Thursday, October 13, 2011

Musings on Tall Shopping

Disclaimer: I know this rant is nothing new under the sun, but I just need to vent for a second.

As I walked into the Huntington Beach Waterfront Hilton ballroom for the Long Tall Sally pop-up, I experienced a couple of emotions that I didn't expect...a bit of anxiety and a smidge of sadness.  Weird huh?  I thought I would skip into the ballroom as light as a feather and flit around the room merrily plucking tall dresses and skirts and shirts and pants and coats off the racks.  Don't get me wrong....the pop-up was wonderful with its racks and racks of fabulously long clothes.  So why on God's green earth was I feeling a little deflated?  

After ruminating on my feelings for a spell, I realized that I felt like this was my ONE shot to frantically weed through racks of tall clothes and try stuff on in person (no pressure right?) whereas people who wear regular, petite or plus sizes have the option of going to stores that carry those sizes whenever the mood strikes them.  I'm not saying that shopping is all lollipops and rainbows for people who wear "non-tall" sizes.  Everyone struggles to find clothes that fit now and then. BUT I've been 6'2 since I was 14 and online shopping has basically been my only option for buying clothes that are tailored specifically to fit my long frame.  To be honest, it kind of stinks.  Lately, I've been closely examining all of my "non tall" tops that I've tried on and bought in stores, and they just don't fit that great because they're not cut for a long top half.  I would LOVE to start buying all of my clothes exclusively from tall lines, but it is SO difficult to gauge sizing when shopping online as was evidenced by the experience my sister and I had while trying stuff on at the pop-up.  Most of the sizes we initially pulled were wrong. What if we had ordered those items online and then had to go through the hassle and cost of returning or exchanging them? No fun!  I would love to know the stats on the amount of returns a company like Banana Republic processes in connection with its tall line.  Wouldn't it be easier for BR to create a tall section in its stores especially since it already has a petite section???  We demand equal access to clothes dangit!

Plus, there's the whole emotional roller coaster aspect of online shopping - the hours spent reading reviews and studying sizing charts and then the excitement when placing an online order, the anticipation while you await the arrival, more excitement when the doorbell rings and you run to grab your package and then either elation or deflation depending on whether the item fits or not. 

Wow! I'm all doom and gloom over here. Yikes!  But wait...I gave myself a pep talk and realized that things are potentially starting to look up. More and more stores like Nordstrom , Endless and Zappos (and occasionally Long Elegant Legs, Long Tall Sally etc.) are offering free shipping and free returns which makes it easier to take the plunge with online shopping.  Also, in addition to its 2 U.S. stores, Long Tall Sally has TONS of stores in the UK and Canada so if all of us tall ladies keep frequenting the pop-ups here in the US, hopefully they'll open more stores! Also, I'm happy to see that 3 U.S. stores carry the Height Goddess line!  I understand that it can be hard for designers  who exclusively produce tall clothing to run successful brick and mortar stores in what is probably considered a niche industry, but now that I've made several tall buddies on Twitter, I KNOW that there are a lot of us clamoring for tall clothes (and I certainly see NO reason why an established retailer like Banana Republic can't dedicate a little corner of its stores to us leggy ladies...can you tell I have a deep-seated beef with BR on this issue?)

So, in order to support all the fabulous tall lines and hope that, with our support, they might start opening more stores, I'm going to try an experiment and ONLY buy tall sized stuff for the next four months.  THERE...I turned my doomygloomy attitude into a (hopefully) fun challenge.  

Come to think of it, I guess I've already kicked this challenge off with my recent purchases from ILoveMyHeight.com, Elle Mayers and Long Tall Sally.  Stay tuned to see what other tall finds I happen upon! 

P.S. If this topic makes your blood boil like it does for me or if you disagree with anything I've said, leave me a comment!  I'd love to hear your take.

15 comments:

primandpoesie said...

Hi Bethany!

Love your blog! I completely relate to your frustrations...it is especially painful to play the waiting game for pants (I find pants to be the hardest fit for my body). I usually squeeze by by shopping in regular stores for tops/dresses/skirts, which only works as I genuinely like 3/4 sleeves and above-the-knee hemlines (with tights, with tights...) :) I think all we leggy ladies can relate! Hang in there; love that you're doing the "only tall clothing" challenge!

Kacy

jheri said...

I think it is very important to support the tall designers and stores as much as we can, but it is a very difficult problem for any maker or retailer. There aren't very many of us as any one size. When you look at women of normal height there are a lot of sizes and sizes don't really describe the shape of the body very well. And then there is the problem that sizes are a bit arbitrary. My average sized friends have it much easier than I do, but they still spend a lot of time trying on clothing that should fit. I have read the return rate for online shopping is huge and the stores that offer free return shipping expect a certain amount and build it into their pricing.

