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Altering men's dress shirts
Is it worth the effort?
birdmcfarland
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birdmcfarland
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Date: 5/17/09 4:49 PM

Has anyone spent any time altering purchased men's dress shirts? My husband wears shirts with a 17 neck but the rest of the shirt is absurdly large. I don't know who designs these things, but they sure are doing a poor job of it. He doesn't have an odd shape by any means and I think the designers think that all men have guts the size of beach balls.
He's starting a new job in a month at which he'll have to appear very professional. He has quite a few RTW Brooks Brothers shirts that are well-constructed and made of good cotton so instead of forking out to have shirts custom made, I thought i'd try and alter what's in his closet.
I began first by undoing the side seams and adding darts in the back (yes, I know, against David Coffin's advice)...which meant I need to take the sleeves apart and fit them accordingly...which means that the cuffs then need re-tooled. Then the pocket doesn't sit in the center of the left chest anymore. And the whole thing just snowballs and erodes the foundation of the shirt.
Is it worth doing this?

Karla Kizer
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In reply to birdmcfarland


Date: 5/17/09 5:26 PM

Not for me! I'd rather make a shirt from scratch than do all that. Of course, I even resent having to hem pants, so I might not be a good one to ask.

------
“Never try to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and it annoys the pig.” -Robert Heinlein and Ann's father. Thanks for the reminder, Ann.

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The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'



minggiddylooloo
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minggiddylooloo  Friend of PR
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Subject: Altering mens dress shirts Date: 5/17/09 5:42 PM

I second Karla. But truthfully I've never altered a RTW men's shirt, so I can't really talk.

But, I am nearing completion on a drafted from scratch shirt for DH out of Jack Handford's book. I finished the muslin and now need to fix the armscye on the drafted pattern but the actual drafting part took me about an hour on the computer. Making the muslin and adjusting things is what's taking awhile, but I hope to have a TNT tailored to him pattern in the next couple of days.
-- Edited on 5/17/09 5:43 PM --

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birdmcfarland
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Subject: Altering mens dress shirts Date: 5/17/09 6:11 PM

what kind of software do you use? I would really like to be able to make these from scratch, but I don't know if I'm deluding myself or not. I took a pattern-making class and am able to follow David Coffin's book. I've made some causal shirts for him that he just loves, but is it possible to make really professional looking dress shirts at home?
I question myself because I think of the years of apprenticeship that tailors need to complete before they are competent. I've only been seriously sewing for about a year and a half.

Tom P
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In reply to birdmcfarland


Date: 5/17/09 6:32 PM

I am generally very supportive of people's sewing skills, and I like to encourage people to try challenging projects. That said, making a men's dress shirt is a very challenging sewing task. I would much rather make a lined, tailored wool jacket, and I've made a number of both. The sewing just has to be so precise in a dress shirt; there's nowhere to hide the smallest mistake.

OTOH, everyone's skill set is different, and you may find it to turn out fine. You'll only know for sure by trying, and make a shirt is manifestly possible. People do make them.

A specific place I've had trouble is getting the interfacing to behave well, even using high-quality interfacing. Before I make another dress shirt, I'm going to get a clamshell steam press.

Regarding the alterations, I have a few thoughts. First, is he really a 17in. neck? You and he probably know this, but if he can get more than two fingers under the buttoned collar, he can wear a smaller shirt.

Not all manufacturers use exactly the same patterns, and he can probably find a more "tailored" or "athletic" fit if he shops around. That's exactly the kind of information you used to be able to get from the professional staff at a department store. If he can find someone who's been working in a Macy's or comparable store men's department for a few years, they can probably help. Maybe a more European brand or style.

Regarding the alterations, I definitely would not try a more ambitious alteration than to take in the underarm seams. I've done this on a number of shirts, expanding the SA by as much as 1in. at the bottom hem (for a total alteration of 4in.). I tapered it out at the bottom of the armscye. It isn't a perfect solution, but it works ok. I didn't even worry about flat-felling the altered seam. I wouldn't do anything that required any work at the armscye or sleeve. The altered RTW isn't going to be as good as custom, anyway. I would try that and see what you (and he) think.

I would not put darts in a shirt that has pleats in the back at the yoke seam. Pleats and darts generally do the same thing (giving you greater width in the shirt just at the height of the center of the armscye) and I would regard the presence of both as screaming poor shirt design. Sort of a faux pas. Perhaps that's just me, though.

EleanorSews
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Subject: Altering mens dress shirts Date: 5/17/09 7:37 PM

I would second Tom's thought about seeing if you can find a European sourced dress shirt. DH is very trim and finds European men's wear a better fit.

If not, search the web for trim fit shirts. I know there was a local store in our town many years ago that carried dress shirts with different types of fit.

Good luck!

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ccris
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In reply to birdmcfarland


Date: 5/17/09 8:20 PM

Pam from Fashion Sewing Supply has a shirt tutorial on her site. Scroll down a little. Off the Cuff

tourist
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Date: 5/17/09 10:18 PM

I just took in a couple of DH's dress shirts that he wears for ballroom dancing. Bear in mind that he wears a vest/waistcoat over his shirt, so the back does not show. The idea is to reduce bulk and, although he does have a tummy nowadays, there was still far too much fabric in the back. I started to take the side seams in and it just didn't work. So I went for fish eye darts in the back and it still didn't feel right. I ended up making a big, curved dart (a seam, really) starting from the corner of the bottom of the yolk, curving in toward the waist and then back out at the hip. They actually reminded me of some western style shirts when they were finished. If he is spending most of his time with a jacket on, this is one solution.

I used to really admire the fit of the men's shirts on LA Law, especially Corbin Bernsen's character - Arnie Becker. Why do I remember these things? I can't even find my sunglasses!

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Elona
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In reply to birdmcfarland


Date: 5/17/09 10:20 PM

Gee, hon, I sure wouldn't do it. I mean, what is your time worth??? The foundation of the shirt is the fit of the neck and shoulders. If I had to futz with anything in those areas, I'd give it a miss. Still, if it gives you pleasure or is an economic necessity, go for it.

That said, watch out for ineradicable stitching lines where the pocket used to sit. Ask me how I know.


Kathi R
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Date: 5/18/09 1:00 AM

I'm sure you can find some European cut shirts that fit closer to the body --- years ago I bought my husbands at Brooks Brothers...they had a section for European cut suits (7" drop from chest to waist) and shirts to go with them.

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2012 : starting stash 386, net additions 206, used 164, ending stash 428...I'm never going to get in front of this pile of fabric!

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