I stand at 5’10” tall. In the real world, where I am 6” above the national average, it’s obvious that I am considered to be a tall girl. But in my own family, I would consider myself to be short – or what I like to call ‘being on the short end of the tall spectrum’ - as my dad, brother and sister all stand above 6’ (Amy being the tallest of us all at a little over 6’3”). It’s an interesting place to stand – sometimes feeling like Taylor Swift next to Bruno Mars and other times the opposite. There have been different times or phases in my life where my height has played more of a role than in other times (will elaborate on this later). Since we’ve launched Amalli Talli, I’ve become increasingly aware that my height is playing a role larger than it ever has in my life. In many ways, this is for great reasons. But in some respects, it has also made me feel weirdly insecure. I hope no matter where you stand on the spectrum, you’ll read my perspective and give me your feedback!
Our family.I hit a major growth spurt in middle school where I towered significantly above my classmates, but then I tapped out and stopped growing by my freshman year of high school. At this point in my life, I was holding onto the hope that I would still grow to reach over 6’. I know there are many tall women that can’t relate to the feeling of wanting to be even taller - but for the past several years, I had been watching Amy play Division I volleyball, and with every fiber of my being I wanted to do the same, knowing it would be difficult if I wasn’t at least 6’ tall (given my nonexistent vertical LOL). Those extra inches never came, but in small town Iowa, I still held on to the title of tallest girl in our class - and to be honest, I loved it! I felt right at home being the tallest. Reflecting on this time in my life is interesting now, because through this journey I have met so many young girls that struggle with their height and would rather shrink into the crowd. Maybe had I not been so involved in sports, I would have felt differently? Or maybe I always felt comfortable because I grew up in a tall family. I’m not sure - it’s interesting to think about. Maybe we can all talk more on this at another time. :)
The awkward Middle School DaysAfter high school, I started playing volleyball at a Division II school, and I no longer held on to my beloved title. Most of the girls I played with stood at least 6’ tall and taller. It was then when I first started feeling truly insecure in my height – but not in the way that most women do. I was insecure because I felt inadequately tall and therefore found myself wishing for more inches all over again. Height really is such an advantage in volleyball (unless you’re a defensive specialist), and at this level of competition that became very apparent to me. I felt like I was failing at this level and I stopped enjoying the game. At this point in life I was also struggling with some health issues and decided to bow out of the sports arena. However, not much changed because I had made many lifelong friends from the team and would still hit up the town with them often. If I wanted, I could throw on my highest pair of heels and never feel insecure because I was always surrounded by girls taller than me. I have to say, this is definitely a perk of being a college athlete. THEN the real world came on full force, and suddenly I no longer felt ‘short’ anymore. Not only was it painfully challenging to find business suits that fit well, it’s crazy how different my height looked to me when I stepped outside of the bubble of the sports world. I definitely felt my presence at my new corporate job, especially when surrounded by men that didn’t stand a chance next to me in my heels. To be honest, I have nothing much more to elaborate here – it didn’t make me feel insecure or uncomfortable. It was just different than the experience of being constantly surrounded by athletes and it was at this point I realized that I no longer felt inadequately tall. And I found myself thinking, how did I ever think that?
