Fitting a Men’s Dress Shirt

The party’s over, and the party dress was a smashing success. Back to the men’s shirt project! In the last couple of days, I finished off the men’s shirt muslin. I sweet-talked Mr Sewaholic into holding still long enough to fit the muslin, and even got him to model for us!

Before we get into fitting, let me show you the ‘finished’ muslin:

It’s starting to look like a real shirt! I have the collar interfaced and attached, one sleeve set in with the cuff attached. The front band is on and the hem is marked. Last night’s bedtime reading was Shirtmaking by David Page Coffin, so I’m ready to go!

I made a checklist of all the areas to check, in preparation for the fitting:

  • Check is the neck. Can we do up the collar? Where does it sit on the neck – is it too high or too low? Is it reasonably comfortable? Can he wear a tie?
  • Check the shoulders. The sleeve seam should rest just on the shoulder point, not creeping up the shoulder or down towards the arm.
  • Pin the shirt together at centre front. Do the edges meet? How does the body fit?
  • Check the sleeve lengths. Sleeves should hit at the wrist, according to the book it’s a matter of taste and personal preference. Sleeve width is also personal, so let’s check to make sure the sleeve is not too blousy or too snug. Can Mr Sewaholic lift and bend his arms?
  • Body length. Can Mr Sewaholic tuck in his shirt? When it’s tucked in, can he sit down without the shirt-tails pulling out? Can he sit down and raise his arms above his head? If it’s untucked, do we like how it looks?

Here’s the results of the fitting!

The shoulders fit, there’s just a little bit I need to pinch in to make sure the sleeves start on the shoulder point. I’ll have to reduce the back and front pieces as well to match the yoke.

On Mr Sewaholic, the only real problem was the neck. It didn’t meet at the front, even though the shirt fit in the body. The length was just right! He could tuck it in comfortably and move around without the shirt coming un-tucked.Sleeve length was just right, too! (Go figure, the easy things to fix didn’t need fixing!) The shirt length looked good untucked too.

It’s strange fitting someone other than yourself! For one, it’s weird to not know how it feels on. Fitting on myself is easier, I have a general idea what I like my clothes to feel like. On someone else, you’re relying on them to let you know how they feel. (I think Patty mentioned this in a comment as well..) Not to mention that men’s bodies are completely different.

Mr Sewaholic’s work is done, but mine is just beginning…

What’s the best way to correct the neck size? I was thinking of dropping the neck at the front by half an inch and re-drawing the neck curve. Then, I’d add half an inch to the collar and collar stand at centre front, 1/4″ on each side. Does that sound about right? It would make the neckline more comfortable as well, as it was quite snug.

What would you do? I’m hoping you guys can help me out here and share your dress-shirt expertise. Thanks in advance!

PS. Interested in more of the men’s shirt process? Read the rest of the posts on Mr Sewaholic’s Christmas shirt here:

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10 Responses to Fitting a Men’s Dress Shirt

  1. Tanit-Isis December 9, 2010 at 7:10 am #

    I was lucky, the shirt I made my hubby last summer fit perfectly in the neck, the only adjustment I had to make was to take it in 2″ off each shoulder (! silly beginner patterns with too much ease).

    Is the shirt sitting well at the sides of the collar or is it snug there, too? It looks like it might be a bit high, but hard to tell just from the pictures. If the width is fine then by all means, just make it a bit lower in the front, but if it’s snug at the sides I’d drop it a smaller amount but starting further back. It looks like the back is in a good place, though, so I wouldn’t want to mess with that. I’d also double check the amount to add to the collar by measuring my seam-lines after I drop the neckline, because my mental geometry sucks and I wouldn’t trust a half-inch drop to equate to a half-inch gain in seam-distance.

    Ha, look at me, as if I have any clue what I’m doing! Good work! :)

  2. indigorchid December 9, 2010 at 7:11 am #

    It’s looking great Tasia! I sewed a shirt for my guy early this year, mostly as a expansion of my own skills. Even using the smallest size, it still came out too big in most places! And… I still have to get around to making the changes and trying them, haha!

    About your neck-fitting-problem – my first instinct was to suggest some slash and spread of the yoke to add more width, but then I realized that will create the same problem that extending center front would do: mess up the grainlines. All the straight lines (which are so obvious with the gingham!) seem so neccessary and intentional, that veering off the straight path (sorry, couldn’t help myself!) could be bad.

    I’m thinking that in addition to dropping the neckline at center front, you drop it all around….? This way you add length to the collar, room at the neckline, and keep all the grainlines straight. Does that sound logical?

    I’m really enjoying all your sewing posts by the way, you’re doing a wonderful job!

