How-To Buy Men’s Shirts That Fit

I am friggin’ excited as heck to finally present our first how-to video!  In this episode, the kind and gorgeous Alaina guides the delightful and handsome Lauren through the process of garnering measurements that will enable dapperQ’s to much more confidently shop in the men’s department.

I selected this as the first how-to topic for a variety of reasons including: a.) there are a lot of well-priced shirt options at in the men’s department stores like Macy’s, b.) NOBODY tries on shirts in the men’s department or even takes them out of the wrapper — just ain’t done, c.) it took years before a salesperson offered to measure me, and d.) a whole new world opened up once she did.

Here’s some additional information from Alaina:

Friendly sales rep Clifford raises a knowing eyebrow and smiles when I tell him the subject of this blog. Macy’s (Herald Square, New York, NY.  According to Clifford, Macy’s carries plenty of 14 ½ s, but no 14s. “Michael Kors, Geoffrey Beene, and DKNY…the high end brands,” Clifford smirks. Calvin Klein and Hugo Boss too, but his department doesn’t carry them any more.

And what about us ample-hipped and voluptuously-breasted DapperQs? He recommends Tommy, Polo, and Nautica, all of which offer “full” or “classic” lines with generously cut torsos.

View it, grab your numbers with help from someone whose got two fingers, and head to your nearest men’s store where sales abound. Buy something, try it on, share with us how it works!

Of course, even if you buy the closest men’s size, it still may not fit right.  In the next few days, we will be posting a follow-up episode in which Alaina addresses common fit problems and tailoring solutions.

UPDATE 9/5/12 by Anita Dolce Vita: Many of you have noted that there are two important issues not covered in the video: chest size and neck size. Let’s start with the former.

If you are new to buying men’s dress shirts, you probably do not know the standard sizes of various brands. Since this post, we published a men’s and boy’s apparel size conversion chart. However, since there is no industry standard for sizing practices, sizes range wildly between brands. You will probably have to do a great deal of trying on before you find a few brands that fit you best. The size on dress shirts are based neck size (top number on the label), but some shirts may or may not list the corresponding chest size (usually bottom number on the label), which can be problematic for many dapperQs. Neck and approximate corresponding chest measurements are listed in our chart. As one of our readers suggested, you may need to go a up full size if you want to accommodate breasts and large chests, and then get the excess fabric removed by a tailor.

As for the neck. I’m sorry to inform folks, but it appears that, aside from slight adjustments, little can be done in the way of taking the neck “in” for people who have small necks and large chests. You can try classic women’s dress shirts without front darting. American Apparel sells a small selection of unisex button-down shirts that may be an option. Brooks Brothers offers cuts that have a unique back dart that somewhat resembles the styles found on Italian menswear shirts. Sonny Oram at Qwear suggests an affordable custom-made shirt from Ratio Clothing.

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  • This kind of basic, foundation/building block information is so vital and important. Thank you so much for these videos.

  • Awesome/informative/very smooth/etcetera. And despite the fact that I’m in Australia watching the progress of DapperQ – Lauren the Local Dyke is an acquaintance of mine. Because the dyke webs traverse the globe and there is no escape. Hilarious.

  • Awesome, wicked, perfect – Fracken finally! What a relief to watch an informative video on practical and applicable shopping strategies. Thank You Dapper Q.

  • I would also add that collar type is SUPER important in buying shirt, because based on your upper-body, head, and shoulder proportions, different collars will achieve different looks.

    I’m a firm believer that anyone dandying up their wardrobe needs to check out the Details Men’s Style Guide. It’s my basic wardrobe bible, and it’s good for more specifics about shirts.

  • Thanks for this post. I have to admit that I haven’t yet tackled the collar question. I try to find what looks good but I know there is a science to it. And I, too, love the Details Style Guide. If you got any hints you want to craft in to a post, or even a selection of hints from Details that you think are most applicable (or pictures of you applying a beginner, int, or expert look) I’d love to share them!

  • Hello,

    I have a very skinny neck…12 3/4 I am small….5’1 and have 29 1/4 arm length

    any ideas? Do you think I ‘ll ever be able to buy a men’s shirt? When I try on boys clothes, the sleeves are too short but they fit in the body. And when they fit in the sleeves they are too big in the body. I desperately need some advice.



  • I have heard of teeny necks a lot lately. The first option to explore is boys sizes (beware that the torso may be too short.) We need to come up with a way to be assessing all the existing brands and the custom made shirts to see who goes that small…off to the coffee shop to hatch plans for how we can conduct this exploration together…

  • It’d be great if you could do a video on the various cuts of mens shirts and how some basic womens shapes fit in them. I’m 6’2 with C cup breasts but only 160 pounds. I absolutely cannot buy shirts that aren’t “city”, “slim”, “body” or whatever word they use to describe fitted… It was really easy when I was binding but is certainly quite difficult now. Depending on the cut, I also tend to look strange in a club collar or any shorter than average without a jacket on..but that’s another story. I have noticed, however, there are some very basic differences between brands that can save one time in the dressing room and it’d be great if you could provide some feedback via video on anything you’ve noticed. I.e. Kenneth Cole are quite boxy shirts, Bill Blass tend to be a slimmer cut but also tend towards a long torso etc. DKNY, Calvin and Ben Sherman all are slimmer, even separate from their fitted lines. Even separate from those brands, an expansion on the sterEotypical or popular cuts for the season or year would be great!

  • This is the information I’ve been desperate for for the last decade!
    I feel like I’ve found the holy grail here, and it was forged just for me.
    Thank you thank you thank you thank you!!!

  • Would it be possible to provide a transcription of this video for d/Deaf/HOH folks such as myself so that we could read the info in text form?

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