Shirt shoulder issues
June 15, 2015 7:56 PM   Subscribe

Every time I try out a button-up shirt, no matter if it's too big or too small, I get outward-facing ripples on my shoulders (like so and so). Why? And short of getting a completely bespoke shirt, is there anything a tailor can do?

I love, adore, button-up shirts. But I'm a woman, so it's been near impossible to find a) button-up shirts that don't gape, b) quality button-up shirts, c) button-up shirts that aren't plain black/white/navy, and d) button-up shirts without darts/princess seams/slimmest possible fit with waist flare so ridiculous I might as well be wearing peplum.

But anyway.

I've recently found companies making my ideal button-up shirts, but I've had to return all of them because a weird rippling effect happens on my shoulders. It ripples outwards, with a dent closest to my collar. This happens with every single button-up shirt, no matter what company, no matter if I order a small, medium, or large. I have no idea what's going on, and what the issue is called.

I found this thread talking about armhole issues, but I haven't been able to find other threads to corroborate the armhole theory. I found another thread, but it's for people who create their own clothes, so it's written in a lingo that I don't entirely understand.

Maybe I have shoulders that are too sloped? I brought it to my local tailor, and all she said was that the shirt was poorly constructed, which was certainly not true.

So, short of getting bespoke shirts ($$$ I don't have) or swearing off button-up shirts altogether (say it ain't so!), what can I/a tailor do? And does this issue have a more commonly accepted name? I've been googling "ripples," "shirring," "rumples," "divots," "dimples" for the past few days and nothing.
posted by facehugger to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Try posting on -- there's a whole section in the forum on fitting woes and lots of helpful people who have tons of experience zeroing in on what the problem is. As a general rule, wrinkles point toward the problem; that is, if it's pulling across the bust you'll see wrinkles pointing at the fullest part of the bust. But I'm having a hard time reading the wrinkles in your pictures, and I think you'd get a lot of help over at PR.
posted by katemonster at 8:18 PM on June 15, 2015

I've been working on garment sewing lately and I'm just scratching the surface of this problem. I have narrow, sloping, and forward shoulders, and those are three different things that can all cause the armpit wrinkles. I also have a "cup size" (not really cup size because this measurement is not the same as for bra fitting! but they call it cup size) that is smaller than the size for which most patterns, and I think also shirts off the rack, are designed, and that's ANOTHER variable that can contribute to armpit wrinkles. You could try suggesting to a tailor that you might need a forward shoulder adjustment, narrow shoulder adjustment, sloping shoulder adjustment, or small bust adjustment, and then see if they can diagnose which one it is by looking at you in the shirt. I'm not sure how feasible it is to do some of these alterations after the fact, but a tailor will be able to tell you.
posted by clavicle at 8:41 PM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

The photos you referenced show two different issues at two different locations, so it's a bit hard to tell exactly what you're referring to. I have no idea if either or both of those photos are actually of you wearing the shirts in question or just examples from around the web. There are a few different issues that could cause a bad fit in the shoulders, including the shoulders being too narrow, the neck being placed too far forward or too far back, and a number of issues that could arise from dart placement if we're talking about women's shirts. A real life photo would help a lot.

The issues in the photos are relatively minor though, so it may just be that you have very very high standards when it comes to fit. It's worth noting that, although paying $200 for a shirt doesn't make it well constructed or designed, a better tailor may be able to help where this previous one failed.
posted by BloodSpell at 12:17 AM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

are you able to post pics of yourself in a shirt that is giving you this issue? even if you have to go to store and takes selfies in the dressing room?

someone with a tailor's eye might spot something from seeing you in the shirt.
posted by sio42 at 6:28 AM on June 16, 2015

I love Thomas Pink shirts. Having one tailored to you might solve your issues, but have the sales person fit you for a size that can be tailored to you. Too large and the tailor is attempting to re-cut a shirt from the scraps of the existing shirt, and that won't work. Too small and there's nothing to work with.

"The Shirt" is supposedly cut to not pull and gape on women's shapes. (I don't buy it, personally, because they base size on the overbust and waist measurements, skipping the high bust and the shoulder and the sleeve length). However, Campbell & Kate shirts are sized based on a variety of body measurements and they might do it for you. They are offered in 24 sizes, which is much more akin to how men's button downs are sized.

Ella Hopfeldt are supposedly really great, but they only deliver to Europe, so you'd need a re-mailer and that would be a serious hassle to return.

Bespoke, however, really is your best bet if rippling that minor is vexing you. Hard to find bespoke suits and button downs for women (I've been trying for years in Chicago to find someone who will make me a suit); really hard to get a smooth fit across a woman's shoulder and chest and not boxy through the waist without accommodating the breasts with darts or princess seaming.

Gaping between buttons on women's button-downs (which sounds like the least of your complaints) is often because the buttons are not spaced appropriately for your bust. Respacing buttons is not really something a tailor can do easily (on some shirts you could remove the button and button hole plackets, re-cut them, re-attach them, but some shirts are made so you could not do this). Tailors can sometimes add snaps, hooks or additional buttons to fix gaping.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:14 AM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

I agree that you should post at patternreview, some of those ladies are true experts at diagnosing fit problems.
posted by HotToddy at 7:40 AM on June 16, 2015

If wrinkles occur on one side but not the other, this typically occurs when one shoulder is higher than the other. This is not uncommon occurrence (often caused by mild scolios), but yes, a completely tailored shirt is the only way to avoid said wrinkles if you have uneven shoulders. If the wrinkles occur on both sides, your shoulders may both be sloped (depending on direction of wrinkles). See
posted by modernnomad at 8:34 AM on June 16, 2015

You can test whether the ripples are due to sloping shoulders by tucking a shoulder pad inside one side of the shirt. If that side looks better, you might be able to rescue your shirts by installing shoulder pads. If you don't have any shoulder pads handy, you can fold a washcloth or whatever into a similar shape for a quick test. Fabric stores sell sets of shoulder pads for a few bucks; they come in several sizes and shapes so you can try a few. Good luck!
posted by Quietgal at 8:03 PM on June 16, 2015

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