I am so proud of how strong my body is and how much it’s been able to do, from carrying and giving birth to three amazing children (all of whom will be well over six feet tall!), to running a half marathon after being told for years that I was too tall to be a runner. I love that there is very little I can’t turn my hand to, and that my height means that I never need to reach for a stepstool to do a patch of painting or grab something from the highest shelves. One of my proudest moments as a tall woman came a few years ago when a friend forwarded me an interview given by a young girl I’d once coached. She was an amazing athlete, but was tall for her age and couldn’t quite get used to her strong physique. I always had a soft spot for her and spent a lot of time talking to her and encouraging her, both as an athlete and as a blossoming young woman. She’d listed me in the interview as her idol and I can tell you it almost brought tears to my eyes. It meant so much to me that I had been able to help even one girl find a little comfort in her height. My years spent coaching are to this day one of my greatest triumphs. High school can be an absolutely unbearable time for tall girls and I loved being able to be a positive role model for these young women, just as my coaches had been for me years before.
The new challenge that lies ahead of me is a little more daunting than anything I’ve faced before, I must admit. With two boys who will presumably surpass their 6’5″ dad, and a baby girl who will be looking me in the eyes by the time middle school rolls around, the futures of three soon-to-be-tall people and their happiness lies with me. I hope that I can take the experiences I had and the lessons I learned and help them become comfortable with their height. I can’t stop the comments and the hurtful remarks, but hopefully I can give them the confidence to realize that the thoughtless words are not worth wasting time over. From prom dresses to tennis shoes that are big enough, I feel like a whole new chapter of my life as a tall woman is about to start— as a mother to tall children.
What a touching and inspiring response—I almost am not ready to transition to the more comparatively superficial stuff! But I must. In terms of tall clothing and shoes, what are some of the fit issues you’ve faced? How have you gotten around them?
EH: I am tall and slim, so I have always struggled to find clothes that are long enough but that don’t swamp my body. A tank top or camisole was my solution for years– I could get away with a ‘normal’ sized top when I had a well-fitting tank top in a matching color underneath. I have to own up to a slightly obscene selection of the things! I also found that a pair of fun patterned tights would turn a skirt that might be a hair too short (due entirely of course to my long legs) into perfectly acceptable office wear. It took me years to amass a nice collection of professional clothes (Zara was a great stop for pants —I still have tons of them hanging in the back of the wardrobe), but no sooner had I done that then I traded in life in the office for life taking care of my little ones. Those fabulous pants don’t see the light of day often now, as more often than not I find myself reaching for a tunic tee, skinny jeans and a long cardigan. The challenges I’m facing now are slightly different, as casual yet contemporary wear for tall women can be hard to find. I’m looking forward to building up my wardrobe again and am working on finding a style that matches my new reality.
What are your favorite brands to wear? Any tips you can provide as well for mainstream retailers catering to tall, slim women would be great, too.
EH: My closet is made up primarily of Gap and J. Crew basics and a few other treasures I’ve picked up over the years. When I was younger, the Spanish brands Zara and Mango had some surprisingly long, slim cuts, and I still have a few old favorites from them and from Witchery, a popular Australian brand. The current trend of long tunics and leggings is suiting me well, as I’ve come across a few shirts off the racks that are long enough for my torso. I just discovered Silence + Noise from Urban Outfitters the other day and fell in love with a few of their fabulously long sweaters. For fun, inexpensive jeans, American Eagle Outfitters has a good range, some of which, to my chagrin, are actually a little too long. Some of the maternity ranges, Target’s in particular, have long tanks and tees that have seen me through the last few years and are still going strong. Lululemon is also a great one for outerwear and sweaters. After a long search two years ago for a knee-length puffer coat for a trip to New York, Lululemon had a perfect slim black coat with an accompanying swing raincoat. Although it was an investment, it is still one of my favorite buys from the last few years. Nordstrom Rack is a mecca for women with larger feet and I love that I have my pick of size 12s whenever I can get there. Zappos has also become a great spot for larger sizes.
The internet has done wonderful things for tall women’s shopping though. I love that I can search by inseam now and that there is a plethora of information out there on a good long sleeve or a nice pair of size 12s. It was such a different landscape when I was a teenager and in my early twenties. You just made do with men’s clothes, letting the hems out on your jeans and pushing your sleeves up so that it looked like they were meant to be that short. It can be hard not to be able to pop into any store to find an outfit that works, but there are so many more options now than there were ten years ago.
What advice would you give to a young tall girl struggling with accepting her height?
EH:I will say first and foremost that the sooner you can make peace with your height, the sooner you can get on with all of the other exciting adventures life holds in store. I regret the time I spent distressed over how tall I was—it is one of the few aspects of your appearance that you have absolutely no control over, and my time would have been far better spent finding a style that worked for my slim body and then finding a group of people who made me feel comfortable rather than awkward. For every person who mocks your height, who teases you and laughs at you, there will be someone who either doesn’t notice your height at all, or who thinks it is absolutely amazing. My advice to you is to find the latter!
And while I hate the basketball, volleyball, modeling inquiries, I would encourage you to find some sort of athletic endeavor that gives you a sense of how amazing your body is. I loved my time rowing, and while my free time is sparse these days, I still love to go for a run or a hike, or try to fit in a bit of yoga.
It is tricky to be a slave to the latest trends when you’re a tall woman. Find a few outfits that suit you and that you’re comfortable in and go from there. It makes an amazing difference to how you’re feeling about yourself if you’re not constantly tugging at your sleeves or the hem of your shirt. There is such a great online community of tall women out there that with a bit of research, you can cobble together a style that suits your personality and lifestyle while still accentuating those long limbs.
I will totally accept that this last point is way easier said than done, but I wouldn’t worry too much about the height of the men you date. Just because a guy is taller than you does not mean he’ll be a good match! It seems silly now to admit that I was always afraid I was never going to find the ‘perfect’ person, let alone someone who was tall enough. At the end of the day though, it matters way more that the person you end up with is someone who makes you feel like a million bucks, who makes you laugh, and who loves you, to quote Mr. Rogers, “just the way you are.” I still think I was unbelievably lucky to meet and marry that guy—the fact that he is a few inches taller than me is just an added bonus!
So stand up tall, shoulders back and hold your head up high. You are a fabulously tall, unique woman and I am so proud to be in your company.
Beautifully said, Elizabeth! For fun (well, it may not be so fun for you, but it’s pretty fun for me), how about a non-fashiony, rapid-fire question round? Your favorite:
EH: Tall celebrity: Sophie Dahl
Tall animal: Giraffe
Tall fictional character: Sarah, from ‘Sarah, Plain and Tall’
Tall real character: Michelle Obama
Tall building: The Sydney Opera House
Tall tale: The Irish Legend of Finn McCool
Thanks, Elizabeth, for your thoughtful responses. And stay tuned for Elizabeth’s style and lifestyle reviews on The Height of Style, as well as tips and advice for young tall women.