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taking in a dress shirt

Well, hello there! Let’s talk about dress shirts. John has a closet full of perfectly nice dress shirts, but they are a little loose on him. Especially since he’s in a business casual environment at work, which in Norway is waaaay more fitted than the standard is in the US. So I volunteered to slim down his shirts and give them a longer shelf life (heh, literally). This is, I think, the third shirt I’ve taken in, if anyone remembers this “around here” snapshot.

I wanted to share this as a tutorial, so this time I took some pictures I’ll be posting separately as a how-to for taking in a men’s dress shirt. But now, the before and after!

john_shirt_front_before  john_shirt_front_after3

As you can see, John had a haircut in between the pinning and sewing of the shirt as well! With taking in a shirt you’ll mostly shave off from the sides, and there are some limitations. For example – the breast pocket has a tendency to end up a smidge too close to the armpit, and there will be some draglines from the shoulder to the underarm. The draglines are mostly from the flat curve of the top of the sleeve that is common in shirts, and something that can be fixed by taking the sleeve off and reworking the shape of both the sleeve and the armscye. I don’t think it’s worth to do that alteration that unless the shoulder seam hits too low, and the body and the sleeve is really big.

It’s a definite improvement from the front, but the major difference is the side view! The first picture is the before, and then where I’ve pinned the sides and a couple of darts in the back, and finally the finished after. Much better! This is the first time I made darts in the back. Even after pinning in the sides there was a lot of billowing in the back (which was John’s biggest annoyance with this shirt), so a couple of moderate darts did the trick to contour the shape a little.

The billowy before

Pinned in

Tucked in and ready.

I’m including the back view because I was a little worried about the darts showing. I’ve seen mens’ shirts with darts in the back, and they look perfectly fine, but I was still concerned about it looking too… girly? You can definitely see them if you look for them, but I’m pleased that they aren’t overly obvious.

john_shirt_after_backIt’s not a spectacular sewing project, but a very satisfying tweak that means John has a closet full (well, eventually – when I do this to the rest of them!) of shirts that actually fit. I’ll leave you with a slightly out of focus picture of John demonstrating how happy he is with his newly fitted shirt. I promise, he really is happy!


I’ll be back with a tutorial on how to measure and distribute what is being taken out, and tips for sewing.

  • Hi Birgitte, Awesome job, the shirt looks so much better! Looking forward to you tutorial.
    Oh, and that’s quite the handsome model you have! Ellie

    • indigorchid

      Thank you! I agree with you.. both on the shirt looking better and the handsome model! 😉 Thanks!

  • I’m very excited for this tutorial- my guy has been begging me to do the same thing but I don’t yet have the confidence I will get it right so have been putting this off. It would also come in pretty handy for thrift shopping- he’s really tall but then often when shirts are long enough they end up much too wide to look flattering.

    • indigorchid

      Great – I knew there had to be others than me that would be interested in how to take in shirts! It can be a little fiddly with the flat-felled seams, but it isn’t super difficult. Most of John’s shirts are lightly worn shirts from his dad that were in way too good of condition to just get rid of. Like thrift-store finds it is so satisfying to give them a new life. I hope the tutorial will be helpful for you!

  • As has become usual, a very nice set of tricks :-)!! …am looking for to the tutorial to use them to refit all those thrift store men’s shirts I buy for myself to intentionally make them look a little more “girly” :-)