Alterations 101: Men’s Dress Shirts

Want to Alter Your Dress Shirt for a Better Fit? You'll Need to Know Your Options and What It Will Cost You.

As I've mentioned before, dress shirts are one of the most important parts of any man's wardrobe. Especially crucial for those of us who work in a professional, white collar environment, the button down dress shirt is a classic staple that probably won't ever go away.

For the shorter gent, it's hard to find dress shirts that fit. If you can afford it, it's worth getting your shirts custom made or at least ordering MTM shirts from one of the many online clothiers.

If you can't afford bespoke clothing just yet, it's okay. There are plenty of great stores that carry sizes and cuts that flatter the shorter body type. In fact, I keep a running list of the best stores for short men.

Of course, if you buy any clothes off the rack, including dress shirts, you will probably need to get them altered. You may even want to get some of your old clothes altered so you can actually wear them.

What Can Be Done?

I've found that a lot of guys don't realize how much is possible in terms of alterations. They also don't understand that it is a very affordable solution. Whether you need to slight adjustments made to a new shirt or want to overhaul that old, billowy button down sitting in the back of your closet, it's important that you know which aspects of the shirt can be changed.

This graphic explains which parts of a dress shirt can be altered and how much it will cost you (click to enlarge):

Men's Dress Shirt Alterations

There are some other, more advanced alterations that you can make, but I recommend sticking to the basics. You typically don't want to spend more money on tailoring fees that you spent on the actual garment, although that's not a strict rule.

More in this series:

More in this series:

Alterations 101: Pants and Trousers

Alterations 101: Suit Jackets and Blazers

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  1. I am 5’6 and weigh 145 pounds. The slim fit traveler dress shirt from Jos. A. Banks fits me perfectly. I get compliments all the time on how sharp I look in those dress shirts!

  2. I’m 5’9 – 150 lbs. It’s hard, but I’ve found that ordering through online retailers like Bonobos or Frank and Oak – albeit expensive – is the only way I can get clothes that really fit my form. Well… that and Express for Men.

  3. I’m 6’4 and lean. Nothing fits me because the only sizes that fit me are for overweight people. Definitely going to look into tailoring my clothes now so I don’t look so sloppy at work anymore. Thank you!

    • When considering Tailoring, keep in mind that you can always take more off, but once something is too tight, its game over. Generally speaking you want an extra three inches over your chest measurement and about 4-5″ more around the waste and hips. this gives you comfort and your shirt buttons don’t splay, while at the same time giving you that nice slim fit look.

      Also, don’t forget the sleeves!

  4. Got a question about having a “billowy” shirt taken in on the sides: How fitted should a shirt ideally be? Should there be a couple of inches of extra fabric on the sides? Or should it be as fitted as possible without being too tight?

    • look at the manicans on store display those are almost always slim fit. add about 15% more room for a more comfortable it but still maintaining that slim look, as you dont want too slim.

  5. Cliff Kasozi says:

    FIT has always pulled it off even on those days im wearing the less likable shirt in my wardrobe. Brock cant be any more clearer.

  6. Hi Brock,

    I was wondering if you think it’s a better deal to buy a shirt that will need some alterations (sleeves shortened and torso taken in at least) or to buy a custom-fit shirt or try to find a brand that fits better right off the bat.



    • If it needs multiple alterations, it’s probably easier to buy custom instead. But going custom is a steep learning curve. The first couple will be really hard, but then it’s as easy as clicking a button.


  7. I am 6’2, weight about 210lbs, the shirts fit my neck, but the rest is so loose, looks like i am wearing a garbage bad

    • Have you tried a local tailor? For most it seems like you can either spend $125+ on tailor made, or an undisclosed amount on adjusting your existing clothing.

      Personally, I’ve found it easiest to buy something that fits my shoulders, sleeves, and neck,and get the rest fitted.

      Hope that Helps.

  8. In many cases you can go to a department store like Nordstrom etc and some of their brands will have “Made to Measure” and they will be able to measure you and create a suit specific to your measurements and will have very few polishing tailoring that is required afterwards.

  9. Can the cuff size be altered?

  10. Hi brock. I’m actually trying to shop for my husband and I was wondering about alterations to the shoulders. Too hard? Should I just buy new shirts?

  11. Lynda Janzen says:

    My god son is 6′ tall but is lean and long. To fit his shoulders he needs a 16-17 neck But then it is to large around. I have sown most of my adult life and have altered clothes for myself but never for men. Can I simply take size out of each side equally. I am considering sewing for him. He likes nice shirts and is really having a hard time finding what he likes that fit. He also wants to dress for the job he wants at work. So looks are important to him

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