Tailoring Tales: Getting your shirt taken in

Every guy has these shirts – shirts that are just too damn big. They look alright on the hanger, but when you put them on, they look more like a night gown than a shirt. So when you walk around with them untucked you look like a 12-year old kid who was let out of the house by an exasperated parent. It’s even worse when you tuck it in, because there is so much fabric that your midsection looks like an accordion. Shortly after jamming all the fabric into your pants, you raise your arm and immediately do a strong flying squirrel imitation – only to discover that when you lower your arm the fabric you stuffed into your pants is now forming a curious “poof” around your waist, usually found only on middle aged women and freshly baked muffins. So for all you guys, this post is for you.

I bought a bunch of English Laundry dress shirts from Nordstrom Rack last winter when they were on sale for about a third of the normal price (Super quick review: Very, very, very baroque and busy, but the shirts are pretty nice. Shoulder is a tad big, and arms a tad long, but overall I like.). I had picked up one of their super fancy shirts out before, and wanted to try out their dress shirts because I how the detailing spices up my button ups. Unfortunately, like most dress shirts nowadays that are not “slim fit”, the shirts were just ridiculously large around the waist. I tried tucking them in, but it was just no hope and after wearing them out a few times they sat forlorn and lost in my closet. Fortunately for me, I found an excellent tailor in the intervening time who is now my regular clothes alteration guy as well as my friend. Robert over at European Tailors located right in downtown Bellevue will just as easily fix your pants as well as your shirts and I delivered a clutch (four to be exact) of shirts to him to slim down: 3 English Laundry shirts and 1 vintage Brooks Brothers shirt.

Bringing Sexy (and Slim) Back

I kept 1 shirt unaltered so I could show you guys the comparison between the unaltered shirt and the slimmed down shirt. Below are two shots showing the overall width of the shirt while laying down. This a good approximation of your waist circumference.

Unaltered = ~23 inches Altered = ~19 inches
Unaltered shirt  width Altered shirt width

This means that at least four inches around the waist was taken off! What Robert did was measure my waist and add five inches as his approximate target when reducing the shirt waist. That gives enough give around the waist not to be skin tight. But how much of a difference does that make in the shirt? Now check out some shots showing the original shirt on me, with my pulling on it to show how much slack is present. The first is me with my hands up. Note the shirt is much wider than my hips. Looking sexy…NOT 🙂

Unaltered shirt arms up

Now check out me pulling on the front and back. Note how I look pregnant and vaguely Quasimodo like respectively:

Unaltered shirt pulling on front

Unaltered shirt pulling on back

That is some serious extra fabric. Now let’s check out the shirt after it’s been taken in:

Altered shirt arms up

Yeah Boooooooooyyyeeee! Note the trim silhouette. and my torso actually looking v-shaped…which if you’re a guy is a Good Thing ™.

Altered shirt pulling on front

Oh yes, the delivery went fine! A healthy baby girl.

Altered shirt pulling on back

Now I just look like I’m scratching my back.

How’d He Do that?

Most shirts have these things called pleats. Yes, that’s right, just like the ones on your pants. And they have the same purpose: to make the overall circumference of a piece of clothe larger in one area, while hiding the fabric in a smaller diameter in another. On pants the pleats mean your waist is small and your ass and thighs are big (well, that’s the idea. Most guys are just big everywhere and the pleats look horrible). On shirts, the pleats mean your shoulders and upper back are small, but your torso and waist are bigger. You can have 3 variations of pleats: 2 in the center back, 2 on the edge of the upper back, or you can pleats folded in the middle-lower back. Pleats in the middle of the back are also called darts. I’m not going to get into a deep discussion regarding this, but purely from a tailoring perspective, the order that I listed the pleats in is the order in difficulty to make, with the center back pleats being the most work. So that’s right, darts are the cheapest to make. Now right now, all you guys with expensive shirts, go take a look at your clothes. Take a minute to weep at the corners that were cut in the manufacturing. Go on, I’ll still be here. I already did my crying.

So what a crappy tailor could do is cut darts into the shirt and call it a day. Probably charge you more for the favor. But a real tailor will take out the fabric from the sides of the shirt, leaving the fabric in the middle of the shirt untouched. Don’t get what I’m talking about? Here is a picture of the seam under the unaltered shirt:

Unaltered shirt seam

Note the fully complete English Laundry logo. This is important because now you’ll be looking at the altered shirt seam:

Altered shirt seam

Now look at the logo. Notice how part of the word Laundry was cut off. Some of you might be crying foul here, but look: I don’t give a shit about logos and neither should you. If it’s someplace really noticeable having it be fucked up is a problem, but this is on the side of the shirt under your arm. Get over it. So moving on, this is where the fabric to slim down the shirt was taken out. There is no logo on the other side of the shirt, but an equal amount of fabric was removed there to obtain the slim effect.

What Shirts Should I Do This On?

Do this on shirts that are 1) worth salvaging and 2) worth the expense. For point 1), this means a few things:

  • Is the shirt not made out of shit material?
  • Do the arm holes ride high and fit snugly to your arm?
  • Does the shoulder line rest directly on your shoulder line/sag just past?

If the answer is yes to those things, then ask yourself one more question: How much is the shirt worth? Because taking in your shirt your shirt is going to cost at least $15. Joe’s cost is close to mine per shirt. If you’re having your tailor take in the $10 Kohl’s shirt you got with super big arm holes that hang down to your stomach, you’re wasting your money.

Now go forth and stop looking like the Goddamn Batman.


2 thoughts on “Tailoring Tales: Getting your shirt taken in

  1. I just ordered 3 Steve Alan shirts on Amazon, they were roughly 60-70% off. Anyway they fit pretty good but there is just too much “volume” around the gut and back, the shirt kind of floats a bit too much. Happy to see people like you are getting quality alterations done. I don’t mind paying 20 buck a shirt if the tailor can get the shirt fitting nicely. I’ve never done this before so hoping it works out!

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