What To Keep In Mind When Having Your Shirts Tailored

You’re just one or two alterations away from looking sharp.
IMAGE Youtube - Tom & Jey (Tailor made shirts)

Chances are, like most men, you aren’t wearing the right shirt size. Many wear about one to two sizes larger than they should, either because they equate lousy with comfortable or they couldn’t be bothered to take their shirts to the neighborhood tailor.

Their poorly fitting shirt looks clumsy, unkempt, and frankly, quite uncomfortable, especially in a professional environment—not the best image to project especially when you’re trying to demand credibility or respect from your colleagues. 

What they don’t realize is that they’re just one alteration away from looking their sharpest. When a shirt drapes exactly how it's supposed to on your body, it looks more expensive, whether it’s a Brooks Brothers garment or an old hand-me-down from your closet. 

Here, a handy guide on how to give your shirts the best fit—and what to expect from your local tailor. 


Your tailor may do wonders to your garment, but he is not a magician. Not all clothing woes can be fixed, and it will do you better to know what kinds of alterations can be done: 

Easy requests
Easy jobs include button and zipper replacements and hemming your shirt. Those won’t cost much, and you can expect to get your clothes back within the day, if your tailor isn’t slammed with other client requests. 


Intermediate jobs
More intermediate requests include tapering the shirt, adding darts (those little puckers at the back that add more dimension to a boxy fit), altering the collar, and shortening the sleeves. These cost more than basic alterations, but they’re well worth the price because they will make your shirt look as if it was made for you. 

Advanced fixes
Meanwhile, difficult alterations include anything involving changing the armholes and adjusting the shoulders. Think twice, though: These drive up the cost, and it may end up being more practical to just have a made-to-measure shirt done from scratch. Should you insist, however, it’s best to leave these to a tailor you really trust.  

Forget these
Impossible fixes include mending holes that are larger than one-and-a-half inches in circumference or burned fabric from ironing or acid burns; resolving tight clothes without at least 3/4 to 1 1/4 inches of excess fabric to work with; fixing long fabric tears that go against the seam as well as abraded fabric from constant friction. Please get a new shirt instead. 

How exactly should a shirt fit on you? In a nutshell, a shirt should look streamlined and well-proportioned. It shouldn’t bring attention to unsightly bulges, nor should it be billowy. Be sure to take note of these particular features for a sharp yet comfortable look:

1. The collar
A sloppy collar equals a bad shirt, never mind how much you actually spent on it. The shirt collar frames your face, so it’s important that you get the right fit. To gauge whether the collar sits well, do the finger test—a good rule of thumb is being able to fit two fingers between your collar and your neck comfortably. One finger is too tight; three or more is too loose. If there’s a visible gap between your neck and the collar, then you might want to consider a smaller fit, too. 

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2. The shoulder

The shirt’s shoulder seam should follow exactly where your actual shoulder begins. Too high and the shirt’s too tight. If it slides beyond the shoulders—pretty much how we once wore our shirts in the ’90s—then it’s a size too big. 


3. The sleeves 
Normally, sleeves are wider at the top and then smoothly tapers down toward the wrist. It should only be slightly loose to allow movement. Sleeves that are a tad large will have excess fabric ballooning and bunching around the arms, while sleeves that are too snug limit movement and look restrained. To ensure the shirt’s a right fit, you should be able to raise your arms without feeling pinched.


Take note of the sleeve length as well. Sleeves that expose your wrist bone are too short. If the sleeves cover half of your hand, they’re obviously too long. The right length shows just a sliver of fabric underneath a suit. In other woirds, it should end just below the wrist.  


4. The cuffs
As for the cuffs, they should hug your wrists without pressing down on the skin. You should also be able to take off your shirt with ease, even without unbuttoning the cuffs. If the cuffs wrinkle when you lay your hands on a table, they’re too loose.  


5. The body
Gauging whether your shirt fits is simple: You should have no problem fastening all the buttons from top to bottom. If the buttons strain and the fabric wrinkles, it’s too tight. Your shirt should have a streamlined look, with the buttons forming a straight line. 

A shirt that’s too loose, meanwhile, will have excess fabric billowing around your waist or chest. The shirt will look particularly ballooned when tucked in. 


6. The hem
Finally, the hem should fall a few inches below the belt line, providing just enough fabric to tuck the shirt in. When tucked in, the shirt shouldn’t expose your skin whenever you lift your arms up or move around. If the hem reaches your knees, it’s too long.

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Sam Beltran
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