In the early 2010s, Tumblr mainstreamed everything from social justice warriors to softgrunge. And as someone in my 20s at the time, the so-called Tumblr aesthetic had a serious hold on me. I’m talking the perfect skinny mom jean, Fjallraven backpacks, tucked-in thrift store t-shirts, and normcore bullshit; the ultimate elegantly disheveled look that simultaneously screamed carefree and curated.
American Apparel had a hold on me too: the high waist no-stretch denim jean in the perfect shade of light blue, the wildly versatile oversized chiffon button-up blouses, the riding pants, the skintight turtlenecks that felt both suffocating and sexy. I’ve held onto these gems, some sequestered to the “just in case, one day, if you lose 30 pounds” drawer.
But there was one thing that, despite my best efforts, I just couldn’t manage to wear without feeling exposed. Introducing American Apparel’s tennis skirt, a cute pleated mini skirt in a variety of bold colors and preppy plaids. It was a fixture on my Tumblr dashboard and Instagram feed, paired with cute calf-high socks and stylish loafers or tennis shoes, maybe even combat boots for the girlies with a little edge. Ultra-feminine, ultra-versatile, and ultra-hot.
I owned a few American Apparel tennis skirts in my day, but the bright red one comes to the surface of my mind more clearly than the rest, one that I paired with a crop top and my trusty Fjallraven and a pair of mismatched Uniqlo socks. I thought I was hot shit, and frankly, I was.
It was fun. It was flirty. It barely covered my ass.
I’ve retired plenty of styles from my Tumblrista era. I don’t know where my Fjallraven is anymore, skinny jeans have been out of style for years, and while normcore still has charm, I’m not necessarily trying to dress like a Seinfeld character anymore. But my heart wants what it wants, and my heart has never strayed from my love of a simple mini skirt. Finding a mini skirt that doesn’t make me wear little shorts underneath just in case, however, is another story entirely.
That’s one of the problems with being kind of tall but not crazy tall and not skinny but also straddling the line between straight and plus sizes depending on how much elastic is in the damn thing and having massive tits to boot: Buying clothes is a gauntlet. But buying a skirt or dress that is short and will cover your bum and won’t force you to adjust your clothes every few minutes and doesn’t hike up in the back and looks flattering without being an awkward jorts length is a goddamn nightmare.
There’s some good news though.
At 5'8, most clothing items marketed for tall people are simply too long. (I know, I know, get your clothes tailored. But I don’t want to and it’s a pain in the ass.) What a godsend (usually) to browse ASOS and discover that a skimpy little mini dress or skirt is available in a tall, a much-appreciated little shout-out to us long-legged warriors out there who wish to walk up the subway stairs without ended up on an upskirt subreddit.
But another problem arises: The “tall” section is often relegated to department stores or fast fashion hell holes like, well, ASOS. As someone who has made an effort to buy less fast fashion in the last couple of years, this means hitting up smaller, pricier, and often less size diverse shops.
Still, I’ve had some real success.
I found luck with the Audrey Skirt by Tuesday of California, a Los Angeles-based clothing store run by designer and illustrator Tuesday Bassen. Her size range is noteworthy, but size isn’t everything—length is the ultimate white whale here. The Audrey was perfect. It was short but covered the vital areas without me having to pull my hem down constantly. I also find it sexy but ultra-easy to dress up or down; I can pair it with a t-shirt, a sweater, or a cleavage-friendly top. I wouldn’t bend over by the waist to tie my shoes or anything, but its length was just what I was looking for regardless: hitting a few inches below the rump without getting too cheeky.
My only regret is that I probably should have sized up. A few of Tuesday’s pieces contain elastic, and I found that her pieces run a smidge small in the waist. I ordered a size L, but next time I would size up to an XL. But I recommended this same skirt to other curvier friends of mine and received glowing reviews. Now it’s time to get the word out for the tall folks: If you want a mini skirt that isn’t too short but is still short enough to have gotten you in trouble in high school, this is the one.
If you want something a little more cold-weather-friendly and in dress form, I recommend the Turtleneck Mini Dress by Kotn. I bought the scarlet color in a size XXL, and while form-fitting throughout the chest and torso, it was very comfy and super stretchy. Plus, the skirt portion doesn’t fit like a bandage dress or anything; it is nicely flared and never makes me feel exposed. My other favorite mini dress option is the Leap Dress by Samantha Pleet, which I bought in a size 16. The fit is the die for, non-stretch but perfectly fitted in the trunk and lightly flared at the hips before landing just north of mid-thigh. While the priciest option on this list by far, it’s worth exploring for the quality alone, especially when a decent sale pops up. (The colorway I bought is no longer available, but it is currently sold in another bold print).
But this is still very much an adventure of trial and error, and I’ve had more bad luck than good. I’m still on the lookout for other holy grail options so I can have the mini skirt collection I deserve.