Why shirts bunch up in the back & an easy way to fix it

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By: Alterations Needed


Photo Credit: Alterations Needed


As someone with an intense love affair with dress shirts, there is one fit issue I find over and over again. Women's dress shirts are generally cut and/or seamed to follow the natural curves of the body, i.e. full at the bust and hip, whittled down at the waist. Where the dress shirt has been slimmed for a waist is dependent on the brand's fit model, and the proportions of the brand's average customer. So, if you are shorter than average, and/or have a short torso or waist, the pre-cut waist of dress shirts may not rest where your natural waist is. Instead, the slimmest part of the shirt (where the waist has been cut into it) may hit lower than your natural waist, perhaps even finding itself pulled across your upper hip. The slimmest part of the shirt will naturally want to rest at your slimmest part (your waist), so it will quickly shimmy it's way up as you move.

If you find yourself often pulling your dress shirts down, only to have them ride back up on you a short time later, then you know what I'm talking about. On me, this little tug & shimmy dance I do with my shirts results in a poof of fabric at my back, around my shoulder blades. I am both short and short torso'd, so I am all too familiar with this phenomena.

This bothers me mostly because I feel the bulk around my shoulders can make me appear to be slouching or hunched.


Photo Credit: Alterations Needed


Through discussions with my tailors over the years, I've been told about 3 ways to solve this:

1) Custom shirts – this is the pricey option, but your shirts will fit you to perfection.

PRO – The perfect fit
CON – $$$

2) Size up & tailor down – sizing up to a size that is roomier in the torso, your tailor can slim the shirt down to your natural curves with the waist in the proper spot.

PRO – No extra seams are made & slimming a shirt is easy to do.
CON – Sizing up means other proportions may no longer fit you well, such as shoulders, sleeve lengths, or overall length.

3) Add or extend darts – if your shirts already have shaping seams or darts at the back, a tailor can extend them upward to alleviate bulk. If your shirts don't have seams or darts at the back, a tailor can add them.

PRO - Easy fix and no need to size up.
CON - Extending or adding seams can look obviously altered on some styles of shirts or prints/patterns.

I care greatly about shoulder width, so opt not to size up, and instead usually take the back darting route. It's an easy and relatively cheap alteration that makes me feel much more comfortable in my shirts. I sometimes worry that the extended seams will look intentionally altered, but once it's done and I pick it up from the tailor, I forget the seams are even there.

Pro tip – if your shirt is striped or geometrically pattered, ask your tailor to match the pattern in the two darts. I forgot to do this the last time I had this done and had to take my shirt back to have one dart taken in a little more to better match the other one.

Below is an example of a recent shirt that just had its darts extended. Please note that this is a regular (non-petite) shirt, on very petite, 4'11" me, so the waist of the shirt was much lower than my natural waist, resulting in the "back poof". Also, the fit of this shirt was intentionally left oversized. In this case, my tailor simply extended the dart that was already present upward to the back yoke. This alteration usually costs between $12 – $16 with my local tailor, but if you are handy with a sewing machine, this is a pretty easy alteration to do yourself.


Photo Credit: Alterations Needed


Photo Credit: Alterations Needed


Photo Credit: Alterations Needed

I hope this is helpful for others who have ever caught a glance of themselves in the mirror and thought, "what is that poof doing back there?!".

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