The gripes of fashion for a short person

Originally published in Live4, 25 June 2014

Pants too long? Shoulders too wide? Forget about palazzo pants. Guess that’s why they call it ‘high’ fashion.

Getting snubbed when ordering at the bar? That’s nothing. Not being able to see Erykah Badu and having her change your life through neo-soul body swaying, because you’re standing behind a taller person? That’s annoying, but still nothing.

For me, the worst thing about being a short person is that moment when I’m standing in the cold and salivating outside the shop window during discount season as hoards of ‘normal-sized’ people storm in and grab those beautiful ankle-length palazzo pants, with the beautiful graphic print, and those cerulean mid-calf leather boots at 80 per cent off. I don’t even think about trying to pull off the ‘long baggy top with colourful tights’ look – not without risking looking like I got off at the wrong stop en route to Middle-earth.

Being vertically challenged limits my options in the fashion department, but fortunately, growing up as a short person has made me more resilient and resourceful than the average-sized human being. This is how I trick you all into thinking I’m average height:

High and waisted

So, palazzo and capri pants, and anything too boxy or pleated, are usually out of the question, but not entirely. Thank designers, such as ‘Lord Lagerfeld’, that eyes are easily fooled and that there are solutions to this madness. Fitted trousers create an illusion of length, especially when they sit at the natural waistline (not any lower) and are paired with shoes that peek out at the bottom. In fact, anything that would define the waist would help – skinny waist belts and high-waist ‘bottoms’ are lifesavers. Do what your Momma told you and tuck in that shirt.


Technicolour patterns? Oh, no, no, no (sort of)

I’m a big fan of graphic patterns and colours, and when the two get married and make beautiful babies, I get clucky. Unfortunately, I can’t wear these babies sans a considered approach, without looking small and frumpy. Said considered approach is this: opt for smaller, more delicate patterns and skip the big, bold Picasso-esque graphics. Go monochromatic and pair patterns with items of clothing that are in the same colour family (such as a blue houndstooth sweater with blue pants), as it creates a more fluid, elongating line. Basically, avoid bringing attention to how short you are by not ‘cutting your body in half’, through a stark contrast between ‘tops’ and ‘bottoms’. If you absolutely must rock the loud, flamboyant, multicolour patterns, make sure the clothing item is perfectly fitted. And I mean perfectly. Which brings us to the next point … 


Accentuate the silhouette

Homer Simpson’s muumuu phase was empowering and inspirational for me: “Screw what others think, I want to be comfortable.” I channelled him and sported long, flowing loose dresses for a time in my life. I got over that phase as soon as I looked at a mirror. The key to looking lean and long is to steer focus towards the silhouette. Do this by ensuring all clothing fits perfectly. A tailor is the short person’s homeboy. They’ll make sure the armpit area of your shirt actually rests fittingly at the armpits; the shoulder stitching sits directly on top of that bony part of the shoulders; the sleeves end right at the wrist, and so on. Waistlines need to be obvious; necklines should be V-shaped for women and not for men, and awkward lengths for ‘tops’ and ‘bottoms’ should be avoided. Come to think of it, being short isn’t all that bad, with my tailor on speed-dial. And flaunting muumuus is a cinch (at the waist with a skinny belt).

Image: Live4, Asos, genotypewriter