I'm 6'3 and very thin making me doubly rare so my best bet is to buy things that sort of fit and hope my tailor can make the difference. She is very good and I bribe her with chocolate to keep her happy.

Conventional makers are unlikely to expand into more unusual sizes these days with the recession. The costs are higher satisfying any one women tend to be higher and they are cutting low margin parts of their businesses. My sister in law is petite and said her selection, which has always been poor, is getting much worse. The fact that we have some bright spots is very lucky though.

Maybe the future is in the small brands that are popping up and taking advantage of the Internet. I think it will always be more expensive for us, but that isn't terrible if we can get quality clothing that actually fits. The other paths are learning how to make clothing ourselves for some items. I'm not good at this, but I do customize clothing and look at fashion blogs and DIY sites like http://psimadethis.com for inspiration. I've learned that tees can be tailored to fit pretty well and they can look great. Modifying what I have and making some of my own accessories is fun and gives a bit of my own style.

Some of the custom brands can work although they are more expensive. Friends have had good luck with Indi for jeans and so have I. You can get great groupon deals. A problem is the first pair may not be good, but the second pair usually is. From then on you should be able to get fit. The other problem is the are very slow. It takes a month from order to delivery.

I think custom will fit. My friend Steve and I talk about this and he asked me to write something that he added to a post on the future of clothes. I talk about the history of sizing, fit and type of manufacture.

http://tingilinde.typepad.com/omenti/2011/07/clothing.html

I wish it was easier, but it does make me think a bit more about what might look good on me. And I really wish I could sew well and had a better sense of design!

BAM said...

Thanks Kacy! I agree that pants are hardest, and for me, dresses too since I'm size small on top and size large on bottom and then you add the whole tall factor into the mix and that makes it even more "fun". I'm not going to give up though. I'm determined to find dresses that fit me properly. They must be out there somewhere!

BAM said...

Hi Jheri...thanks a bunch for sharing your thoughts! I really enjoyed reading your take and I also found your post on the Omenti blog very eye-opening. I am certainly happy that I have more tall options now than I did in high school (when I wore men's jeans and pants) and I think I will try to focus on one tall shop at a time so perhaps I can figure out their sizing and then be able to (hopefully) know what size to order. I didn't know about Indi and just checked out their site. I LOVE the idea of custom jeans since jeans are SO hard for me to find because of my ample, curvy bottom half. I once ordered a pair of custom made Levis years ago when I was in high school but I don't believe Levis offers that option anymore.

I also agree that shopping for nice, proper fitting clothing will always be more expensive for us leggy ladies. I've resigned myself to this fact, and I now refuse to spend money on anything that I don't absolutely love.

jheri said...

I should add that if you want to find indi denim sales the trick is to set up a google alert that says something like

groupon indi denim

Their sales take the price to $85US and only come out once every month or two. They do them in random cities around the US, so you need to search. There is currently one underway now for the next two days

http://www.groupon.com/deals/indidenim-ocala

If you do it make sure the measurements are very good. It may help to have a tailor do them or a careful friend. Even then you may need a second try, but my experience and that of two friends is they fit like a glove on the second try and then the place has your size on file.

BAM said...

Great idea about setting up a Google alert for Groupon Indi deals! Just looked at the one you posted and may buy it. So if the jeans don't fit the first time, can you send them back and have them altered again for free?

jheri said...

Yes - they will rework for free until you are happy. A friend of mine talked to them on the phone with special instructions after the first wasn't quite right, so you can talk to someone.

The big problem is it can take a month from ordering to you get them. But those of us with strange shapes can get fit if you are just patient.

SHOEGAL said...

Hi
I'm in the UK and the situation here is just as bad. Yes we have LTS stores (although they closed down the one in my city) but there are just 2 other high street stores here that sell their Tall lines in store. And even those don't stock the full range of items - you have to go online for that.
Also the Gap/Banana don't sell their tall stuff at all in the UK (no one is tall here, apparently) - I would have to order from the US site and pay the extortionate shipping and customs charges if I wanted to try their tall lines.
So I sympathise!
x

BAM said...

Thanks for weighing in Shoegal! I guess I should count my blessings since some Gaps here carry long length pants and every now and again you can luck out at a Banana Republic if someone ordered a tall item online and returned it to a store. I've scored 2 pairs of jeans and a trench coat that way. Interesting to hear that the lack of tall clothes in stores is universal and not just a US thing. P.S. Love your Shoegal blog. You have great style!!

Liz said...

Hi -

I don't know what the solution is (but am trying to make things a bit better and thanks for the mention!) Based what I've learned working to start a small line - I think it comes down to being a niche market and one that retailers underestimate.