Towering next to my coworkers.So then comes the time leading up to the launch of Amalli Talli, where my height has played the biggest role yet. Before I dive into this, I want to give a little bit of a background on Amy and I, and my perspective of being 5’10” next to my 6’3” sister. Because of her height, when I am with her, I am shielded from the inappropriate or rude comments that strangers have an obsession of making to tall women. I will fully admit, when we walk anywhere together, no one ever looks at me and says “WOW, you’re so tall!!” or “Do you play in the WNBA??” or “How tall are you? 7 feet tall??” Amy is the receiver of ALL of these types of comments. Not most. ALL of them. I’m not sure anyone has ever commented on BOTH of our heights at the same time. Just hers. On the flip side, just last week I walked into the grocery store solo wearing a Lynx shirt and someone congratulated me on our season this year (really wish I could take credit for this, but watching me dribble a basketball is like watching Mariah Carey sing on NYE - disastrous). In our sisterhood, we have spent a lifetime together trying on clothes in all of our favorite stores, desperately wanting them to fit but having only sporadic success. And what do you know – this is when we started writing a business plan. But it wasn’t because only Amy struggled to find clothes – I very much did too. And even though she is 5” taller than me, she was always very empathic to my struggles. She never tried to trump me, or tell me her struggles were worse than mine. She understands I have a torso like Michael Phelps and I understand she has legs for freaking days. We’re built differently and each of our bodies, despite our height difference, presents different challenges. That’s why we embarked on this journey together. So Amalli Talli was born out of a need to help tall women on all ends of the spectrum find clothing that actually fits them well. We actually don’t even like to define our mission by height – if you visit our website, you will read that we don’t define the world “tall” by a certain height range, as we think it has more to do with different proportions. It’s true that there are many women who shop with us well above 6’ – but there are also many women that shop with us below 6’. All women are built differently and therefore have different struggles shopping. A 6’3” woman can have a 36” inseam – but so can a 5’11” woman. We have ran into that so many times now that I’ve honestly lost count.
Working with our stylist for an event at the store.With that being said, it’s when we began this new venture that I started to learn different perceptions of what it is to be 5’10”. If you’ve been with us since the beginning, you know that we once had a brick and mortar storefront before we transitioned to online only. This was a very interesting period of time for me, personally. Amy and I usually worked there together, but for our sanity sake (being open 7 days a week) there were times when we were alone in the store. Sometimes, women closer to Amy’s height would walk in and I could feel them immediately disconnect with me because of my presence (or lack there-of). I felt like I had to prove to them that even though I was shorter than them, I related to their struggles more than they might realize. Or that I have a sister that is 6’3” and I have witnessed so many of her struggles as well. It felt uncomfortable to be in this place as someone who was genuinely trying to make a difference for all tall women – no matter what end of the spectrum you fall on. At times, depending on the interaction, this made me feel weirdly insecure and those feelings of being inadequately tall would come back to life. I almost found myself wishing I could morph into whatever height the customer was that I was working with, so that we could all feel like we could relate to each other. Then there’s the beast known as social media. We try to use our platform as a positive place dedicated to the total empowerment of tall girls and women. But often times when the posts are related to being on the shorter end of the tall spectrum, we find ourselves receiving negative comments. People noting that 5’10” “isn’t even tall”, “why is she complaining”, “why would she feel insecure at that height”, “I’m this much taller than that”, etc etc. Comments like these were the inspiration for this post – so if you’ve ever written that, thank you for initiating this conversation. If you are part of the Amalli Talli community, you are more than likely a tall woman. And depending on your height, some of you might feel like it is unreasonable for women that stand under 6’ to complain about the woes of shopping or their insecurities or whatever else they feel like speaking about. Believe me when I say to you, I 100% understand the things you go through on a daily basis even though I’m not as tall as you. I also understand that at times you have even had it worse than me. I totally get it. But I’m here to challenge your way of thinking about and speaking to your fellow tall sisters on the short end of the spectrum. There will always be taller women who wish they could be just a little bit shorter, and on the flip side I hope you can also understand why at times I have wished for just a few inches more. In those certain times in my life the recurring theme was that I never felt tall enough, and therefore insecure about belonging. I challenge you to take a note from Amy, who has never once made me feel uncomfortable discussing my height where I stand, never compared her height to mine, but who has instead decided to relate to me. And look what we have started now, together. As women, we never grow or prosper when we are busy comparing ourselves to each other, but instead when we decide to come together and empower one another. More than anything our biggest goal is using our platform to make tall women feel comfortable, confident and empowered. Please join us in helping with our mission, no matter what height has made you seek out this community. Thanks for reading! Alli Black, Co-Founder of Amalli Talli