Long, Slim Shirts for Women

I've had a lot of people (more than normal) ask me about where to buy long shirts, so I think it's time for a post . . . 

My family moved to Vernal the summer before my ninth grade year. Cory Hunter, the sophomore down the street, asked my brother, Sam, what was wrong with my body. Why was my torso the same length as my legs??

So, they aren't actually the same length, but apparently, I have a freakishly long body. And I am now the unofficial expert on long shirts. 

Women's shirts were too short, so during my high school years, I wore mostly boy clothes. . . and by boy clothes, I mean men's clothes. Whenever shirts were being handed out (teams, clubs, etc.), I immediately went for the largest one, in hopes that it would be long enough. So there I was, six feet tall and 120-pounds, wearing big, boxy mens Large and XL t-shirts. It's no wonder I didn't have a boyfriend in high school. 

Eddie Bauer was the first company that I remember coming out with a line of tall clothes for women. But Eddie Bauer's clothes were (and still are, for the most part) far too wide and boxy. (Same with Lands' End.) J.Crew had a good line of tall clothes, but they were out of my price range, so unless I came across a lucky find at the DownEast store, I was stuck wearing boy clothes. 

After I got married, more companies started carrying lines of clothing for tall women: Banana Republic, Gap, and eventually, Old Navy. And then somewhere in the middle of all that, tall ladies everywhere we were blessed with a whole slew of modest clothing companies: Shade, Layers, Modbe, ModBod, and then of course, DownEast. (Plenty of other companies too, but I am leaving them out because I don't have personal experience with them.)

But rather than focus on making actual shirts, these companies spent most of their efforts on undershirts, to be worn as layers. As if all of these newly married Mormon girls were just dying to add another layer of clothing to their outfits. But as ridiculous as it sounds, it caught on, even with me. 

The world of layering was good and bad. Good because it made borderline too-short shirts wearable. And bad because I ended up adding another layer to every single outfit I wore. DownEast cap sleeve shirts weren't nearly as nice as the Layers shirts, but they were less expensive and I didn't have to order them through a representative. So I wore a DownEast Wonder Tee every single day as a layer under whatever other shirt I wore. For approximately five years. . . 

Once, I went to the DownEast warehouse store in Logan, and they were running a special where you could buy a bag of clothes. . . whatever you could fit in the bag. . . for ten bucks. It took me thirty or forty minutes to make it work, but I successfully rolled and crammed some 90 white Wonder Tee shirts into my bag. They were all technically "defective", but as undershirts, it didn't really matter. I shared with my sister, my sister-in-laws, my friends, and even my neighbors. And then I stashed 20 away for me. (I finally depleted the last of my supply some two or three years ago.)

Some of these "modest clothing companies" came out with limited lines of longer length shirts, but the selection was so small that you would often run into other ladies wearing the same shirt. (Actually, that still happens to me with clothes from DownEast. . . probably only an issue in Utah and parts of Arizona.) 

I still remember the first shirt (not undershirt) that I bought from Layers. It cost something like $40, which seemed to be a ridiculous amount of money. But it was long, lean, and feminine, with a decent neckline and an embroidered design to add some style. And then, sadly, after four or five years of being my very favorite shirt, it fell victim to the housekeeper plunder, when our bag of laundry was accidentally thrown out with the trash, on a trip to Arizona

As an unusually long-bodied woman, shopping for clothes and finding favorite shirts will never be easy. But these days, there are more options than ever before. 

Here are my tips: 

When shopping at a retail store, ask a sales associate if she's noticed any longer or taller shirts. That worked well for me a couple years ago at Express in the mall. I was directed to a whole rack of 3/4 sleeve, scoopneck shirts that were unusually long. So I went ahead and bought three. Which brings me to the next tip. . . 

When you find a great shirt, buy multiples in different colors. Steve likes to tease me about doing this. But it works. 

Sometimes I've been known to look at the bottom of a rack of clothes in search of a shirt that might have unintentionally been made longer

When shopping online, read the reviews. If you come across a few commenters saying that a shirt is too long, that's the one you want to buy. 

Shop for tunics. (They fit me like regular shirts.)

Many online retailers provide measurements of shirts. Scan through the descriptions and look for the longer length measurements (28" to 30" is a dream come true). The only thing to beware of is using this same tip when shopping for jackets. The length of the jacket might be long enough, but the sleeves are often too short. 

Be willing to spend more money for a shirt that fits you well. After years and years of wearing clothes that just don't fit, believe me, it's worth it. 

And along with that, here's my last tip: Shop at Nordstrom. There are very few retail stores that I can walk into and find a shirt long enough for me. (Most stores only offer their tall sizes online.) But I can always find clothes at Nordstrom. When Steve first went to Nordstrom with me, he kept losing me. He said he couldn't keep track of me because he'd never seen so many tall women shopping at one store before. They were there for a reason. . . Thank you, Nordstrom, for carrying longer length shirts in your stores!

Here are some of my favorite basic shirts, available in lots of different colors at Nordstrom. Every season, they come out with new colors and slightly different cuts, but these Caslon shirts are all a great length (about 28.5 inches long). The necklines on the v-neck shirts are too low for me to wear by themselves, but then again, I am a bit of a prude. 