  3. Nancy December 9, 2010 at 8:21 am #

    I would probably readjust the neckline as you said and then cut out a completely new collar piece. It’s hard to tell from this picture, but I think you might need to adjust more than 1/2inch on the collar. It looks like it will still be quite snug at 1/2. I would go 3/4 or even 1 inch and go from there. It’s much easier to size down a collar. Hope that helps :)

  4. Mav December 9, 2010 at 9:04 am #

    Can you PLEASE do a tutorial on how to make the sleeves start at the shoulder point? That is always my problem for all of the shirts I make for myself and I don’t know how to fix it.

  5. Sherry December 9, 2010 at 10:23 am #

    First I would check the collar stand actually fits the neckline of the pattern! I am amazed how inaccurate the vintage pattern I am working on at the moment is and had to do some fixes!

    If the collar does fit, try it on him again and mark where the neckline should be, you will see where it is sitting high. As Tanit-Isis said, you might need to take some out of the side neck – it might only be 1/8″ there and 1/8″ at the CF. Redraw your neck curve and measure it, hopefully it is 1/4″ bigger, if not scoop out a bit more until it is!

    Looking good!

  6. Scooter December 9, 2010 at 11:29 am #

    Another thing to check, I can’t tell for sure from the pics, but is the angle of the shoulder correct for his shoulder-slope? That might be complicating the neck situation too. It looks in the pic like he might have slightly more sloped shoulders than the pattern in addition to the neck sizing issue.

    I’m excited about this project–I love making buttondowns!

  7. Katherine December 9, 2010 at 1:46 pm #

    I just consulted my fitting book “Fitting and pattern alteration” by Liechty, Rasband and Pottberg-Steineckert.

    A larger neck has the following fitting problems: form fitting necklines and collars are too high all around, forced into tight circular wrinkles; the armhole may be pulled up against the arm hinge; the bodice needs a larger neck opening.

    For a larger neck, they scoop out the neckline all the way around, not just at the front. Then they slash and evenly spread the collar pieces in a couple of places, not just add length at the front.

    A high neck base has the following fitting problems: a fitted neckline is uncomfortably tight, rising to seek a smaller circumference,; diagonal stress wrinkles form between the neck base and armhole; chest and blade fitting lines rise at the CF and CB; the armhole seam may ripple; the sloped neck nees a larger neckline and more length at CB.

    For a high neck base they slide up the neckline curve at the back and connect the moved shoulder / neck point to the exisiting shoulder / armhole point. They then raise the shoulder / neckline point on the front piece as well.

    The collar piece is slashed and spread, with the apread all at the neckline edge and no spread on the outer edge of the collar.

    Not sure if this helps, it is easier to see with diagrams.

  8. Louise December 9, 2010 at 3:08 pm #

    I like Katherine’s tips for fitting the collar and neckline. Get Mr S to sit as if reading, eating, watching, gawking behind him, and so forth. And check with a tie. I agree that the whole neckline needs a bit of work before a final decision is made. Also, check the direction of those pleats on the back joining the yoke. Usually they point the other way.

  9. Tasia December 9, 2010 at 3:22 pm #

    Thank you all SO much for the feedback!! I knew you guys would have helpful suggestions. I think I’m going to make a mini-muslin again, just the neck area, to make sure I get the neck fit properly.

    @Louise: Good eye! I knew the pleats were wrong, the gingham is tricky because the right and wrong side look exactly the same… Will be fixed on the proper shirt!

    @Katherine: This is great! I think he might have a high neck base, I’m going to get him to re-try it on again to be sure. There’s definitely some diagonal wrinkling in the photos! Thanks for the very thorough comment.

    @Scooter: I’m glad you’re excited to watch me sew a men’s shirt, this is me out of my sewing comfort zone for sure! I’ve never done any sewing for my guy beyond pajama pants.. so this is a whole new thing for me. I’ll look into the possible sloping-shoulder problem as well!

    @Sherry: Good point Sherry! I’ll check that for sure. Thanks!

    @Mav: For sure! Once I figure out all of the pattern changes I need to make, I’ll write up how I did them, as well!

    @Nancy: Thanks Nancy, you’re right it might be slightly more than 1/2″ for it to be comfortable. I know, it would be much easier if I had to take it in!

    @indigorchid: Thank you! You’re right, the grainlines are important especially because I’m using striped fabric. I’ll probably end up enlarging the neck all around instead of just at CF.

    @Tanit-Isis: Thanks for the suggestions! Lucky you to have such an easy time for your first men’s shirt. (Guess you made up for it on the little girl’s coat project with the three muslins!) You’re right, I’ll see if there needs to be changes all around the neckline instead of just centre front.

    Thanks again! I’ll post an update on this project soon! :)

  10. Sandy December 9, 2010 at 5:47 pm #

    I’m with Mav, I would love to see a tutorial on how to make sleeves start at the shoulder point.

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