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I actually used to shop in the men’s department all the time and I’d tell myself that they had the coolest clothes. I mean, come on, Superman T-shirt, what’s not great about that? Convinced that I wasn’t missing out on cute girly clothes, shopping in the men’s department actually was a great thing – feminism, equality, the nineties, you know. And I’m not ruling out ever going back there to supplement my wardrobe, if I want to go for a Marlene Dietrich look, or if I want to dress up as a male character for Halloween.

Other than that, in my opinion, men’s clothes do not work on a woman’s body. Yes, for us tall girls there is one variable where our bodies align with the fit model used to design male attire – height. The average height for men as defined by the fashion industry is between 5’8’’ and 6’, that’s music to our ears. And yes, lengthwise those clothes are spot on. No high-water trousers, no three-quarter sleeves, no T-shirts that are crop tops. But that’s where it ends and that’s just not enough. For me. Anymore.

Just like women’s clothes are designed to create the illusion of an hourglass silhouette, men’s clothes want to give you a triangle shape. (If you want to experience that go try on a men’s suit jacket. You’d think it’d look cool, but it just doesn’t.)

Take a regular men’s dress shirt for example. Where a woman’s shirt makes use of darts and curving in at the waist, a men’s shirt tapers down from a wide shoulder to a narrow hip. Also boobs, those need serious dart action to not create all sorts of wrinkles and bunching. Women’s necklines are smaller and finally the seams where the sleeves are joined with the arm hole. For men those are further down. Sure, if you like a dropped shoulder, but let’s be honest to really look intentional it should be more exaggerated.

Artwork Credit: Barbara Rehbehn

Men’s clothes in general are made to fit a lot looser then woman’s clothes. They actually can accommodate a greater range of body shapes. If you are not overly curvaceous you will probably be able to find something that seems to envelop your body more successfully than standard female sizes. I mean, those clothes are just too short all over. But just because something doesn’t expose or strangle you, doesn’t mean it will look and feel good on your body.

Wearing male clothes will make you appear more androgynous. If that’s what you’re going for, awesome may the men’s department be your oyster! I’m not gonna lie, I envy you a little bit, you just made your life a lot easier. I used to go to great lengths to assure myself that that’s what I wanted and that I was not only OK with it, I was embracing it. Did I tell you about the Superman T-shirt?

Over this past year of working towards accepting and loving my body for what it actually is, I have had multiple moments in front of my mirror of coming out of my fashion-denial of loving the tomboy look. I actually don’t love it. It makes me feel weird and out of touch with my femininity. I can’t make do anymore. Not with the colours, not with the fit and not with the motives. Why did I even celebrate that Superman shirt so much, shouldn’t I be proudly rocking Supergirl instead?

Tall fashion is difficult. Above 5’10’’ we only make up for 1% of the female population, that’s just too small a demographic to warrant a great range of choices. We will always have to be a bit thrifty. You can find the odd great piece if you are willing to comb through racks and racks of standard-sized clothing and that includes the men’s department. Just be aware of your differences and don’t lie to yourself. If you like something – great. If you don’t like something, don’t buy it merely because it’s finally covering your ankles.

Making the decision of giving up on another potential source of (unflattering) clothes actually gave me more freedom. Even just one great-fitting dress makes me so much happier then a hundred Superman T-shirts!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on shopping in the men’s department, leave me a comment below.

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