How to Choose a Dress Shirt That Fits You?

Today I'm going to talk about how a man's dress shirt should fit. You might think that little tip goes without saying, but let me tell you, through my vast experience shopping for shirts online and at thrift shops - it does not go without saying.

One of my most embarrassing moments came when I had to take a shirt off and stand there in front of the entire office, showing my chest because it wouldn't fit over my shoulders. It wasn't terrific! And, I've seen many other men with the same problem - the extra fabric billowing out between their shoulder blades.

It's not embarrassing for me to say that it looks unflattering. I mean, who wants to look like a cartoon character with his shirt tied in the middle?

Business men in happy discussion

How is this possible? I spent years trying on dress shirts at department stores, guess what - none of them fit right. So then, how are men supposed to know how a shirt should fit? Today, I will share my shirt-fitting wisdom and show you how easy it is to buy dress shirts that fit perfectly.

Tips to Ensure Your Dress Shirt Fits You Well


Side view of a man in white dress shirt

There should be no more than one inch of fabric between your shoulder blades, and it should fit as closely as possible to the curvature. The rule of the thumb - your shoulder seam should not go over your shoulder. Raise your arms and rotate them back and forth - if the extra fabric in the back starts to billow, then the shirt is too big for you.


Your dress shirt should fit well at the waist so it won't come out of your pants. If you are wearing a dress shirt untucked - it shouldn't be hanging over your body.

Young man in white dress shirt

It would help if you bought shirts that fit the torso. To check,  you may raise your arms up and down. If the fabric doesn't slide out of your pants, then you got the right fit.


You can extend your arms forward and bend them up slightly without feeling any tension in the sleeves.

Man buttoning sleeve of his dress shirt

If you constantly need to pull your cuffs down, you need to buy shirts with longer sleeves or upgrade to the next size. On the other hand, if you constantly pull your cuffs up, you need to buy a size smaller. Or the best idea is to have the shirt altered so you get the right fit.


The collar should fit over your neck with a bit of allowance when you close the first button from the top. Too much space on the neck looks droopy and ruins the appearance of your suit.

Man fixing his tie

If you get them altered at a professional custom-made clothing shop, your tailor knows what to do with the collar to make the shirt look good on you.


Your dress shirt should touch the top of your pants and the bottom hemlines where your pants begin to curve downward. It does not apply to shirts that are worn untucked. Your shirt should not cover your entire backside.  You have just the proper allowance to allow you free movements when tucking it in.


Man in fitted blue dress shirt

Your shirt should not have extra fabric pulling across your stomach area. This is a dead giveaway that it's too small in the torso area, and it makes you look 10 lbs. heavier. It is also not comfortable if you have bulky clothing in the front.

Finally, it seems like you have a protruding belly, which does not compliment your posture. So, the next time you go shopping for dress shirts, make sure to take all of these rules into consideration and only buy those that fit well!

Man buying a shirt

If you need further clarification in choosing your dress shirt, visit your local men's clothing store. You may ask a tailor to get your measurements to know your specific body size.

Why Your Dress Shirt Should Fit?

  • A too-big shirt will billow out at the back of the shoulders and make you look sloppy and not trendy.
  • A too-tight shirt across your stomach will make you look heavier than your actual weight.
  • A dress shirt should never be too long that the hem goes below your hips. Leave that style to the hip-hoppers.

  • Collars that are too small will look tight uncomfortable and prevent you from breathing normally. On the other hand, a too-loose collar makes you look sloppy.
  • A too-long shirt will make you look short and sloppy, especially if there are extra wrinkles at the back of your pants after it's untucked.
  • The shoulder seams should not fold over your shoulder blades but should sit right on top.
  • There should be only a little bit of space in between the seam and your neck. This rule applies to all types of shirts.
Man checking out a suit jacket
  • Finally, avoid buying shirts with fabric pulling across your stomach area because it will make you look bloated (unless it is intentional for "tucking in" purposes).

Areas to Check for the Right Fit

To begin, make sure the shirt fits the shoulders, chest, waist, and arms. It would be best to do this to move your arms around comfortably. If the shirt is too tight in any one of these areas, it can undermine your posture and look unprofessional.

In the Shoulders

Man in shoulder fitted dress shirt

The seam on your collarbone should end where your shoulder starts - at about 1 inch from where your shoulder creases. If it ends too far up your shoulder, the armholes are too low, causing the shirt to pull down your chest. Also, if you can stick more than two fingers between your shoulder and the seam, then that's way too much room!

