How a Dress Shirt Should Fit

A poor fitting dress shirt not only looks unprofessional, it can be very unflattering, uncomfortable, and gives the wearer a sloppy un-kept appearance. In business, the sharp refined dresser is typically taken seriously and respected by clients and associates, and fit is at the top of the list of important factors. Essentially, a perfect fitting shirt will ensure your body type looks its best with no need for constant re-tucking or fiddling with your collar, and allows you to concentrate on work and enjoy after-hours socializing with ease.


Collar: The collar of the shirt is one of the most noticeable parts of a dress shirt, and can be very unattractive when the fit isn’t just right. Too tight, and the skin hangs over the side and gives a choking appearance.  Too loose, and the collar and tie knot look sloppy. Just right is when the collar gently touches the skin all the way around but still has a two-finger leeway between fabric and the neck when the collar is closed.

Sleeve Length: Total sleeve length should hit just past the wrist where the palm begins.

Sleeves: Wearing too tight of sleeves not only looks ridiculous, it is very uncomfortable with any subtle movement in your shoulders or elbows and can cause tears to the fabric and seams. Too loose of sleeves with incorrect armhole size can cause the shirt to untuck easily while raising your arms; it also gives a blousy sloppy appearance and adds unnecessary wrinkles and folds that are very unflattering.  The perfect sleeve should have 1-2 inches of excess fabric with arms hanging straight, with the majority of excess fabric near the upper arm tapering down evenly toward the cuff. This allows for a clean tailored appearance and optimal comfortable movement.

Cuffs: The sleeve cuffs should end where the palm begins and just beyond the wrist bone, and should have a nice secure fit to keep it in the correct place, but not too tight to appear and feel restrictive of normal air flow. It’s also important that arm movement doesn’t cause too much fluctuation in cuff placement. Also, if you wear a medium to large size watch, we recommend adding watch allowance of ¼ to ½ inch to that particular cuff.

Fabric Fit in Chest/Torso: The perfect fitting shirt around the chest and torso area shouldn’t be too tight or too loose.  A good test is the pull away: once buttoned, the fabric excess in the chest and torso should not exceed  3-4 inches when pulled away from your stomach or chest area. If you have a sway back due to an athletic build, adding darts to the backside of the shirt half way down the middle section below the shoulder blade to the hips, will keep the fabric from looking bunchy when tucked in, and is recommended for solid colored shirts only. You want the shirt to look tailored and neat, but should not be tightly fitted against the skin under any circumstances.

Shoulder Seam: A proper fit would place the shoulder seam at the outer corner of the shoulder bone. If the seam hangs over the shoulder, it’s a very obvious and awful looking “droopy shoulder” look, and unfortunately a common one. Most companies want to reach the masses in their cuts, and this is one of the negative aspects of mass-produced dress shirts. Also, the shoulder fabric around the collar should lay flat without any rolls or folds.

Shirt Length: For the sake of neatness, the shirt should be long enough to remain tucked in during sitting/bending/or raising your arms, but not too long causing an unattractive bulky look in the hips and buttocks area of the pants when tucked in. So it’s important to follow this guideline: the length of the shirt should end approximately 4-5 inches below the beltline when untucked.