How to solve this tailoring problem?
February 20, 2021 10:06 AM   Subscribe

People with boobs, how do you deal with a button-up shirt that fits in every way, except has a gap between the buttons in the chest area?

I don't want to size up, because then it'll be too big in every other way. Current fit means it's totally fine -- no gap -- if I'm standing still. But when I start to move my arms around, it gaps.

Shirt is 100% cotton so I'm looking for a solution that keeps it machine washable (so not double-sided tape, I guess). Add another little button there? Add velcro? An inside hook-and-eye closure? Shirt has a loud pattern so you could probably get away with something not showing if it's subtle. Help?
posted by BlahLaLa to Grab Bag (28 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Honestly, I just don’t wear that kind of shirt. Or I buy special shirts that are meant for people with big boobs. I’ve never found a satisfactory solution that stayed put - I can’t stand that kind of fiddling.
posted by peacheater at 10:09 AM on February 20, 2021 [20 favorites]

Best answer: it's fiddly, but I've sewn hook/eye fasteners and little snap fasteners into the gappy area and it works fine. You can also have a tailor do it for a few dollars.
posted by Morpeth at 10:13 AM on February 20, 2021 [10 favorites]

Best answer: The Best Solutions for Gaping Shirts offers a variety of fixes. If I hadn't given up on button-up shirts for gap-related reasons, I'd sew a hidden snap or two at the problem spot.
posted by MonkeyToes at 10:13 AM on February 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

What my mother taught me to do:

1. Learn to place a safety pin from the inside so that only the merest hint of silver shows.

2. Stitch a seam up the front of the shirt to between the problematic buttons, so that the shirt becomes, in effect, a pullover.

I bet your inside hook-and-look would work.
posted by Orlop at 10:13 AM on February 20, 2021 [4 favorites]

You could try Fashion Tape. I have small boobs and hate button front shirts because they never seem to fit right.
posted by XtineHutch at 10:15 AM on February 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I sew small snaps/press studs in between the buttons.

Some shirts from Duluth Trading have an extra hidden button there to prevent this issue - I love them!
posted by sizeable beetle at 10:16 AM on February 20, 2021 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I ask a tailor to sew it shut. It sounds like it will look strange, but it doesn’t. It’s GREAT.
posted by MangoNews at 10:25 AM on February 20, 2021 [3 favorites]

There's a product for this! It's for jeans, technically, but you could use one on a shirt between the other buttons. Instant Button! (More strictly jeans version here.) This was the only version I knew of back when I bought some, and it was great, but it looks like a lot of people have made versions of this since, so you could probably find one that looks good on a shirt. Some of these might work well!
posted by limeonaire at 10:37 AM on February 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

First solution: use one or more small safety pins, being careful to push it through only the innermost placket layer so it doesn't show from the outside. Depending on the shirt's cut, this can still pull unpleasantly at the bust.

Second solution: try sewing hook & eye on the inside of the placket, being careful to hide the stitches. May have the same problem as the first solution.

Third solution: give up on this style of shirt. Look for pullover- style shirts with just one or two buttons on the placket under the collar.

Fourth solution: teach yourself to see and try making the Cashmerette Harrison shirt, which is said to be no-gap.

At this point, I'm at step 3.5.
posted by ourobouros at 10:45 AM on February 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I have given up on these shirts in the past, but I'm ready to fight back against tailoring tyranny! Button-up shirts for everyone, even people with boobs!
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:47 AM on February 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

The safety pin technique doesn't really work, it always looks obvious. The only thing I have found to work is literally just sewing the whole thing shut from the inside.
posted by bleep at 11:10 AM on February 20, 2021 [5 favorites]

Fashion tape is perfect for this. Be sure to remove it at the end of each day, or the adhesive will eventually leave a residue.

Or sew in 1-2 teeny tiny snaps.

The money solution is to buy one size larger and tailor the whole thing, which looks amazing - but that’s an extra cost per shirt.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 11:12 AM on February 20, 2021 [4 favorites]

Wear a bra that reduces your bust size just a bit, like a sports bra if it’s not so bad it’s actually gaping.

But sorry, that shirt doesn’t fit, continue on the endless search for one that does. It’s easier to add darts than work around a too-small shirt.
posted by momus_window at 11:42 AM on February 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

Size up, and then take in the side seams. It’s super easy to do, even if you’ve never sewn with a machine before.
posted by MexicanYenta at 11:51 AM on February 20, 2021 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I’ve owned several blouses and dresses that came with an inner hook and eye or snap right at the spot where it would be needed if it were needed.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:13 PM on February 20, 2021

Best answer: The only workaround I’ve found is wearing low cut camisoles under the shirt and leaving the top buttons unbuttoned. Sewing the placket shut would mean I wouldn’t be able to get the shirt on and buttons/pins/hook and eyes were too noticeable.
posted by umwhat at 1:23 PM on February 20, 2021 [6 favorites]

Sometimes this is fixable by adding underarm gussets, especially if it fits with your arms down. You put in a square with the points on the original seams, so half the square is adding width around the bust and the other half allows more arm movement. Video explanation.

