Losing or gaining a few pounds as well as purchasing an incorrect size generally leads to dress shirt alterations. Professional tailors are skilled to open seams, take in and cut away excess seam fabric as well as redistribute fabric from wide hems to skilfully enlarge a shirt silhouette. Do-it-yourself alterations are an economical way to tailor a shirt to your body type. Pinning and marking the specific areas for alternation is essential prior to cutting excess fabric. Once the pinned shirt is carefully fitted on the body, it is then fitted onto a dress form for final markings prior to alteration.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Seam ripper
- Dress form
- Straight pins
- Tailor’s chalk
- Flexible tape measure
- Fabric scissors
- Sewing machine
- Full-length mirror (optional)
Turn your shirt inside out and place it on your dress form. The term gathers, which are also referred to as shirred fabric, is added fabric which is gathered and sewn, creating numerous tucks and adding fullness to the area. The sleeve cap is the meeting point of the upper armhole and shoulder seam.
Button the shirt's front panels. Open the sleeve cap’s stitch seams with the seam ripper.
Ease in the upper sleeve by slightly pulling up the sleeve’s fabric. The fabric will naturally begin to spread as you continue to ease the fabric, referred to as open gathers.
Pin the open gathers with straight pins as you redistribute the fabric evenly around the armhole. Although the gathers have disappeared, you will have excess fabric above the pinned armhole, which will be removed in a later step.
Mark the excess eased fabric with tailor’s chalk by drawing a shaped dotted chalk line along the pinned area according to the sleeve’s shape. For example, if you have excess fabric at the cap, draw a shaped line along the sleeve’s shaped raw edge, not a line straight across the cap.
Measure the distance between the tailor’s chalk marking and the sleeve’s raw edge with a flexible tape measure. Use the same distance measurement for both sleeves prior to cutting. This step will ensure both altered sleeves are the same.
Cut away the excess fabric with your fabric scissors approximately a half-inch from the dotted line. This will ensure you have sufficient seam allowance for stitching the sleeve in a later step.
Re-pin the armhole with your straight pins and remove the shirt from your dress form. Carefully try it on and make sure the sleeve cuff is not hiking up. In the event it is, remove the pins and slightly lower the sleeve cap. Re-pin and try the shirt on again.
Remove the straight pins as you straight stitch the sleeve in place with your sewing machine. Cut away any loose threads prior to wearing the altered shirt.
Turn the shirt inside out and try it on. Although optional, it is best to fit the shirt in front of a full-length mirror.
Pin the sideseams with your straight pins. Sideseams are located at each side of the shirt, starting below the armhole. Keep in mind comfort and ease while shaping the shirt according to your waist. Tightly-shaped shirts will result in an uncomfortable fit when sitting or moving.
Pin the darts to contour the front and back shirt panels evenly. A dart is fabric that is pinched and stitched to remove, contour and shape the shirt silhouette. Darts are generally located below the bust line and are often used at the back as an added detail to the shirt. Carefully take off the pinned shirt.
Although darts are referred to in the remaining steps, this step is optional. Not all shirts have darts as part of the design silhouette and construction.
Fit the reversed pinned shirt onto the dress form. Close the button front placket, which is a term referring to an added vertical layer of fabric stitched to the shirt’s centre front where the buttons and buttonholes are located.
Mark the pinned areas with tailor’s chalk by making a shaped dotted line along the pins.
Measure the distance between the pinned seams and the stitched sideseam and dart seam with your flexible tape measure. This will ensure both shirt panels are equal. Keep in mind that you will need a ½- inch seam allowance for stitching.
Open the stitched seams with your seam ripper.
Remove the shirt from your dress form and button the front placket. The raw seams will be facing out. Place the shirt on your work surface and reshape the pinned chalk lines made in this section, step 5 if necessary.
Cut away the excess fabric from the sideseams and darts, leaving a ½-inch seam allowance for stitching. Carefully try on your pinned shirt and re-pin any adjustments if necessary.
Machine stitch the side seams and darts along the shaped chalk lines. Remove straight pins as you continue to straight stitch. Cut away any loose threads prior to wearing your altered shirt.
Tips and warnings
- Although do-it-yourself alterations save money, it is beneficial to hire a professional tailor to enlarge a shirt by removing fabric from an area and repositioning it in another.
- Look at your shirt for the finishing details such as topstitch or double needle topstitch. By using the same stitch length and type, the shirt will appear tailored.
- Tight stitches are challenging to remove with a seam ripper. Take extra time to avoid tearing the fabric while opening seams.
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