In the Chest

You want an excellent taut fit around your chest without any extra fabric billowing around your pecs.

Man's side view in purple striped dress shirt

If you have a larger upper body, the shirt may feel too tight right away. It's ok as long as it doesn't pull anywhere or show any wrinkles in the chest. Those wrinkles indicate that something is wrong with the fit.

In the Waist

It should be fitted but not too tight. The shirtwaist should be able to fit snuggly around your waist without much extra fabric in the back. Too much material will make you look boxy, but if it's too tight, you'll risk stretching out the shirt so that it becomes baggy and unprofessional-looking.

In the Arms

Man's arms in white dress shirt

When you raise your arms, the shirt slides away from your body but is not too tight. It means the armholes are too low if the shirt slides down. It will also cause the shirt to pull down your chest.

Additional Ideas to Remember

How to Fix Fit Problems 

Having a mannequin is one of the best ways to fix fit problems when buying shirts online or in thrift stores.

Male mannequin in dress shirt


After you've tried on the shirt, lay it flat with any buttons or collars in place, and using tailor's chalk, mark the areas that are causing you problems. Then, you may take a picture and show it to a tailor or seamstress for advice.

How to Buy Men's Dress Shirts 

Once you've successfully fixed any issues with the shirt, it's time to consider how your favorite shirt fits you best. Most men prefer slim-fitting dress shirts, so keep that in mind when looking at my recommendations.

Check the Armhole

Man raising his arm

The vital part of the dress shirt fit is the armhole, the seam that connects the sleeve to the shirt's body. It is one inch away from where your shoulder creases. It should slide up when you raise your arms but not be tight or too loose. If it slides down, the armholes are too low. It will also cause the shirt to pull down your chest.

Check the Torso

The general fit of a dress shirt should have a taut look around your chest. It should fit but not be tight, so it looks professional, and you can move comfortably without hurting yourself.

Check the Collar

Shirt's collar on mannequin

Your shirt's collar should surround the base of your neck, and no more than 1/2 inch should be poking out. If there is too much fabric, you'll look like a mobster, and if there's not enough, it will look cheap and unprofessional.

Check the Length

It's crucial to ensure that the shirt isn't too short or too long for you. The rule of the thumb - when you are wearing the shirt, it should reach right above your belt buckle or below if you're into low-riding pants.

The perfect length may vary due to your height, but this will give you a point of reference.

Check the Sleeves

Man checking his shirt's sleeve

Make sure the sleeves aren't too tight around your arms, and make sure they aren't too long. Measure from your wrist bone to where you'd like the sleeve to end. Then, match that up with a shirt's measurement.

Enjoy looking pleasant and professional at work, knowing that you just spent all of five minutes getting your shirts to fit perfectly!

Seven-Step Guide For Getting the Correct Fit:

A tailor must identify a few key factors. First, the seam from the shoulder to the sleeve should lie on an imaginary line that divides the arm into equal halves.

Second, there should be about 1/2 inch between your neck and collar.

A custom shirt maker can usually guide you through this process and ensure that the fit of your shirts is perfect.

Step 1

The first step is always to determine whether or not your chest and gut are proportional to one another. If not, it's essential to compensate with a shirt that fits your chest well as long as it is not overly tight. (unless that's what you're going for, then go to town).

Once your chest and midsection are taken care of, the next step is to measure your forearm. 

Young man in blue dress shirt

Step 2

You need to know your preferred sleeve's length. Get assistance from a friend and measure from the shoulder to your wrist. Keep your arm in a natural position, i.e., raise or hang naturally at your side.

The next you have to measure is our shoulder seam. Place the tape across the upper portion of your back. It should hit right about at the base of your neck and then come straight down to connect with the bottom of your arm. 

Step 3

Man visiting a tailor

Now, if any of these measurements are in excess by over an inch in either direction, it's time to head to the tailor. Ask for help in determining what kind of shirt you should wear or which look is right for you! For example, if you have a long torso, wear slightly shorter dress shirts.

On the other hand, if your torso is short, look for longer cuts like the Milanese cut that features a slight flare below the waist to provide the illusion of height.

Final Thoughts

A well-dressed young man in a suit

Try to purchase high-quality custom shirts that fit great and are versatile enough to be worn on various occasions. Dress shirts come in a variety of fabrics, cuts, and styles, so you're sure to find the best shirt for you.

For more information on dress shirt fit, check out this video:


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