Very ambitious sizing-up of a fairly fiddly blouse, with clever borrowings. Probably way too hard for a beginner seamstress.
posted by clew at 1:43 PM on February 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

I size to fit my boobs and then get it tailored down to fit the rest. Tailoring was cheaper than I thought it would be.
posted by Anonymous at 2:08 PM on February 20, 2021

For years, I used safety pins (and with the double fabric, I can even pin so that no silver shows), but what I've found much more useful (since I wear a lot of button-up shirts) is a minimizer bra. They are what looks best when wearing button up shirts.
posted by jb at 2:24 PM on February 20, 2021

Fashion tape always works for me. It's sold at Joann Fabrics.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:28 PM on February 20, 2021

My oNe wEiRd trIcK that clothing designers HaTe: the sewn shut placket and invisible side zipper.

1. Buy a shirt that fits your bust.
2. Take the shirt to a tailor.
3. Have the shirt tailored so that it fits properly.
4. Ask the tailor to add an invisible zipper in one or both side seams.
5. Ask them to sew shut most the front button placket, leaving only the top couple of buttons buttonable.

Et viola, no more worrying about gaping buttons ever again.

This seems like it should be expensive but it's surprisingly affordable, at least in my area.

I got this idea from a designer shirt I bought to go with an interview suit, now I buy button up shirts from express and have them all treated this way. They can also adjust the hems to be more appropriate for leaving untucked if that's your preference.
posted by ZeroDivides at 4:47 PM on February 20, 2021 [4 favorites]

I basically now buy shirts that have the snap button already in them -- every button down shirt I've bought from NY & Co has them. For a shirt I already own, I have used Velcro. They make a fabric kind that is permanent and washable (cold water only, though).
posted by sm1tten at 5:18 PM on February 20, 2021

Best answer: Fellow chesty person here who wears button-down shirts: Hi there. I know and feel your pain. Some of these suggestions are more expensive than I've been willing to pursue… change your wardrobe and stop wearing those types of shirts? Buy new shirts? Get them tailored? Invest in minimizers bras? There's a much cheaper and simpler fix.

Assuming your shirts strain in only one area between two buttons and you’re not aggressively hulk-flexing all day, a small snap sewn in the center of the gap should take care of it. Metal snaps have a better hold than plastic fasteners. These are pretty strong and are nearly invisible, and are as easy to attach as a button. Four double-threaded stitches per side are all it takes, and just make sure you only sew through the inner placket of the buttonhole side to keep it invisible. I’ve also found that when pre-determining snap placement, I get better results when I attach both sides of the snap just a *little* closer to the shirt’s edges rather than lining them up with the buttons and buttonholes; that way when my shirt starts to naturally pull, there’s less of an obvious ‘tack’ between the buttons.
posted by ohcanireally at 6:32 PM on February 20, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I have big boobs and my workaround is to wrest a camisole. I don’t wear a low cot one because if I do I feel to sexy for work and I don’t like my cleavage showing. When the button strains or pops open I don’t stress because I’m covered. I bought about 10 camis of different colored, some plain some fancier but still comfortable. Silky is nice but so is a cotton latex blend.
posted by waving at 4:04 AM on February 21, 2021

Chiming in to ask for specific camisole recommendations, please.
posted by MonkeyToes at 1:43 PM on February 21, 2021

I agree that a snap is an excellent immediate response.

That said, I have minimizer bras that were very reasonably priced ($40-50 CND). They aren't fancy, but they solved all of my gaping issues.
posted by jb at 8:08 PM on February 21, 2021

(Also, they are extremely comfortable and I wear them preferentially on the weekends).
posted by jb at 8:09 PM on February 21, 2021

I have this problem and there is no great solution, really. Especially if you are above a D-cup and have a small-band-large-bust problem.

Some things that have worked for me that aren't tailoring, pinning or sewing shirts shut, or buying specially made "shirts for boobs":

1. Buying button-down shirts made out of flowy, less stiff fabrics (vs. the cotton poplin dress shirts are often made of). What you want is something cut with some give to begin with and fabric that drapes, so it isn't horrible unflattering and it doesn't just stick out from your chest like a tent. In the winter, the shops will sell these in silk (or silky polys). In the summer, they will be cotton gauze or linen. You probably need camisoles under them, because they are often see through. In the winter, I layer them over thin black turtlenecks. (I can link a bunch of examples, if anyone wants them and can't picture what I'm talking about.)

2. Men's button down shirts. This involves a lot of trial and error, but you might be surprised at how much better they work than women's button down shirts. The trick is smaller sizes in a SLIM CUT. They go in at the waist! They have narrower shoulders! IMO, they look better if they don't have the little buttons on the collar, whatever you call those and you wear them with a few buttons unbuttoned and the collar open. This is the only way I've achieved that "classic crisp white button down shirt" look and not been miserably yanking at my shirt all day. (I also often wear camisoles or turtlenecks under these so I just don't have to think about cleavage mishaps.) Unfortunately, I do have to roll the sleeves up. But maybe you are tall and have long arms!

RE: camisoles. My go to for camisoles is Forever 21 because they are <$5 a pop and I'm not spending a lot of money on simple undershirts I need to wear everyday. IMO, they should cost as much as cheap men's undershirts that serve a similar purpose. Uniqlo base layers are a step up, but closer to $15-$20 bucks a pop. I prefer the HEATTECH, even in warmer weather, but there is also an AIRism option.
posted by thewrongparty at 8:06 AM on February 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

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