Caslon 'Melody' Fine Ribbed Cotton Tee from Nordstrom:

There are some great basic short sleeve shirts available in solids and stripes at DownEast. (Online and in stores.) The neckline is just barely high enough that most people probably won't feel like they have to wear anything underneath and the material is nice and thin (but not too thin), making these shirts are ideal for hot weather. (They only measure 26.5 inches long, but they have a little bit of spandex in them and stretch longer when worn.)

Zenana Outfitters Short Sleeve Striped Scoop Neck from DownEast:

Zenana Outfitters Short Sleeve V-Neck Striped Tee from DownEast:

Here's an example of a great tunic find. I searched tunic at garnethill.com and came across this shirt. Not a tunic for me, just a perfectly fitting, long (28 inches), slim shirt (available in lots of colors).

Essential Scoop-Neck Tunic from Garnet Hill:

Last year, I was in search of some longer-length running clothes and closely examined all of the shirt measurements at REI.com. I ordered seven or eight shirts and hoped that a few would be long enough, but only ended up keeping one. After I saw a picture of myself, I realized I could never wear it again because it was so baggy at the bottom that I looked like I was pregnant. 

So then I tried Athleta.com which also posts shirt length measurements. I was excited to find that their shirts fit nice and slim. This is my favorite running/exercise tank. (Even though the measurements say it's only 24.5 inches long, the scrunching stretches down and hugs your waist, without riding up, so it's plenty long for me.)

Athleta.com is my current favorite line of clothes. And of course, they are also the most expensive. I haven't ordered this shirt yet, but based on the measurements listed, I might think I've died and gone to heaven. (It doesn't look very slim, but the tall size is an astounding 30 inches long.)

A couple of years ago, I finally switched from wearing cap sleeve shirts as undershirts to tank tops. It's unfortunate that it took me so long to figure out that tank tops are the way to go. I guess there was some irrational fear in the back of my head that I would need to remove my top shirt and would want to ensure that I was properly covered with my under layer. But it turns out that in all of my years of being a mother, I've never had to rip off my shirt to use as a tourniquet. . . and I can't come up with any other emergency situation that would require ambulatory public disrobement. 

Tank tops are ideal as under layers because they are less restrictive in the armpits, making them cooler, more comfortable, and easier to apply deodorant. (In addition to a long torso, I also have man shoulders. So cap sleeve shirts fit super tight in the armpits.)

My favorite was the DownEast v-neck tank, but they were discontinued after only about a year. I bought as many as I could find because I love the v-neck neckline as an undershirt, especially when wearing with v-neck tops. (I wore this combo for years, but nothing screams modest Mormon mom like a v-neck top with a white DownEast Wonder Tee underneath. As soon as I find a picture of me wearing this, I'll add a link.) And even though I love the necklines, the DownEast v-neck tanks aren't actually long enough in length, so they require a little stretching before I hang them up to dry.

I am open to suggestions in this area, but so far, I've been fairly happy with this super comfortable tank available in a plethora of colors from Athleta. (Except that they are so expensive that I've only purchased two.) The online measurements say they are only 26.5 inches, but after hang drying, they are actually more like 30 inches. 

Julia Child was once quoted, "Being tall is an advantage, especially in business. People will always remember you. And if you're in a crowd, you'll always have some clean air to breathe."

But in the meantime, good luck finding clothes that fit properly. Because it's not easy being tall in a world made for short people. 


i'm h.mac said...

Ambulatory public disrobement. This is a classic emily b phrase and i love it as much as NYC.

@udj said...

Wow, that was a pleasure to read and very informative. I think your advice and tips are so practical and helpful. Now, when can we go shopping together?

Mindy said...

I bought some cheaper long sleeved t-shirts, and even light weight sweaters, at Rue 21 last year that are REALLY long in the torso. You would love them! Go check out if they have any this year.

emily ballard said...

Thanks for the info, Mindy. Debra Hartman told me there are some great Mossimo Long & Lean Tanks at Target, and my mom sent me this message for duluthtrading.com:

Save $2.00 each when you buy any 2 " Longtail T shirts, which include Longtail T shirts, waffle henleys, hoodies, etc. Like the catalog says you don't have to worry about mooning the neighbors, no more peek-a-boo belly, and 2" longer to defend your back end.

byoung said...

wow-i never knew it was so hard to be tall-i almost feel bad for you and your long legs....by the way, i know i am short but i find that roxy t-shirts are nice and long and lean, maybe just for me, but might be worth checking out

daisy said...

soo good collection of tunics for women ...loved the post !!!

fashion boutique said...

loved this fashion boutique....great collection !!!

Alisha Fox said...

Thanks for your beyond belief blogs stuff.

t shirts online

Forest and Lakes said...

forest and lakes offer blank t shirts for free screen printing.

long shirts for women said...

Love the shirt dress, I’ve never tried wearing it alone. I usually just wear it belted with a jean underneath it for classes. Would definitely try a look like this.