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AdrienneSimpson | Posted in Fitting on

I really need help. I’ve tried finding this information over the internet, as well as in my own books, but I haven’t been able to find the help that I so desperately want/need, and I’m getting oh so frustrated.

I have been making clothing, mostly for women, and the fit for them has been fine, but whenever I’ve made something for men I’ve had the worst time.

I follow the sewing patterns that I get for men and whenever the men lift their arms the whole shirt rides up/gets pulled up.

What would the solution be? Do I change the shape of the armhole? Do I change the shape of the sleeve? Do I change both, neither? And if I do have to change either the armhole, sleeve, or both, how do I change it/them?

Please can someone help me? I’m literally begging (figuratively on my knees).


  1. margaretinma | | #1

    Do commercial shirts pull up the same way?

  2. simplypat | | #2

    I have made over 50 shirts for my husband. Men like different fit than women. I have found the best thing to do is ask the man to bring the shirt they like best. Have them put the shirt on and ask them what they may like different in the fit/style. Pin the shirt accordingly then use that to adjust the pattern
    Men's shirts have drop shoulders. If the drop and the armhole size are too small/short I believe the shirt will rise. Again measure both the shoulder drop and armhole size against their favorite shirt.

  3. AdrienneSimpson | | #3

    The men that I have been making shirts for (so far only two men) generally wear t-shirts - or some form of knit shirts - and do not have any commercially bought dress shirts that fit well, so I unfortunately don't have the option of using those for guidance.
    The men that I have been making shirts for are generally more muscular in the arms and chest, but I don't know if that would have anything to do with it. Then again I don't have as much experience with fitting men's clothing as I do with women's.
    What I am looking for is assistance with being able to know what I can do to adjust/modify my sewing patterns in order to help make them fit better. Any tips would be immensely appreciated.
    Thank you.

  4. cap4life | | #4

    The easiest thing for you to do is to have your friends buy a thrifted men’s shirt or cheap men’s shirt in their size, take it apart and literally trace the pattern from the shirt onto muslin. You’ll have a better baseline from which to make fitting adjustments than the patterns you’re using.

  5. AdrienneSimpson | | #5

    Okay, first off thank you for the suggestions. Neither of them have commercially bought button-down/dress shirts that fit them to help me in that way.
    Secondly, I think I might not have been as clear as I thought I was being. I have different sewing patterns, for men, that I would like to make for the men in my household, some of which are actually costume patterns. I was hoping to get some suggestions on how I can adjust those patterns to better fit them.
    simplypat, what do you mean by "If the drop and the armhole size are too small/short I believe the shirt will rise."? So far that seems to be the closest thing to what I am looking for, but I don't think that I am familiar with what the context of that is. Could you expand on that for me please? Thank you.

    1. simplypat | | #6

      Look at a picture of a man in a shirt. You will see that the sleeve top seam is not at the top of the shoulder but down on the arm. It will be anywhere from 1" to 3" below the actual shoulder point. This allows the arm to move freely and not pull across the back. The body width across shirt front from armhole to armhole is 3" to 4" more across than body measurement (measure shirt flat not around). When you measure (again with shirt flat) from sleeve to armpit, this should be from 1" to 3" longer so arms move freely. As someone suggested, It would be great to purchase a shirt at a thrift store or yard sale as a stating point.
      If you have already made a shirt and the fit is not great, add a gusset to the sleeve underarm. I am sure there is a online video for this.
      Let me know how it goes.

      1. simplypat | | #7

        Did this help?

        1. AdrienneSimpson | | #14

          Most of the time the shoulders are fine, and the sleeves fit well. It's just whenever he raises his arms the shirt body comes along, and if it's tucked into his pants the hem is pulled completely out of his pants even if it's "blousy". I'm not sure if I'm wording this right though. I was wondering what I would need to do in order to help make sure that that doesn't happen.

