Shirts are the easiest thing to overlook when it comes to good fit. With dress shirts, this fit is especially important because a more formal occasion requires a more accurate fit. Like most guys, I’ve thought about why I shouldn’t bother to tailor a dress shirt:
- Tailoring costs money.
- I’m covering it with a jacket anyway.
But, instead of looking at the downsides, I’d challenge you to think about why you would want to have a shirt that fits impeccably.
- Dress shirts are for dress occasions when I want to look my absolute best.
- Great fit will mask body imperfections that you’re uncomfortable with, or show off the sculpt that you’ve worked so hard for.
You know that you need to look your best, now let’s see what you best actually looks like.
This is the biggie . Most American dress shirts will billow out near your waist line. This billowing will draw attention to your midsection in a bad way – hiding your hard-earned abs, or further accentuating a beer belly. Remember, when it comes to fit – more material makes you look bigger. A great fitting shirt will lay smoothly against your body without billowing out. A tailor may take in the shirt at the sides, similar to this do it yourself guide, or if you prefer, they can sew a couple vertical darts into the back of your shirt to help shape the fabric across your waist.
“But what about slim fit shirts?”
I found that slim fit shirts help, but even those are still targeted at a mass-market – not you specifically, and don’t quite solve the billow problem. That said, if you refuse to tailor , try to do it yourself, or at least buy slim.
The key to chest, as with most areas of fit, is that you want the cloth to lie flat with no ripples and no pulls.
To check the fit, look for vertical and horizontal lines.
Look at the areas to the left and right of the buttons. If you see horizontal lines in the fabric, then the material is pulling, and the chest is too tight. You might need to try a size up. If you see vertical lines, then the shirt is folding and draping poorly because there is too material, and the shirt is too big. Try switching out for a size down.
If you find that you are between sizes, try a different cut, or a different brand. If all else fails, buy the shirt that is slightly large, and have a tailor bring it in.
With your arms at your side, the sleeve if your shirt should just touch the bottom of your palm. If you trace your thumb down towards your wrist, you’ll feel a point of bone at the base of your thumb. This is pretty easy to find, because it’s about another half inch to the two bones that protrude from either side of your wrist. Make sure the sleeves of your shirt just barely touch that spot of bone at the heel of your palm.
p>Every shirt has a seam where the arm meats the shoulder, and every shoulder has a slight bump of bone where your clavicle meets your scapula.
The seam of your shirt, should pass over your shoulder just to the outside edge of that bump – no more that a half inch.
The shirt should lay smoothly over your shoulders, and the arm holes  should be high enough that you can reach both arms straight ahead without feeling restricted. Test the mobility of your arms. You are going to be wearing this thing for 12+ hours in some cases, so make sure it’s comfortable. I once found a shirt in Target by Merona, at a great price, that I loved, but when I tried it on, I realized that I’d have trouble even pointing straight ahead because the arms pulled way too much.
The neck is one of the easiest places to check for fit on a dress shirt, but unspecific sizings, like small or large lack the granularity necessary to truly fit well. When shopping for shirts, it’s ideal to purchase shirts that are measured in inches (15, 16, 17.5, etc.). To measure fit, button up the shirt all the way, including the top button, as if you were going to be putting on a tie. The collar should fit closely to your neck all the way around with no noticable folding or gaps, and you should be able to breathe and move your head easily.
If you can’t button the top button, or you are feeling lots of pressure on your Adam’s apple, like Hitman and his piano wire have finally caught up with you, it’s too tight. Way to tight.
You should be able to slip two fingers placed flat next to your skin into the collar, but if you turn them sideways, it should feel too tight.
Even if you don’t choose to take your dress shirts to a tailor, at least you now know what you are looking for. Keep it sharp.