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Altering Men’s RTW Shirts

ox4dpl | Posted in Fitting on

I’m wondering if there is resource material available to explain how to alter a man’s RTW shirt through the waist area by adding darts.  Any suggestions or feedback would be greatly appreciated.  My husband’s waist is small compared to this shoulder width.  Thank you.


  1. Palady | | #1

    Because I tailored more than a few of my husband's military shirts, since he felt the tuck method used by most in his unit's left much to be desired, I can suggest my how.

    Take out the stitching along the sides and a 1 1/2" or 2" each side of the bottom hem.  Also part of the upper sleeve if necessary.  I suggest you snip one stitch of the hem and take the all out stitch for stitch.  Bury these thread tails into the remaining hem.  Doing this allows for reducing the risk of the hem coming undone when you close the hem later.  Bury some of the thread tails at the upper part as well. 

    Husband puts on shirt, buttoning as he would in the wearing.  You safety pin in the sides using size 00 or 1 if possible.  Doing this may require you take more from the back than the front.  Shirt comes off.  You lightly mark the WRONG side of shirt on the pin marks.  Remove pins.

    Since the seaming on the curent RTW is usually sergered.  5 thread, 3, or 4 depending on the quality of the shirt, you can do likewise if you have a serger.  Otherwise you can zig-zag the seam edge, then do a strenghthening straight seam.  After seaming is complete, restitch the hem.

    To be certain the tailoring is suitable to husband, you can bast the seam before finalizing, & have husband again try on the shirt.

    Should you need clarification, let me know.



  2. Josefly | | #2

    David Coffin's book, "Shirtmaking", is a very good resource on fitting shirts. Though its focus is on making shirts rather than altering shirts, he has some very good advice about fitting. He doesn't encourage the use of darts in men's shirts. He prefers fitting to be done in the side seams, as Palady described in her post to you. He points out that shirts with darts often do funny things when the wearer sits down, with the shirt pulling up out of the trousers, then wrinkling and bagging in a funny way.

    Maybe your public library has a copy of his book. I bought it for myself for Christmas, and am just getting around to reading it. It's good info for men's or women's shirts, including fabrics, tools, and other things I wouldn't have expected.

  3. Teaf5 | | #3

    Others can explain the alterations far better than I, but I have a shopping tip for you: men's dress shirts come in significantly different cuts (even the inexpensive, catalog ones).

    For broad shoulders and a narrow waist, look for shirts labelled "European cut," "Slim fit" or "Active fit." These shirts will be at least 8-12" narrower through the torso than "full cut" or "regular fit" shirts of the same size. They still cover the broad shoulders and fit the neck and upper arms, but there is far less width through the lower torso.

    As an example, our 6'6" guy has a 6'9" wingspan and a 32"waist. That's very broad shoulders and a very slim waist. A size 17/37 dress shirt in a regular cut looks like a tent when tucked in, but the European or slim cut fits him perfectly.

    1. Palady | | #4

      Thank you very much for this insight.  It's been years since I shopped for a man's shirt.  When next i do, I'll be sure to explore this avenue.


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