    2. joyfulstitcher | | #21

      My husband has narrow shoulders, short arms, and a thick chest. First, are the patterns that you chose suitable for the build of the men in your household? They might do better with a yoked shirt (a/k/a western style) than a typical men's button down. Second, you do the same thing for men you do for women: Measure Everything. Sleeve length. Shoulder length. Armcye size. Chest. Waist. Then alter the pattern accordingly. As another point, my husband's arms were so short relative to the pattern size he needs for his chest (XXXL), that I took up 3" in the sleeve! (I was sure I was wrong, so I remeasured before I cut.) Also, make a muslin. This allows you to address fit issues before you cut your expensive fabric. In short, the skills are all the same for men as for women. It starts with the pattern selection relative to body type.

  6. user-2578864 | | #8

    I wonder if David Page Coffin's book "Shirtmaking" might help. I don't have access to my copy at the moment, but I remember that the author touches on fit. (I would suggest getting it from the library because I'm not sure whether it addresses your problem.)

    1. AdrienneSimpson | | #15

      Thank you. I'll have a look at the book as soon as I can.

  7. user-7149427 | | #9

    I too had many problems fitting a man in a shirt. After many attempts I realized that, just like women, he is not just one size all around. A thick neck, very narrow waist, and meaty hands. So, a combination of 3 different sizes. I started testing for size using paper. I bought paper tablecloth material from the thrift store for about a dollar or two, for each size (dollar stores carry these also.). When I finished I had him try them on very carefully until we figured out which fit best. The neck was 46, the chest 44, the arms and body length was adjusted using the HBL on the commercial pattern. This I had traced onto the paper patterns, and then I adjusted the arm length. Also the shoulder seam was shortened to 38( but remember to add back in the sleeve cap by "walking " the circumference of the armscye to match the sleeve or your sleeve will become too short! )Then he decided he didn't like the hidden button placket so I got rid of that, and the collar was too narrow so I "borrowed" one from another pattern which had collar stays, and the side panels were eliminated in favor of just straight side seams. Lots of alterations. I had made 3 paper shirts and two fabric shirts from thrifted material costing less than a dollar a meter. But by the time I had to make the actual shirt in the fashion fabric, I had made so many practice runs that the finished product was a breeze. I learned a lot in the process and am thrilled to be making more shirts for him. I have not had any tailoring classes, all is learned from patterns and Threads magazines. Remember too, their buttons go on the opposite side of our shirts!

  8. user-7787735 | | #10

    This is strange- I have made around 100 shirts 75 period 25 modern and have only had this problem once on very fleshy actor (fat, particularly across the back takes up fabric and makes armholes too tight and length too short) and the shirt rides up when the arms are raised. I think it might be worth while trying a different pattern. My advice for the fleshy problem- if that's the likely reason is to make the armhole deeper and the sleeve bigger as well as putting more ease at CB (don't forget to make the collar and stand bigger to fit.)

  9. Quiltmaster1 | | #11

    I had that issue with one of the first shirts I made for myself. The sleeve cap is likely to be too high. The lower a sleeve cap, the more mobility in a garment. Men's sleeve caps are not as high or as rounded as women's. Also, Men's shirt sleeves are drafted 1-to-1 with the armscye. There is little to no ease. Hope this helps. Happy sewing.

  10. simplypat | | #12

    Yes, you should lower the sleeve cap and, maybe, spread the sleeve width with a pivot from the center of the sleeve cap. These 2 adjustments will add more flexibility to the sleeve.
    Also adding or increasing the center back pleat will increase mobility.
    Happy shirt making.

  11. User avater
    ruthyleee | | #13

    As far as I know, if the shirt rises after raising the arm, the armhole is too deep. If inlay allows, you need to raise the lower point of the armhole and lower point of the cap of sleeve.
    Moreover, a small fitted shirt should have a small armhole.
    Can I be curious about where the pattern was taken from?

  12. staytmentstyle | | #16

    The armscye (hole) needs to be as high as possible, narrow, and possibly even a flat bottom rather than the usual oval. Any tshirt worn under also needs a closer armhole or it will bunch under the shirt. It also means the shirt may get sweatier - presoak in vinegar to prevent stains after wear. This cut will give more movement and a slimmer look. https://www.parisiangentleman.com/blog/the-armscye-height-secret-a-crucial-detail is a tailor'sexplanation. see this:

    1. LAMovies | | #17

      Excellent explanation! Thank you!

    2. User avater
      thetailor | | #23

      This is correct. If the shoulder line isn't on the shoulder point the whole shirt tends to pull up. Maybe the person needs more width in the back too. You should be able to hug someone without the shirt back looking like it's going to split. You can always use darts and seams to narrow things for a small waist.

