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How-to guide: basic tailoring

VMan

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A forum member PM'd me about how to take in the sides of a shirt if it fits too baggy. Â I figured this would help a few more people, since its a very basic thing to do (I learned in an afternoon). Â (he had asked how to do a shirt with side gussetts) As far as gussetted seams, there's nothing you can do, unless you cut out the gusset and re-attach it. Â My aunt is a skilled seamstress so she taught me the basic techniques. Basically, what I do is turn the shirt inside out and lay it flat. Â I then use a pencil and trace the line on the side for the general shape I want the shirt to take. Â You're stuck with width near the armpits, but you can change anything below the arms. Â I measure the shirt at the middle to get the general width of the shirt (usually about 23"). Â I want mine to be 39" total, so 19.5" while laying flat. Â I subtract the 19.5" 23" (or whatever it is), and divide that number by two to find out what I need to mark off on each side. With this you'll end up with a simple seam. Â I don't mind this - hardly anyone notices and if you're arms are at your side (or if you're wearing a jacket) its completely covered up.
When you get more skilled, you can do a flat-felled seam (like most commercial shirts have). Â It takes a bit more work and time, but it looks like the original seam. You can then trim the excess material, or fold it over and re-sew it to make a nice finished edge inside. Turn the shirt inside out and Voila.
 

j

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Excellent post.

I would add that to make an easy finished seam, leave the shirt 'outside-out' and sew the sides, leaving a 1/4" extra on each side. Then cut along the seam leaving a 1/4" or so of fabric. Then turn the shirt inside out and sew inside that seam enclosing the cut edges in your double seam. It will look the same on the outside but the inside will look cleaner and it will be less likely to unravel.

Maybe we should do some of these for the basic do it yourself tailoring and then put them together into a HOF.
 

A Harris

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Interesting. Another way is to make two simple darts at the back of the shirt. Very easy to do and it looks fine even when you are not wearing a jacket.
 

quartzguy

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@ A Harris Can you please describe what a DARTis, where I can find DARTS, and the process of using(installing) them on shirts. I have heard many mentions of them but I've never heard them talked about in any read detail. thanks, Joseph
 

gregory

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You're stuck with width near the armpits, but you can change anything below the arms. Â
Dear VersaceMan: Thanks for this
I was wondering why the portion above the arms cannot be modified. Can't you also cut above the arms, and reduce the blousiness of the shirt sleeves if required?
 

VMan

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You're stuck with width near the armpits, but you can change anything below the arms. Â
Dear VersaceMan: Thanks for this
I was wondering why the portion above the arms cannot be modified. Can't you also cut above the arms, and reduce the blousiness of the shirt sleeves if required?
Well, anything under the arms is easy to do because all it requires you to do is sew in a straight line. If you wanted to change the upper measurments, you'd have to completely remove the arms and then make the modifications to the fabric, and finally re-attach the arms. By that time, it's likely the balance of the shirt would be thrown off, and everything wouldn't line up exactly as it did before.
 

j

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Can you please describe what a DARTis, where I can find DARTS, and the process of using(installing) them on shirts. I have heard many mentions of them but I've never heard them talked about in any read detail.
A "dart" is not really an item you find, it's a procedure you do to the shirt. Basically you will turn the shirt inside out and fold it nearly in half lengthwise. You then sew a curved line into the fold and when you turn it back right side out you have a dart in the fabric. You then iron out the dart flat and it looks like a really long sharp football shape of fabric on the inside, or a sort of gothic arch shape if you do it all the way to the tail of the shirt. Typically this is done with two of them in the back of the shirt. It's a lot more common in women's blouses. A diagram would make this more easy to understand but it's a simple procedure. The problem I see is that it probably would look weird if you had stripes or another pattern on the shirt because the pattern would not line up.
 

VMan

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The problem I see is that it probably would look weird if you had stripes or another pattern on the shirt because the pattern would not line up.
I have a white shirt that has dark blue pinstripes, and it came with darts. It looks just fine.
 

armscye

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I've had at least 100 shirts tapered, since I wear a 17-37 and have a 33 inch waist. Here's what I've found:

1. On severely tapered dress shirts with slim sleeves (recently, a couple of Katherine Hammett), he adds two back darts only. If there are pleats in the horizontal yoke, he matches the position of the darts to the pleats for a visually pleasing effect. Each dart "grabs" about a half-inch fabric, so the total reduction in shirt body diameter is 4 x 1/2 inch or 2 inches.

2. On moderately tapered shirts (recent Kenneth Cole) with trim sleeves, he takes about 2 inches out of each side seam up to the armpit, as well as the darts. This and all shirt alterations is marked by pinning the shirt with me wearing it.

3. On blousy Brooks Bros type shirts, the sleeves need to be thinned down as well.

4. On a couple of sporting type shirts that were purchased in XXL, he has used a total of four darts in the rear, plus the side seam alterations. This is not uncommon with women's clothing, but is used only when absolutely necessary with men's shirts.

5. In my opinion, matching the single or double needle seam of the sleeve is certainly desirable in the side seams. but the darts are always simple machine lockstitching, never felled as that would thicken them by a layer of fabric.

6. Maybe I'm getting the deal of the century, but I pay $100 for each 8 shirts tapered in this manner. They look good enough that I have not been swayed by the lure of custom shirts in more than a decade.
 

armscye

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Oops. In post above, I somehow deleted the initial reference to "here's how my Portugal-trained tailor does my shirts." That;s the "he" in the text.
 

VMan

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I've had at least 100 shirts tapered, since I wear a 17-37 and have a 33 inch waist. Here's what I've found:

1. On severely tapered dress shirts with slim sleeves (recently, a couple of Katherine Hammett), he adds two back darts only. If there are pleats in the horizontal yoke, he matches the position of the darts to the pleats for a visually pleasing effect. Each dart "grabs" about a half-inch fabric, so the total reduction in shirt body diameter is 4 x 1/2 inch or 2 inches.

2. On moderately tapered shirts (recent Kenneth Cole) with trim sleeves, he takes about 2 inches out of each side seam up to the armpit, as well as the darts. This and all shirt alterations is marked by pinning the shirt with me wearing it.

3. On blousy Brooks Bros type shirts, the sleeves need to be thinned down as well.

4. On a couple of sporting type shirts that were purchased in XXL, he has used a total of four darts in the rear, plus the side seam alterations. This is not uncommon with women's clothing, but is used only when absolutely necessary with men's shirts.

5. In my opinion, matching the single or double needle seam of the sleeve is certainly desirable in the side seams. but the darts are always simple machine lockstitching, never felled as that would thicken them by a layer of fabric.

6. Maybe I'm getting the deal of the century, but I pay $100 for each 8 shirts tapered in this manner. They look good enough that I have not been swayed by the lure of custom shirts in more than a decade.
I'm in the same boat as you, I'm a 17-35 and have a 31" waist.

Oh, and are Katherine Hammett shirts of good quality? The local Marshalls (low-price retailer of past season clothing) by my house had few dress shirts made by her. The shirts looked really nice and had cool stripe designs. They were $30 each, and one was on clearance for $15. I tried on a 16.5 and the body was too blousy. Even the 15.5 was too blousy. How much is the normal retail price? The collar, cuffs, and stitching looked nice. I didn't notice if the buttons were real shells.
 

armscye

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I thought the Katherine Hammetts were reasonably nice-- in the same general quality category as a Pink. The sleeves are plenty long, the construction is good, but the buttons look like thick troca rather than MOP. The one jarring note is that these shirts have a vertical label lightly glued on the rear of the placket that says "made in Turkey." It peels right off, which may be the whole idea, but still seems a little bush league.
 

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