XXY in Conversation: The Tall Society
XXY in Conversation: The Tall Society
“I proudly take up my space in this universe with my head held high”
As the Space Issue and fashion month overlapped, our New York-based junior editor, Michelle Houlston, caught up with Bree Wijnaar, Editor-in-Chief and founder of The Tall Society, to talk height and identity, the breakdown of ‘one-size-fits-all’ and the importance of fashion networks for women of above average height.
Michelle Houlston: Firstly, could you explain what The Tall Society is? What is the innovation behind it, and how did you come to found it?
Bree Wijnaar: The Tall Society is an empowering and inspiring community created to unite tall girls and women worldwide. As a tall and curvy woman myself, I was longing for a sisterhood of women that I could relate to, so I set out to create the community that I felt was missing. On our platform, you will find meaningful discussions and access to positivity and encouragement. The diverse content is created by a wonderful group of contributors, all 6ft or taller, with different shapes, sizes and areas of expertise. In January of 2016, we took our reader engagement to the next level by planning a series of events with the purpose of facilitating true in-person connections. The Tall Society is revolutionary in advocating for and uniting women of height. We want to see ourselves represented and catered to, in both fashion and media.
MH: There is a fashion, beauty and wellbeing aspect to your network. Some may say that being tall benefits you in fashion. But it is a very particular sort of tall; a one size fits all, so to speak. How has the fashion industry helped tall women? And how could it do better?
BW: Ironically, tall women are still very much underserved in the fashion world. I say ironically because, during every fashion week, we watch our tall sisters – the stunning six-footers – showcasing the latest collections. Yet women from our tall tribe are struggling to find great clothing options every day. Luckily, TheTallSociety.com is a great go-to resource for them.
There certainly are tall specialty retailers out there as well as stores with select pieces that come in tall sizes. I do see an increasing amount of offerings from them, which is great progress. These stores are often launched and driven by tall women themselves who are tired of waiting around for something, so they take action and create. Just as fashion has shifted to become more inclusive for our plus-sized and curvy sisters, we want to see the same happen for women of height. We no longer want to be ignored.
MH: Your height is predetermined by genetics and is unalterable; it is space you cannot help but take up. Would you agree that height is linked with identity? How has that affected you?
BW: Absolutely! Height is linked with identity. My height and the challenges and opportunities that come with it have formed who I am today. I look in the mirror and I like what I see: I am 6’4”, I wear a size 14 shoe and I am a dress size 16/18. You really can’t get around me. I strive to be a positive example for tall girls and women everywhere, as confidence and self-acceptance are often things we have to grow into. It is not a given, and it is not always easy.
Standing out from a young age has challenged both my spirit and character. Now I am in a happy place, content with who I am not only as a person, but as a daughter, as a girlfriend, and as a friend. I proudly take up my space in this universe with my head held high and I had to work hard to create it.
MH: I noticed on your website that you opened up the topic of dating men shorter than you to your followers, watchers, readers and contributors. So is it ultimately an issue of femininity and masculinity with height?
BW: I think there is no conclusive answer to this. This is such a hot topic for women of height. Opinions vary, and they are strong. How each person defines femininity and masculinity is deeply personal. Will you, as an individual, allow height to be a determining factor when choosing a life partner? My answer to that is no, absolutely not!
At 33 years old, after having dated different men, I have come to the conclusion that there are other things much more important than someone’s height. Yet if you had asked the 20-year-old me this question, I would’ve probably naively answered that I was only looking for a basketball player. This had little to do with potential suitors but more with the growing that I had to do alone. Confidence and love for oneself are required by each partner for any relationship to even have a chance. Consequently, height has nothing to do with this, in my opinion.
MH: What is the most interesting thing you have discovered or learned, either about yourself or in general, since starting The Tall Society? What’s next on the agenda?
BW: I have learned that where there is a will, there is a way and that there was a true need for this community. I started this venture alone, and along the way, some incredibly interesting women crossed my path. Women that believe in my mission and what we have set out to do. I believe that we are part of a larger purpose, and together we are encouraging change. The Tall Society is rapidly growing and the future is bright. Our focus is on staying innovative and different in the content that we bring to our readers every week.
We are working on bringing our tall sisters more events for opportunities to connect in person. We are also placing a special emphasis on reaching young tall girls who are in that place of insecurity and self-doubt and who need a community of other tall women to look up to. There is some exciting stuff in the pipeline; make sure to check in with us!
MH: Just to end, what would be your key advice to tall women – especially those that are still finding it hard to accept what they cannot change about themselves?
BW: Surround yourself with women of height. Our uniqueness is something that can only be understood by us. Hearing the stories and experiences of other tall sisters and their personal journeys of self-acceptance can be tremendously encouraging. We are beautiful and powerful beings, and The Tall Society is a daily reminder of that.
Written by Michelle Houlston,
New York Junior Editor
Visuals by Dennise Benitez Photography and Aqut Photography