Wondering how your dress shirts can be tailored, and how much it will cost you? Here’s everything you need to know.
More In This Series
This guide is part of a series of articles about clothing alterations. Feel free to check out the rest of the series:
Oh, and you if you don’t have a go-to tailor, here’s how to find a tailor you can trust.
Even if you only dress up a few times each year, you need at least a couple of dress shirts that fit well.
Whether worn on its own or with a tie and jacket, a dress shirt that fits properly is one of the most flattering garments a man can wear.
On the flip side, a dress shirt that fits poorly will make any guy look sloppy and careless, regardless of how much he spent on this shirt or how great his physique is.
When it comes to wearing dress shirts, fit is paramount. It’s more important than fabric, price or color.
The best way to make sure your dress shirts fit properly is to get them tailored. Here’s everything you need to know about the process.
How Can Dress Shirts Be Tailored?
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):
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 than you spent on the actual garment, although that’s not a strict rule.
Dress Shirts Alterations Cost
This is going to vary widely depending on where you live, so please take these price estimates with a grain of salt.
Roughly, in an American city or town, here’s how much it will cost to get your dress shirts tailored:
|Replace shirt collar||$30-40|
|Replace sleeve cuffs||$30-40|
|Shorten sleeves at wrist||$15-25|
|Shorten sleeves at shoulder||$35-50|
|Take in sleeves (make them slimmer)||$15-25|
|Take in shirt (make it slimmer)||$15-25|
|Shorten shirt length||$20-30|
Again, these prices are based on my experience living in a few different cities in the U.S. Your mileage will vary!
Here’s a more in-depth explanation of each alteration that can be done:
The size (or tightness) of your shirt collar can’t really be altered, as it would require major surgery to other parts of the shirt.
If you need a slightly more snug or loose fit, you can move the top button a few millimeters to the left or right.
The collar can also be replaced entirely if it’s worn out, or if you want a different style (like a contrasting collar).
This is an uncommon alteration, as it’s expensive and typically not worth it.
Shirt Sleeve Length
Dress shirt sleeves can’t be lengthened, but they can be shortened using one of two techniques:
First, they can be shortened from the wrist. This is the easier and more affordable method.
Second, sleeves can be shortened at the shoulder. This involves removing the sleeve from the shirt, so it’s more complicated, difficult and expensive.
This method should only be done by an experienced tailor, and only if you’re worried about ruining the sleeve placket.
Shirt Sleeve Width
If your sleeves are too slim, you can’t fix that at the tailor. You need to buy a bigger shirt.
But if your sleeves are too baggy, you can get them taken in for a slimmer fit through the bicep and forearm.
This is a simple, common alteration that any decent tailor can handle with ease.
Torso Fit (Slimness)
If your shirt is too tight, a tailor won’t be able to help you, as there isn’t any extra fabric to add to the shirt. You’ll need to size up.
But if your shirt is too roomy, you can get it taken in at either side for a slimmer fit through the chest and/or stomach.
This is one of the most common alterations for men’s dress shirts, and it’s very affordable (and worth every penny).
If you have an athletic build (i.e., a significant drop from your chest to waist), you might want to add back darts to your shirts.
These are virtually invisible folds on either side of your lower back that create additional taper around the narrowest part of your torso, helping to produce that athletic “V” shape.
This is a straightforward alteration that any decent tailor can handle. When you get your shirt taken in for a slimmer fit, ask about adding darts.
In some cases, darts may be a better option than taking the shirt in at the sides.
Both casual button up shirts and dress shirts can be shortened by an experienced tailor.
This may not be an issue for true dress shirts, as you’ll wear these tucked into your pants. But if a casual button up is too long to wear untucked, you can have it shortened.
Just be careful not to shorten it too much, or the bottom button will be too close to the hem line, which throws off the overall proportions of the shirt.
Buttons will come loose, break apart or even fall off after heavy wear. Replacing them is easy and cheap.
Most dry cleaners have a seamstress who can add or replace a button for a few dollars. You can also do this yourself at home for free.
This is one of those alterations that, in my opinion, is worth learning how to do yourself.
Dress Shirts for Shorter Guys
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.
Download the "Tailoring 101" PDF Guide
Get all three clothing alterations infographics - dress shirts, jackets and trousers - in one convenient PDF file. Print it out or keep it on your computer/phone so you can reference it anytime. Oh, and it's totally free!