The Trials and Triumphs of a Certified Shorty

Kayla Tanenbaum | February 2, 2016

“So like, how tall are you?”

Size, no mater what the naysayers claim, matters. Not so much in that it determines, limits, or even contributes to beauty — you’re beautiful at any size — but can we really deny how existing on the border of not being allowed on certain rides at Six Flags influences how we see the world and how (and if) the world sees us? You might know me as that girl you laugh at while I ask strangers to grab me a sweater from a really-not-that-high shelf at J.Crew, but I also consider myself an educator representing the vertically challenged. Come on in, learn something:

I have:

– A close personal relationship with my tailor, whose extensive Russian nesting doll collection I believe I am personally financing
– A Napoleon complex (see above)
– A big personality
A few blazers from the boys’ department
– Access to all the hotties who stand at 5’6
Lifts, which I put in my sneakers

Appropriate responses to, “Wow, you’re really short”:

“You’re really short.” (Note: this is especially effective if the offending party is not, in fact, short.)
– “Well, my feet touch the ground.”
– “I am!?!??!”

Inappropriate Responses to, “Wow, you’re really short”:

– “Good things come in small packages.”
– [Middle finger]
– “That’s not what your mom said.”

Most Effective Threat:

– “I will come over and put all of your stuff on the top shelf.”

Situations That You Wouldn’t Think Are Perilous but Are Because I Get Elbowed in the Eye:

Music festivals
– Really, any kind of concert without seating
Crowded subways
– NBA locker rooms (have never been to one, but assuming)
– Walking from point A to point B in any popular bar or restaurant
– Standing near people as they take off jackets (elbow to face)

Let’s talk about clothes:

For all of the ankle-grazing coats (sidewalk-grazing, more like it) and jeans with interesting hems — fur and feathers and fringe —  that exist beyond our reach (the good parts get chopped when we take our jeans to the tailor), there are things that work for us.

– Take the workhorse of clothing, the midi A-line skirt. Petite women are transformed in such a garment.
– Never overlook the lengthening powers of a pair of statement earrings or deep v-neck, or a mini skirt which will never be too short to be inappropriate. However.
– Ironic girly clothes do not work on me because they are simply not ironic. In Peter Pan collars, school girl-inspired anything, button down shirts buttoned all the way up and most polka dots, I look like someone who got separated from her school trip to the Planetarium.
– Maxi dresses accentuate the problem
– 1,000 thank you’s to whoever popularized flatforms
– Ditto high-waisted jeans (the bigger the FUPA, the closer to God. I think Dolly Parton said that.)

Type your comments in caps; I can’t hear you down here.

Photographed by Krista Anna Lewis.


  • mollie blackwood

    At 5 foot even I’m glad the raw hem is a thing… because that’s how I “hemmed” my own jeans recently.

    • tiffanyowens166

      Oscar W. Showalter

      < I AM getting a salary of more than 9800 dollars each week.that is awesome. Over a year ago I was in a horrible condition,jobless and Bank account with only few bucks.Thanks to one of my friends who showed me a way where I was able to gather myself and making average of 98 d/h.So it can change your life as it has changed mine…

      More details: http://GlobalSuperEmploymentVacanciesReportsCap/GetPaid/98$hourly…THANKS FOR WATCHING

    • Here in London, hemming my jeans costs as much as the jeans themselves. So yeah for raw hems.

      • Selena Ramirez

        I am getting a salary of 5700 dollars each week. Over a year ago I was in a horrible condition , jobless and no bank credit . Thanks to one of my friends who showed me a way where I was able to gather myself and making average of 56 d/h. So it can change your life as it has changed mine.

    • Amelia Diamond

      that’s what i do, too

    • Kayla Tanenbaum

      I am all about that raw hem life. Actually, I think these are the only jeans I bothered to tailor in the past 2 years…

    • I feel very fortunate my mother helps me out with this. Thanks for all the hemmed jeans, ma!

  • Dont need the caps – at 4,10.5 you willhear me perfectly! So the ironic girly clothes – right on.

  • Btw MR – what do you guys say to people sending you posts? I have an idea which is actually perfect for MR (I have a blog but I think it would fit better with MR content) – can I send it in? Will you guys atleast read the first 3 lines? (Also, just wrote a post and listed you guys as the only blog ‘I actually read)!

