Here at Chez B we’re a bunch of beanpoles. G is a little big boy, I run towards the scrawny end and my Mr. is just as bag-full-of sticks thin.
There are worse things, I know, than having a hard time keeping on weight, but it does make finding clothing that fits properly really, really difficult. My Mr. finds it to especially be a problem with work shirts. There are slim fit dress shirts out there, and he’s certainly bought them in the past, but the selection of colors, fabrics and treatments (no-iron anybody?) is extremely limited…and most companies that embroider corporate logos don’t offer slim fit as an option.
Lucky for him his wife is kind of a wiz with a sewing machine, so he’s not doomed to running around in shirts that look like well-pressed potato sacks.
If you or one of the men in your life needs a shirt altered in this way, here’s what you need:
Shirt to alter
Slim fit shirt you like the fit of*
Pencil, disappearing marker or other marking method
Thread to match the shirt you’re altering
*This is by far the easiest method. If you don’t have a shirt that fits, you can pin on the body, but it’s much harder to get even and to not have strange lumps and puffs in weird places when it’s tucked in.
For this tutorial I’m going to assume you have a shirt to work off of that fits properly. I highly suggest this. It’s not impossible without, but the difference in the amount of work/fidgeting to make it come out correctly is huge.
Start by laying your large, to-be-altered shirt on a flat surface. Lay your fitted shirt on top, matching the collar, shoulder seams and tops of your sleeves as closely as possible. Both shirts should be turned inside out to make this as easy as possible. It should look a lot like the sketch above, the blue shirt is the shirt to be altered and the white is the fitted shirt. Use a ruler to make certain that the side seams of the fitted shirt are as close to an equal distance from the side seams of the non-fitted shirt as possible.
Notice that you’re probably going to have extra fabric in the armpit area of the non-fitted shirt. This is one place that fitting a slightly lower quality of shirt is actually an advantage. Most high quality shirts (Land’s End types that you see corporate logos on for example) have topstitching along the seams. This looks really nice and keeps the seam allowance in place while you’re ironing, but it makes altering the shirt sort of a pain. You’ve basically got two options if your shirt has this stitching: seam rip all of it out before making the alteration and then decide if you want to re-sew it when you’re done (probably necessary to keep from having a weird janky part at the cuff), or, warn the shirt’s owner that there’s going to be a teeny little imperfection in the sleeve seam, on the underside of their arm somewhere around their bicep that nobody will ever notice. You may want to discuss this with them before you take your scissors to their shirt.
No topstitching on your shirt? No problem.
Once your shirts are lined up with the side seams as evenly spaced as possible and the armholes lined up as well as you can, use your marking implement to trace the outline of the fitted shirt onto your non-fitted shirt. Make sure that whatever you’re using to mark isn’t going to show/bleed through the fabric as the line you’re making is going to be where you stitch. You don’t want a giant blue pen mark on your shirt if you wind up sewing a hair wide of your mark!
Remove your fitted shirt from on top of your non-fitted shirt and smooth any wrinkles out. Make certain that the front and back of the non-fitted shirt are laying flat together with the side seams not pulled one way or another and pin through your marks. Or, if you’re brave/lazy like me, get out your scissors without pinning. MAKE SURE TO LEAVE FABRIC FOR YOUR SEAM ALLOWANCE. Do not cut on the line you just drew, doing so will make a much slimmer shirt than you’re intending. When you get to the portion of your shirt where you are happy with the original seam (in the sleeves) you will need to stop cutting excess off before your line meets with the original seam.
Basically, if you’re going to be using the same seam allowance as the manufacturer did (most likely if you’re using a serger) you’ll just taper off into their seam allowance, but if you have a larger seam allowance (5/8″ for example) you’ll somewhat have to imagine it extending beyond the edge of the fabric so your seam will meet up with the original seam.
Sew along the line you traced, back stitching at the start and finish of your seams*. Press and wear! If your original shirt had topstitching, I recommend going back and topstitching the portion you’ve altered. That tiny little pleat where your seams meet underneath the arm isn’t going to give away the fact the shirt is altered, but if part of the sleeve has topstitching and part doesn’t…that will.
*If you don’t have a serger, you can limit the amount of fabric fraying in your seam allowance by zig zag stitching the edge of your fabric.
I altered a couple of my Mr.’s shirts this way the other day and he’s absolutely thrilled with how they turned out. No more stuffing wads of excess fabric into his waistband and they look much nicer on him.
As always, if you have any questions about any of this, please don’t hesitate to contact me and I’ll do my best to help you out!