Button Down Dress Shirts: OH DEAR!

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Two of our most beloved posts are our Dress Shirts That Fit and How to Buy Men’s* Shirts That Fit.  Everyone is dying to know how to make a man’s dress shirt* fit their own body. So if you’re curious about men’s dress shirts, start there.

Read it? Great. Now, to troubleshoot.

Most of the things we hear from dapperQs trying to wear “men’s”* dress shirts fall into one of three categories:
1) I try to wear men’s dress shirts, but the neck is too big!
2) I try to wear men’s dress shirts, but the chest is too small!
3) I try to wear men’s dress shirts, but they ride up over my hips/butt!

Here’s the thing. Men’s clothing pretends to be very uniform by putting its measurements in inches rather than an arbitrary number. But not all 17/34-35s are created alike. Different men’s brands vary widely in how they’re cut. The drop (that’s the difference between the shoulder and the waist) varies, the length varies, and any number of other things can change from brand to brand or even cut to cut within a brand. This is true no matter how high- or low-end you go – even at Walmart, George doesn’t fit the same as Faded Glory.

You’re going to have to experiment. If you can, try things on in the store.** A lot of men’s shirts come packaged up nicely – in which case, find a store with a good return policy, buy and try a bunch of different ones in your measurements, and return what doesn’t work. Keep at it and you will start to realize that some men’s shirts are better able to fit your particular body.

But even so, these problems still rear their ugly heads. Let’s say you’ve tried it all with no luck at all. And so, here you go: a guide to making it work:

1) Style your way to success
Shirt gaping across the chest? This is why God gave us the sweater or sweater vest. Depending on where you’re going, you can also pull the “breezy European”: unbutton a few buttons, put a crisp white t-shirt underneath, blazer over, and go.

Neck too small? Fill in the space with an ascot or a scarf. The breezy European also works well here. You can even work the turtleneck in – something I am excited for the fall. You can cheat this by probably a half-inch or even an inch, depending on how you wear it and whether or not you close the top button; in this case, a small collar (think spread) is definitely advised.

Ride-up problem? This can be a few things. Make sure your pants are fitting well – pants riding down can be as much of a problem as shirts riding up. Try a belt or if that doesn’t help (and I know it doesn’t always), suspenders are a good second option. There is also the shirt garter (featured here in the New York Times), which attaches to your socks and the bottom of your shirt and keeps things tight.

If you need to disguise it – and don’t we all, sometimes – pick a blazer with a little weight of its own so it doesn’t ride up with everything else.

 

2) The women’s department can be your friend.
This feels like breaking some kind of dapperQ code of honor. But for tailored clothes, it has to be said: women’s clothes are tailored for bodies that have a larger chest measurement than shoulder measurement and a larger hip measurement than waist measurement. Women’s tailored shirts – especially if you avoid darts and other obvious details – can be almost indistinguishable from men’s tailored shirts; the main difference will be availability of a front pocket, length of the shirt, and which way the buttons button. Everywhere from Walmart to Brooks Brothers to Lane Bryant has basic women’s button shirts in the same shirting fabric that you’d see in the men’s department. Remember: smashing gender norms isn’t just about finding a different set of norms to conform to. A shirt is just a shirt – it’s all in how you wear it.

(Another note: for smaller sizes, there’s also always the boy’s department, or the husky boy’s department, in most stores. I hear good things about school uniform stores in particular.)

3) If you can $do it$, go custom
We have heard a lot of raves regarding the magic of the online custom shirt. Running anywhere from about $50 to infinity, online tailoring works like this: you enter your measurements, pick fabric and other details, and they custom cut a shirt to your body.   Sonia at Qwear makes some recommendations regarding adjustments you can make: take the waist in a little, bring the hips out a little, and (if you’re short) make sure they cut the tails a little shorter than usual. Lifehacker has recommendations here for stores.

Finally, we all know this: our community is the greatest resource. Where do you go? How do you fix your fit problems? Any recommendations we missed?

* You know all these words are a sham, right? When I say “man’s dress shirt,” just imagine me saying “the shirts you find in the department meant for bodies assigned male at birth.” When I say “woman’s dress shirt,” imagine me saying “the shirts you find in the department for bodies assigned female at birth.”

** Dressing room swagger will be the subject of a future post.

Ariel

Ariel Speedwagon is a fashion maven, dapperQ of the year, a storyteller and performer, and gets a lot of strange looks in the women's bathroom.

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