    • Amelia Diamond
      • I wrote in a few weeks back with a pitch … and haven’t heard back. Should I assume MR is just not into me …. or try again?

  • About 10 years ago I used to work in a school and at 5ft 2in I guess I was easy to relate to for a very bright, outgoing, but petite 11 year old who once discussed how she felt when people pointed out her size etc and ended with the fabulous philosophy that: “People might make fun of me but at least if we were ever in a car crash I’d be able to get out through the window.” I don’t know what became of her … but I bet she’s winning life right now.

  • Ummm, can we be bffs? :))

  • Alessandra

    BINGO. when all of your clothing google searches include the word “petite.”

  • Basically up until I got married, random people would feel it was perfectly acceptable to pick me up. No, not like hit on me but literally PICK. ME. UP.
    Yes you can lift me, you’re amazing, congratulations. Now where’s my rape whistle?

    • Amelia Diamond

      THE PICK UP. NO.

    • Elizabeth Tamkin

      this is amazing it’s happened to me too. it’s like honestly the weirdest thing and even with alcohol, inexcusable.

    • That’s happened to me too! It’s so awkward.

    • Kayla Tanenbaum

      hahaha this actually hasn’t happened to me. I think I just READ tall, ya know?

      (no, I don’t read tall)

    • Beatrice

      This happens to me all the time! IT IS NOT OK UNLESS I ASK and then it’s convenient

    • And the patting on the head.

      • Leslie

        Ahhh the patting on the head combined with being called “kiddo.” WORST. It gives me flashbacks to college when people always thought I was someone’s little sister visiting for the weekend.

    • Selina Moses

      Fucking hate that. Should be classed as harassment if you don’t give consent. I’m not a toy

    • snowsbeloved

      Been there!

  • Elizabeth Tamkin

    The dressing tips though! High waisted denim — YES, big earrings – ONE HUNNED, flatforms — if you wear them and you’re tall I feel like you’re dipping into my territory

  • Honestly I think the reason I dress so dark and edgy is because if I wear anything too girly/feminine I will look like a 5 year old. I’m short and have a babyface so I really can’t do frills or florals.

    • Leslie

      Same! I wear a leather jacket and huge earrings every day. At least no one has tried to pick me up lately (see above comments.)

      • Haha I’ve been picked up before too, I feel you 🙂

  • Natasha Luthra

    hehe. this is the most honest post i have read in a long time.

    Please check my blog, would love to hear from you.

    You had me all jealous for a split minute … because I love A-line skirts of midi-ish length but cannot seem to find any appropriate ones …
    Could not agree more about earrings, V-necks and girly thingies, irony or not, also maxi dresses (aka tents). And I adore flatforms, because apart from being stylish, they make walking so much more comfortable.

    All of which is important when you are 5’9″ (and something like 70 kg). No jokes were included in this comment.

  • Hope you guys don’t mind (what you say when you did something without asking) but I linked to this post on my site at . Short people have to support each other you know lol

    • Amelia Diamond

      Thank you!! That is so kind

    • Kayla Tanenbaum

      This is so flattering!

  • 4’11” here….’sup.

  • So funny and true! Although at 5’3″ I guess I’m average, with a 6’6″ boyfriend, they all still apply.

    • Kayla Tanenbaum

      My boyfriend is 6’5. We are a walking visual pun. I feel you.

  • Leslie Hitchcock

    I’m 5’1″ and I concur about concerts. I end up saying things like “That show had really great lighting” since I can’t see anything ever.

    And yes, my Russian tailor and I are best buds, except I’ve just started hacking off the bottom of my jeans or cuffing them under because I can’t be bothered anymore.

  • Olivia

    My baby brother has outgrown some beautiful blazers that now belong to me and fit this 5′ tall lady perfectly! I also found my best fitting Oxford boyfriend shirts in the actual boy’s section (bless the free shipping at crewcuts).

  • Cinamaron

    I’m 5’2″ and I would like to say to the world that I am not your ambulatory shoulder rest!

