shirts too wide- what to do?
February 18, 2014 1:45 PM   Subscribe

I am a petite woman, and I really freaking love my collection of button-down shirts-- I have about 30 of them in different cuts, sizes, colors and patterns. I wear a button-down shirt every single day. Since October I've lost some weight and all my shirts now look clownishly big. What is the cheapest/ potentially easiest way for me to not look frumpy, but still wear my beloved shirts?

Some additional info that might be useful:
1) A lot of them were loose-fitting to begin with, when I was 15 pounds bigger (which I'd say was average). So now they look ridiculous.
2) I'm pretty un-busty

Idea's I've toyed with:

1) tuck them in (look like a balloon)
2) wear a tighter cardigan (material bunches up)
3) considered taking all of them to a tailor but that might be expensive
4) Learn how to take shirts in myself...but I don't have a sewing machine

Any other ideas? Are there tricks to pin the shirts in the back that doesn't look terrible?
posted by redwaterman to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Shirts can be taken in fairly easily by a tailor adding darts. I had this done with some shirts and the results were great. Try talking to a tailor, it might not be that expensive.
posted by medusa at 1:51 PM on February 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

I think tailoring's your main option, or learning to DIY. An entry-level sewing machine capable of doing this sort of work won't be especially expensive, but the practice time to feel comfortable doing this kind of work might be prohibitive.

One option might be to note brands that you especially like and check eBay for similar shirts in whatever your current size is. You might even be able to replace the shirts with identical, smaller ones, and sell or give away the ones that don't fit anymore.
posted by asperity at 1:52 PM on February 18, 2014

Taking them to a tailor won't probably be that expensive, but I don't know what your budget is. It's certainly cheaper than replacing 30 button-down shirts, and probably cheaper than a sewing machine.

Since you aren't busty, pinning them in the back will just be moving the "balloon" factor to your boob area instead of the above-the-belt region,
posted by like_a_friend at 1:52 PM on February 18, 2014

Also: if you try to learn yourself, you may end up ruining one or more of your shirts and would have to have them fixed ANYway. Maybe take a few to a tailor, see how it goes, and make a decision from there.
posted by like_a_friend at 1:53 PM on February 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

My mother used to have an accessory, I don't know what it's called. It was a strip of decorative fabric with clips on either end. She used it to bunch up her shirt in the back.
posted by aniola at 1:54 PM on February 18, 2014

It's pretty cheap to get shirts taken in. Like $7 a shirt. I suppose it depends on the shirt and tailor, though.
posted by BabeTheBlueOX at 1:57 PM on February 18, 2014

Unbutton the bottom 1 or 2 buttons, and tie the "tails" - ta-da!
posted by Sassyfras at 2:01 PM on February 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

DIY for this is often very, very easy. I know you don't have a machine, but this is the kind of project that takes literally five minutes, so I'll describe it for you so you get a sense of how simple it can be, in casey you're interested in trying it.

1. Put on your least-favorite ill-fitting shirt. How loose is it on the sides? Pinch/eyeball that looseness with your fingers. Could you take an inch of fabric from either side of the seam? How about the arms? Mark it with a bit of tailor's chalk, or a pen or pencil if necessary. Now, take the shirt off and turn it inside out and using your chalk or pencil, mark that seam roughly.

2. Now, using your sewing machine, take the inside-out shirt and sew a straight stitch up from the bottom of the shirt (make sure both sides match), curving gently around the underarm area and meeting up with the existing seam perfectly just under your armpit. (Or further down the sleeve if the sleeves are baggy).

3. Try it on for torso fit. As is, the seam around the armpit will bunch. If it fits perfectly, now's the scary part: cut the excess fabric of your old seam off, leaving .5". Now try it on, and you'll notice that without the "double seam" the underarm area falls just fine again. Press your shirt along that seam to even out irregularities (as a slapdash seamstress, I cannot praise the effects of pressing more highly--it'll solve 50% of seeming mistakes!).

FYI, I'm sure there are plenty of tutorials online that have pictures of this process. Also, you can do this with tshirts, even with sweaters.
posted by tapir-whorf at 2:04 PM on February 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

I actually own the accessory that aniola is talking about, but I don't remember the name, despite lots of web searching for it. I found it at a Jo-Ann's fabric/craft store, in a display of various clothing-fit accessories near the checkout counter. It's 2 clips on either end of an elastic band, and is marketed to use to fit your waistband tighter in back by clipping onto belt loops and pulling the fabric closer to your body. I shall keep searching and post if I find it.

Until you get to a tailor, my advice would be to start wearing belts or try out the military tuck.
posted by telophase at 2:07 PM on February 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

I found it immediately after I posted the above comment. The Hollywood Hip Hugger is the one I own. It may or may not work for shirts; it depends on how tight the clips are as to whether or not they'd stay as you move.
posted by telophase at 2:08 PM on February 18, 2014

A tailor took in all my boxy shirts by sewing two long vertical darts in back, one on each side. This kind of alteration is very easy to measure and sew; in my case, the bottom edge of each shirt stayed the same. I think you'd be more likely to get a good rate if you have several done at once.
posted by wryly at 2:08 PM on February 18, 2014

A dress cinch clip may help.
posted by jessicapierce at 2:09 PM on February 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

oh man, I'm a petite person who loves button-ups and nothing fits me off the rack. I know this problem.

while tapir-whorf's method is correct for low end shirts that are only finished with serging on the inside (that looping thread over the raw edge of the seam) it's not how a tailor will do it for most nicer shirts. If your shirts have flat fell seams for instance, just a folded flat edge and stitching visible both inside and outside with no raw edge showing anywhere, that seam has to be totally taken apart, cut and realigned and pressed and two new lines of stitches made, and this has to be done along the entire sleeve/side seam from cuff to hem on some shirts. This is fairly time consuming compared to just a serged finish, and that's also why BabetheBlueOx's quote of $7 a shirt seems very low to me. My tailor would start at about $15/shirt for this service, more if there is any kind of extra fussiness involved. If I attempted it myself it would take me over an hour to get it just right, and I'm a pretty novice but not clueless tailor. Done right, this kind of alteration is not total entry level sewing, but it depends on how the shirt was made and how polished you want the end result to be.

the other problem is that taking in the sides doesn't really solve all fit issues in the bust and shoulder area. if you lost weight all in your middle and your boobs are about the same, great, but if things fit looser in the bust now, that's really hard to address without much more involved alterations. sometimes adding a dart can help but again, depends on original construction. have a professional eyeball your favorites in person and tell you how much work/$$ is involved. sometimes taking in the sleeve AND the sides is key and that will be ~$20/shirt. for a nice shirt that's totally worth it, for fast fashion stuff it's usually not.
posted by slow graffiti at 2:51 PM on February 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also, I would start with only altering about 5-10 from your collection for two reasons:
1) in case you lose even more weight or regain some
2) in case you get a bad tailor on the first round. do not give your #1 favorite shirt to someone who has not done impeccable work on a lesser favorite first.
posted by slow graffiti at 3:01 PM on February 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

N-thing tailor. Take 2 in. Have them done. If you like results go back with the other 28 and negotiate. For simple darts in the back you should get them for between $5-7 per shirt (round these parts anyway)
posted by chasles at 9:55 PM on February 18, 2014

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