  13. ReinaldSherper | | #18

    One solution you could try is adjusting the armhole and sleeve shape to provide more ease of movement. There are plenty of resources online that can help guide you through the process of altering patterns to achieve a better fit. And if you need a break from all the sewing frustration, you can also look for a selection of suspenders. This is a good example - https://www.gentlemansguru.com/product-category/accessories/suspenders/. They have some great options that might give you some fashion inspiration.

  14. HannaJo | | #19

    One of the main reasons why shirts ride up when lifting arms is because the armhole is too low or too big. A low or big armhole creates excess fabric under the arm that gets pulled up when the arm moves. To fix this, you need to raise the armhole and make it smaller, which will allow more freedom of movement and less fabric bunching.

    Another reason why shirts ride up when lifting arms is because the sleeve is too tight or too short. A tight or short sleeve restricts the arm movement and causes the shirt to pull up along with it. To fix this, you need to loosen the sleeve and make it longer, which will give more room and comfort for the arm.

    A third reason why shirts ride up when lifting arms is because the shirt is too small or too short overall. A small or short shirt does not have enough fabric to cover the torso and waist when the arms are raised. To fix this, you need to size up or lengthen the shirt, which will provide more coverage and prevent exposure.

    Of course, fitting men’s shirts also depends on your personal preference and style. You might want a more fitted or a more relaxed shirt, depending on the occasion and your body type. You should also take into account other factors such as the collar, the cuffs, the buttons and the hem. You should try on different shirts and see what works best for you.

    Best regards, Hanna from CodeIT (https://codeit.us/)

  15. user-7787735 | | #20

    I find this post very strange- I have sewed for a living for over 30 years, 10 of them exclusively men's shirts-I have literally NEVER had this problem. Men are far easier to fit than women- unless a very exacting customer, and complex pattern I never bothered with fittings for shirts-it just wasn't necessary.
    Occasionally one would get caught out by someone far fleshier than the measurements suggested, but it was very rare.
    Are you drafting your own patterns? Because it sounds like you might be doing something wrong, like not building in enough ease-if you are using commercial patterns it's inexplicable.
    Also I don't recall any clients waving their arms above their heads at fittings (unless they were dancers, in which case I'd use dancers gussets).

  16. Crandon | | #22

    It's possible that the armhole is too low, which is a typical problem. In situations when the arms are raised, having an armhole that is higher provides for more range of movement. Check to see whether the fit is improved by gently lifting the armhole and see if it does.

  17. etersonsmith | | #24

    To address the issue of shirts riding up when men lift their arms, consider adjusting both the shape of the armhole and the sleeve. You might need to increase the ease in the armhole to allow for greater mobility, ensuring it doesn't pull up during movement. Additionally, modify the sleeve pattern to accommodate a wider range of arm motion.

    Experiment with slightly looser sleeves or incorporate gussets to enhance flexibility. Test these adjustments with muslin prototypes to fine-tune the fit before using the final fabric. This approach should help alleviate the problem and improve the overall comfort and functionality of the shirts you make for men.

  18. petergray | | #25

    To address the issue of shirts riding up when men lift their arms, consider modifying the armhole and sleeve. Start by adjusting the shape of the armhole to allow for greater ease of movement. A slightly larger and more ergonomic armhole can prevent the shirt from pulling up during arm motion. Additionally, refine the sleeve shape to ensure it complements the adjusted armhole, providing sufficient room for comfortable movement. It may be helpful to test these modifications on a muslin or sample fabric before applying them to the final garment. By fine-tuning the armhole and sleeve, you can enhance the fit of men's shirts and alleviate the issue of riding up during arm movement.

  19. User avater
    MikaGold | | #26

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  20. blitzarcat | | #27

    I totally get your frustration. It sounds like the armholes might be too tight or the sleeves too short. You might want to try adjusting the armhole shape to give a bit more room or altering the sleeve cap to accommodate movement better. Another trick is to add some extra ease to the sleeve and underarm area. Test it out on a muslin first to avoid wasting fabric. Keep at it—sizing adjustments can be tricky but totally doable!

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