  • Emma

    Yes omg I am 4’9, I have a “normal-sized” torso but really short legs and I totally feel this. I hate when cute dresses are too short for my upper body and then come down to my mid-shin and it just looks like I’m being swallowed. Also midi dresses become maxi dresses and capris become pants in my world. My boyfriend is 5′ 9 (which I guess is short for a guy?) so we’re pretty well-matched. I have had a few memorable experiences though including a time when I went to a bar and the bartender confiscated my real ID and wouldn’t give it back because “there was no way I was 23”, and I had to go find a police officer to tell him I really couldn’t leave the bar without my driver’s license, or the time when I was on a date and my waitress brought me my iced tea in a kid’s cup with a plastic lid. Also the disturbingly large number of grown men who come up to me and ask me (in a creepy, condescending voice) if I’m old enough to be out by myself.

    • Selina Moses

      How fucking rude. Having to get a police officer to verify your ID, who gave the bartender permission to confiscate cards? The waitress was out of order, I would have complained, how patronising and don’t even get me started on the other men. The amount of them who talk down to me because of my size and face is insulting

  • Lua Jane

    I don’t really wear earrings. I don’t think my ears are pierced anymore actually, because I havent worn anything in yeares, but those Annie Costello Brown earrings look so taunting. I want something like that, but preferably clip on.

  • Lee

    I’m 5’1 and high-waisted jeans actually flatter me, depending on the fit. I have a longer torso so the effect is actually elongating on me. Also, yes, flats are a short girl’s middle finger.

  • Marissa Joy

    I’ve been thinking about posting on petite girl fashion! So many fashion trends I just can’t partake in right now 🙁

  • Tales On Silk

    Oh, how I love this article. At 5 ft, everytime I am at a concert, I get asked by my tall friends & husband (5ft 10) “howz the weather down there?” My best friend is 5ft 11 and we sure made an interesting pair to watch in college 🙂 Also, totally agree about high waist jeans & girly stuff

  • Miliana

    4’10. Not much about being short bothers me, but the one thing that does irritate me is high counters in banks.

  • soniadelvalle

    I’m 5’4, not even really short, but all my friends are taller than me and they mock me ): I also have that same problem with cute girly clothes, I look ridiculous in them, like I’m a kid who has that crazy growth syndrome that Jack (from the Robin Williams movie ‘Jack’) had. :/

  • Ember Sommer

    I’m five foot and a quarter. Yes the quarter matters

  • Totally feel you, sista! Especially when it comes to elaborate hems of jeans which get chopped at the tailors because my height is 5 feet nothing 😀


  • Laviza Shariff

    5’1″ here. Love this article! Hate the annoying comments “you are so tiny” “you are so cute” ugh. Need better retorts.

    Agree w/ v necks but disagree w the maxi dress advice – I get mine hemmed and wear w/wedges. I think it’s elongating…. At least from my vantage point it is! Also love jumpsuits ,,, by theory and Vince, slimming and elongating.

    Ironically I’m married to a 6’3″ man. It works out well for home repairs. He can get into high spaces and I can crouch to fix low stuff. Plus. My kids averaged out. 🙂

  • Ana Jurado Mata

    I love it!! I can’t see anything in a crowd, I can’t wear long dresses… This post is totally for me 😛

  • Wow I felt like this was a little segment of my life! but I have the opposite issue – vertically challenged in a very tall way! I get the ‘wow you’re so tall’ and ‘omg do you play basketball?’. I’m british. We don’t do basketball. Clothes-wise – complete nightmare, take most of my stuff to the tailor to try and get the hems taken down. Pros – helping old ladies reach stuff on high shelves in the supermarkets :), and being general meeting point for my friends in social situations (I’m taking that as a positive…!) wellness and healthy eating website by nutritionist and chef Emily

  • Sasha-Gay Trusty

    Standing at a mere 4’10 (or 4’11, depending on my mood for the day), this touched my soul. Especially, the denim with weird hems. Love them, though I cannot find a pair that doesn’t need altering. The sartorial plight of short girls deserve this post. Another MR success.

  • Jane

    The less times you ‘cut yourself over’ with hems (dresses/skirts), socks (no go) or shoes that is not close to your skin’s color, the taller you’ll look. That is my best advice!

  • DarthVadersCats

    THE MAN REPELLER ARTICLES I’M READING TODAY ARE KILLING IT. Being short is just another reason I don’t like crowded spaces, lifts and public transport. Elbows are bad. Being at nose-level at people’s under arms is also pretty bad. I once got lost so in a crowd at a cricket match that a policeman had to fish me out (I was sobbing into his collar I am loath to admit) and hand me back to my friend who was 6″4 (who just WADED THROUGH THAT CROWD LIKE HE WAS JESUS ON WATER).