Dress shirt with collar barThough not technically an element of a suit, the dress shirt is almost always worn with one.

For the purposes of this men’s tailoring series, therefore, we thought it would be helpful to include a list of common alterations done to dress shirts.

Below we’ve detailed the main dress shirt alterations that can be done in order from easy, tough and last resort in an infographic.

Further down the page you shall find a detailed breakdown of each alteration and its estimated cost.

You may also be interested in our articles on jackettrouser and waistcoat alterations.

Dress Shirt Tailoring – What Can & Can’t Be Done

Dress Shirt Tailoring Guide - Bespoke Unit

A dress shirt can all to easily look like a tent, or make you look like a stuffed sausage! Know what can and can't be tailored for that perfect fitClick To Tweet

Your shirt will often be covered by a jacket, which leads a lot of men to skimp on altering their shirts.

While they have a point, our stance is that if you’re wearing clothes, they should fit well, period. Also, there will come a point in the day when your jacket is off and you don’t want to look like you’re wearing a balloon.

Easy Dress Shirt Tailoring Alterations Graphic

Easy Tailoring Fixes

1. Take In Sides

Shirts have a seam on either side, and if it’s too big, a tailor can take it in for you. When you’re getting pinned up, make sure the tailor isn’t overzealous. A svelte look is one thing, but a shirt that is too tight will make you look fat after even the lightest meal.

Estimated Cost: $30

2. Add Darts

In cases where you need just a little bit of shape and taking the sides in would be too much, the tailor can simply add darts to the front, back, or both.

Note: a “dart” is an overlapped piece of fabric / pinched-in seam on a garment to bring in its dimensions. 

Estimated Cost: $20

3. Shorten Sleeves

Your sleeves should, when buttoned, hit at the break of the wrist and no further. If they don’t then your tailor can shorten them. Make sure your sleeves are consistent, along with your suit jacket sleeves so that the optimal amount of 1/2″ cuff is showing at all times.

If you want to save the placket you can have your tailor shorten the sleeves from the shoulder, but it’ll be more expensive.

Estimated Cost: $25-$45

4. Make Long Sleeves Short

If you want to turn a long sleeve shirt into a short sleeve one, your tailor can do that.

We do not recommend this unless you’re moving to an extremely warm climate, and even then we’re going to question you on it.

Estimated Cost: $30

Tough Dress Shirt Tailoring Alterations Graphic

Tougher But Feasible Alterations

Many off the rack dress shirts from fine retailers cost under $100, so we question the need to make these alterations unless you’re truly in love.

Retailers (including many fine ones online, such as Charles Tyrwhitt) now offer in many cases two to three different body fit options, along with neck size, sleeve length, collar and cuff options.

If you’re not sure of your perfect size then order an array, get the one that’s right for you, and then stick to that configuration.

As the old saying goes, “prevention is better than cure!” But if you’ve already made that purchase or want to see if an alteration is feasible both technically and financially, read on.

1 & 2. Replace Collar And/Or Cuffs

This is typically done for custom shirts (as they often cost in excess of $100 up to $500 or more!).

Collars and cuffs see the highest amount of stress in a shirt (ever notice how both get dirty and frayed in a way that the rest of the shirt doesn’t?), which is why haberdashers have been replacing them for decades. In fact, this is where the contrasting white collar and cuff tradition comes from. If the maker still has the original fabric available, then you can have it replaced with the same, but if it’s unavailable, you can always go with white.

#DidYouKnow - Contrasting shirt collar & cuffs originated when the original fabric was not available anymoreClick To Tweet

If this is a ready to wear shirt, replacing collars and cuffs is probably more trouble than it’s worth. This is because not only will you have to pay for the labor, but if your tailor has to also make the collar and cuffs, the additional expense becomes significant. At that point, you might as well just buy a new shirt.

Estimated Cost: $30 (collar or cuffs), $50 (collar and cuffs)

Estimated Cost to make and replace: $75 (collar or cuffs), $130 (collar and cuffs)

Difficult Dress Shirt Tailoring Alterations Graphic

Difficult, Impossible, And Last Resort Fixes

1. Let Out Sides

Unlike jackets or trousers, shirts do not have any extra material built into them. As such, they can not be let out in the same way. If your shirt is too tight, you either need to lose weight or get a new shirt.

Estimated Cost: N/A (impossible)

2. Lengthen Sleeves

Jacket sleeves have additional material built into them. Shirtsleeves don’t. If you’re one of those guys who’s a bit on the lankier side, you’ll either have to shop for tall sizes or go custom, cause no one in the world can lengthen your sleeves for you.

Estimated Cost: N/A (impossible)

3. Lengthen Shirt

Again, there is no extra material with which to do so. If your shirt needs to be longer, that means you need to buy a longer shirt.

Estimated Cost: N/A (impossible)

A Final Word On Shirt Alterations

As you have likely deduced at this point, shirts offer fewer opportunities for alterations due to their lack of material relative to jackets and trousers. With that said, it’s even more important that it fit as best as possible off the rack, because there’s less room for error.