That said I was just speaking with two curvy women last week who would be considered about average height and are having a very difficult finding clothes as well. Hmmmmmm.

BAM said...

Hi Liz,

Interesting to hear your take since you've recently started a tall line. =)

Liz said...

Hi BAM -

I think it is hard for retailers and can understand why they don't do more tall or other sizes - comes down to dollars and doing things in mass quantities and not having to handle exceptions.

Jheri writes very well about the issues and has some nice posts on my blog. (livingituptall.com)

That said, I'm really optimistic and trying to improve things at least as far as activewear for now. You never know. :)

BAM said...

Liz,

You certainly have a valid point regarding retailers' concern with their bottom line, and when I try to look at it from their perspective, I can see where they might be hesitant to branch out into the tall market if they're already doing just fine selling clothes in the "non-tall" market. Maybe their mentality is if it ain't broke why fix it?

I think the bright spot in the retail landscape really is tall-specific specialty stores or lines that are trying their best to provide us with clothing. That's why I get excited when I see new tall lines popping up like your Elle Mayers line! And, on the topic of fit, I can't tell you how thrilled I was that the tank top I bought fit me perfectly! I applaud you for taking a risk and being part of the solution by starting your tall activewear line!

P.S. I just read the series by Jheri on your blog and found it very interesting.

Clemens said...

Hi,

Found your blog some days ago and I love it! I am also 6'2 and share most of your frustration with shopping.

I went to Long Tall Sally pop up shop and tried almost all clothes they have, decided what I want to buy in the next months and now waiting for sale, discount codes etc. I hate when I order something (and there are some quite expensive items) and 2 weeks later it is 30-40% discounted. Hence my new strategy with going to London or waiting a pop up shop (I live in Germany), trying everything and ordering later on exactly what I know is already fitting well.

Regarding sizes: depending on the retailer, I vary between 12 and 16. Yes, that big of a difference. Ordering the right size is always a gamble. Not to mention that I had a baby last year, gained 60 pounds, lost 55 (so 5 more to go).. and I have clothes in my wardrobe ranging between 10 and 20. And the only thing worse than shopping for tall, is shopping for tall when pregnant. Not only nothing fits properly but the hormones used to make me even more frustrated than usual.

But at least there are tall ranges now. I grew up in small country where tall shops were not existing and had to spend my teen years feeling like a complete freak. Going shopping with my mother, trying everything and coming back empty handed, reduced to tears. I wear shoe size 43, but all shoe sizes in Bulgaria used to finish at 41. I refused to wear man's shoes, so I end up buying 41, stuffing the shoes with old clothes with alcohol, so the leather gets softer and a big bigger. Still my toes are not as straight as they used to be. No peep toe shoes nowadays!

But my point is that things are improving now, more and more tall ranges are coming, online shopping is a big plus. My daughter is very likely to be tall as well, so I hope that at least for her shopping will be easy, 10 - 15 years from now.

Keep going with your blog. Love it.

BAM said...

Hi Clemens! I have a ton of fun writing my blog and it makes me SO happy when people love it so thanks for the kind words! I also find it very interesting to hear shopping tips and experiences from readers in other countries so thank you for sharing your experiences.

Your strategy of going to the pop-up shop and trying on pretty much everything and then ordering the items when they go on sale is genius! I'm going to keep that in mind the next time I go to a pop-up.

Congrats on your new baby! I am recently married and will be starting a family sooner or later and I am trying not to dread the thought of looking for tall maternity clothes. I can only imagine the hormonal fits I am going to throw over not being able to find clothing! My husband better prepare himself. haha. There is one tall maternity line that I recently became aware of called Mommy Long Legs (http://www.mommylonglegs.com/default.aspx). It was started by a woman who is 6'2 like us! I just love it when I see people start a tall line because they weren't able to find tall clothing themselves and wanted to do something about it. It makes me so much more optimistic for the years to come.

I am so sorry to hear that you weren't able to find shoes growing up! That must have been really difficult. I can somewhat relate as I was a size US12 when I was 13 years old and had great difficulty finding shoes so I sometimes wore men's shoes (tennis shoes, casual shoes and such) and then I just started stuffing my feet into size 11s and now that's the size I wear. But, there were generally stores in my area that carried at least a few 11s and 12s. I couldn't imagine how difficult it would be not having any access to shoes in my size like you described.

I echo your hope that tall shopping will be even easier for our daughters, and I agree that things generally seem to be looking up with new tall lines starting up every year.

P.S. My husband and I went to Europe for 2 weeks for our honeymoon in December and Germany was my favorite country out of all the ones we visited. =)