Thirty Pretty Projects: Week Two

Jewelry in Chinatown!
Jewelry in Chinatown!

Yes, I realise it’s been longer than two weeks since I began the Thirty Pretty Projects! It’s been far too busy and crazy to write. I’m in the process of moving abroad for the fourth time. I’m applying for a UK Student Visa. I’m working full-time. I’m trying to cram things in before my boyfriend has to leave in August. I’m travelling several weekends this month and next. I can barely get more than six hours of sleep in a night, much less work on writing about my fashion!
Yet the projects are going well! I am feeling more confident in my fashion choices after a couple of successful choices (see awesome outfit #1 here and #2 here). The second week of the projects is all about observing style and analysing my own style evolution. I was lucky enough that I travelled to San Francisco during that week, a fantastically fashionable city! So much opportunity to observe fashionable folk.

I spent some time considering the people who inspire me stylistically, and found that I have few role models for my particular brand of style. My favourite people to watch in fashion tend to have a French aesthetic to their dressing, à la Marion Cotillard. Sometimes I feel that inside, I am a petite and dark-haired Frenchwoman who dresses in neutrals and like to wear Chanel No. 5 perfume every day. This is obviously at odds with my plus-sized, six foot tall reality.

Courtesy of People Style Watch
Courtesy of People Style Watch

I’m much more suited in body type to Christina Hendrick‘s style of voluptuous and unapologetically feminine style. But then again, she is the same height as Cotillard at 5’7″ and my legs are all different proportionally.

Courtesy of
Courtesy of One Million Looks

It’s hard to find fashion-forward celebrities who are anywhere near my height and weight, but it feels even harder to find real life role models for women my size. I have always been the 99th percentile for height in my age group. In fact, I scoff at the CDC’s paltry 178 cm cut off for that distinction.

CDC chart
From the CDC’s report for 2000.

I appreciate and follow Fashion for Giants, a great blog for tall curvy women. But even though we both shop thrift stores and have similar measurements, Gracey’s style is very different from my own. I really like that she wears heels all the time though. That is bordering on social disobedience for a tall woman. I’ve only just started to wear heels regularly since graduating from university, because of how much crap I catch, unsolicited, from friends and strangers alike over the act of putting on additional height. How dare I? Don’t I know that women are supposed to be petite and still only come up to men’s shoulders even in heels?

Makeup is very important to my style. I generally wear liquid eyeliner, blush, and mascara.
Makeup is very important to my style. I generally wear liquid eyeliner, blush, and mascara.
Greaser-style hair.
Greaser-style hair.

This is one of the great body acceptance challenges I’ve faced in my 25 years on the planet. I was this tall early. My estimate is that I reached 6 feet at 12 years old, and in middle school towered over even my teachers. One bonus: I could always see to both ends of the hallway to the cafeteria in the lunchtime rush. Bad news? Nothing fit, even more than in the usual post-puberty adjustments. Stores in the early 2000s didn’t carry the various lengths of pants that they do now. High-water bell bottoms were my mainstay. Midriff tops were in, which turned every shirt I owned into a belly-barer. I had boobs and a butt and I hated them. Hated them! Why couldn’t I just be small and flat-chested like the other girls my age? I remember my ballet classes going from fun to exclusionary overnight as I filled out and grew so much my aching legs kept me up at night. Even the moms said that the other girls were excluding me because I looked “adult.” At my 8th grade graduation, my vice principal said that I looked like I should be graduating high school. I was mortified.

Amongst my own kind in Chinatown.
Amongst my own kind in Chinatown.

Despite being very tall, my height actually made me somewhat less visible to those around me. I wanted to be invisible, and my style reflected this for years. I slouched. I desperately tried to avoid colour. I refused to even try on heels. But when I went to university, I decided to move toward dressing more femininely and having more style. I moved to Italy for a semester and was pushed into dressing more fashionably by my surroundings. I began to come up with my “cheats” for dressing a super-tall body.I tuck my too-short pants into tall boots. I let down the hems of some pants and skirts. I wear mini-dresses as tunics over pants.

This is the most developed part of my style to this day. Especially after a year and a half buying consignment as much as possible and then abstaining from shopping at all for six months, I am much more in touch with what sizes actually mean (little) and how garments fit my body. But imagine my surprise when over the weekend in San Francisco I found that everyone was wearing high water pants. Everyone. Sometimes even rolled up to make them even shorter. Also blazers with the sleeves rolled up to make them purposefully too short (a tall person’s trick with pesky sleeve lengths). Why wasn’t this style around when I was a struggling teenager, slamming my jeans in the door and then yanking on them to try to get even a half-inch more? I had several pairs of jeans that were “too short,” and sold them. Suddenly I could wear them without shame? What the hell, fashion!

Note the pants tucked into boots to disguise the four inches of ankle.
Note the pants tucked into boots to disguise the four inches of ankle.

I struggle to incorporate colour and prints into my wardrobe these days, in part because my closet has to be mobile and has followed me from Patagonia to Korea to Colorado. Travel clothing is for observing, not being observed. I have many colourful pieces from India, but they look ridiculous and vaguely culturally patronising when I wear them in the US or UK. I once looked down at my outfit on the bus in Korea and noticed that all I was wearing were brown, black, or gray turtlenecks with tiny holes from wear in them. Solid, neutral colours are my MO, possibly a leftover of all those years spent trying to vanish.

Prints also pose a problem for me. I don’t like them. I just don’t. They look old-ladyish and I associate them with couches in therapist’s offices from the 1980s. They make my curvy body look even curvier. Or so I thought. This week I made my first shopping trip in a long while to one of my favourite consignment stores and made a conscious effort to buy printed items. These are the results.

Printed top is thrifted from Found Underground in Louisville, CO.
This whole outfit is thrifted! The skirt cost me $5.

They look pretty damn good, if I do say so myself!

As I work through the Projects, my pile of To-Sell clothing and shoes grows ever-larger. I won’t be making the rounds at the local consignment stores until August, when my boyfriend leaves town and I will need things to keep me occupied. It’s very helpful to focus on dressing my body, as it is right this second. I can always get new clothing next year in London! Might as well get rid of nearly all of it this summer and make some money in the deal.

I will be writing about the third week of the projects this week. I promise.

4 thoughts on “Thirty Pretty Projects: Week Two

  1. I struggle with prints as well! That and ruffles over big boobs? Heck no! I have found some that work, but I do often avoid them. I hate the cropped pants thing because I feel like they look great on short or slender people but look ridiculous on me. Maybe a left-over from my own high-water days.

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