There are a few tricks and techniques you can make your shirt bigger that are worth trying.

So if you have a beloved dress shirt that has shrunk a bit, either from the wash or because you (gasp!) grew, hold off before you toss it!

You may be able to save that beloved dress shirt with a bit of creativity and patience.

Why spend more money when you can salvage what you already have?

How Should the Dress Shirt Fit

Regardless of your shirt’s style, color, or pattern, the most crucial element of any dress shirt is how it fits.

how should a dress shirt fit

It’s easy to look swallowed up by standard boxy dress shirts. But, you don’t have to settle for that look.

Instead, your dress shirt should have some shape to it, following your body’s natural lines. Even if you don’t have a terrific physique, a well-tailored dress shirt can make you look amazing.

First, your dress shirt should have some tapering at the waist. This will create the impression that you have an hourglass figure, even if you don’t.

dress shirt torso fit

Too much width, or too much length, will cause massive billowing around your middle when you tuck your shirt in. Avoid that at all costs.

All the separate components of your dress shirt must be proportional to your body.

dress shirt sleeve fit

For example, your sleeves should fall right at your wrist, with the cuffs loose enough that you can fit a watch under them, but not much more open.

dress shirt shoulder fit

Your collar should be snug but breathable. And your shoulder seam is critical; it must align precisely with the tip of your shoulder.

How to Know if You Need a Bigger Shirt

You may be on the fence about whether your dress shirt is running a tad too small for you. Fortunately, you can check in with a few key features to determine if you need a larger size.

First, check how your torso looks in the shirt. Your buttons should not be pulling the fabric apart, causing some gaping in the center.

dress shirt bottom length

The length of your shirt is important, as well. I’ve already covered what too much length can look like, but not enough is just as bad. It needs to extend past your waistline a few inches.

Next, how constricting is your collar? It shouldn’t have any visible space between your neck and the fabric, but also not so tight that you are uncomfortable.

dress shirt collar fit

You should be able to insert a finger easily without struggling to get it in.

And finally, your sleeves must reach your wristbone and provide full mobility for your arms.

Can You Make Your Dress Shirt Bigger?

Yes, you absolutely can in many cases. If any of the above descriptions match your dress shirt, you should enlarge it if you intend to keep it.

There are two methods used for making shirts larger. The first, and most simple, is by stretching your shirt.

This can be a really effective method, depending on the shirt’s material, quality, and style. There are even a couple of different approaches used for stretching.

Stretching your shirts is best for men with muscular builds who have difficulty finding a shirt with the correct proportions.

In addition, it is an excellent practice for those situations because you can enlarge the areas that are too tight, such as the chest.

stretching dress shirt on chest and the sides

The other way to make a shirt bigger is by cutting and sewing. However, this will require extra fabric, which may prove difficult.

If you don’t have perfectly matching material, you’ll need to decide if you want a contrasting fabric as part of your dress shirt.

Making a Shirt Bigger by Stretching

Not all dress shirts stretch the same. You’ll want to start with a shirt that’s high quality and ideally made from pure cotton.

Cotton is the fabric that has the most elasticity. Synthetic materials and blends don’t generally have much give to them.

dress shirt cotton fabric note

High quality and high thread count do matter. Otherwise, your shirt might be more prone to ripping using this method.

Stretching your shirt gives you possibilities for enlarging that cutting and sewing can’t.

For example, you can’t make a shirt collar larger with sewing, but it might be possible to add a little more room by stretching it.

You can also make the sleeves longer or wider or make the chest area broader. If your dress shirt is too short, stretching can solve that problem, as well.

How to Stretch a Shirt with Conditioner

Using a conditioner as a stretching tool on your shirt is the quickest way to see results. It can be any brand.

stretching the dress shirt by using a conditioner

Be sure you use a proper conditioner. Don’t purchase a cheap hair conditioner you’ve never heard of before.

  • Fill a sink, bathtub, or bucket with cold water. Add several teaspoons worth of conditioner. Swirl it around to mix it in well.
  • Add your shirt and soak it for 15 – 20 minutes. The shirt should be flat during this process. Either lay it out along the bottom of the bathtub or fold it flat inside the sink or bucket.
  • Remove the conditioner water and put in more clean water. While your shirt is still soaking in the water, gently squeeze all conditioner out from the shirt. Soak it for another 5 minutes.
  • Repeat this process (squeezing and soaking in freshwater) until it feels like all the conditioner is out of your shirt.
  • Roll your shirt between two towels to dry it. Don’t wring it out. Then, lay your shirt out on a flat surface. Tug on the fabric in the areas you need to enlarge. Leave the shirt lying there, flat, until it’s dry.
  • If you try it on and it’s not quite big enough, repeat these steps.

How to Stretch a Shirt with Washing

You can skip the hassle of the conditioner, although using a washing machine doesn’t make the fabric as soft and pliable as the conditioner does.

placing dress shirt on dry towel to stretch

  • Wash your dress shirt in the washing machine on a cold setting
  • After the spin cycle, don’t put the shirt in the dryer. Instead, lay it on a flat surface while it’s still wet. Do not be tempted to wring out any excess moisture.
  • Gently pull on the fabric in the places you need your shirt bigger.
  • Allow your shirt to dry flat.
  • You may need to repeat this process a couple of times; it can be a slow progression, but that’s good. You don’t want to risk damaging your shirt by being too rough with it.

How to Stretch a Cotton Shirt

Cotton typically has a lot of elasticity, so it’s crucial to go slowly and cautiously when stretching it.

In addition, the seams are especially malleable, so take great care if you are working in any seam areas.

stretching shirt gently on top

You wouldn’t want to overdo the stretching and inadvertently make your shirt too big. That’s something that you wouldn’t be able to fix.

Therefore, it’s much better to do a little bit at a time, even if it means repeating the process a few times.

How to Stretch a Polyester Shirt

If you have a dress shirt that isn’t cotton, that doesn’t necessarily mean that all hope is lost for stretching it out.

You may not like this process, though; it can be uncomfortable. But, don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Wash your shirt in cold water, and allow it to go through the spin cycle. As soon as you take it out from the washing machine, put the wet shirt between two towels.

putting dress shirt between two towels to stretch

Squeeze the excess water by rolling up the towels. That way, the additional water will be transferred to the towels.

Then, unroll the bundle and allow it to fully dry while you’re wearing it.

I told you this wouldn’t be pleasant! But polyester isn’t very stretchy, so it needs your body to help mold it to your shape.

You can also use the conditioner method and then wear the shirt while it’s wet. The conditioner may make your shirt a little more supple.

How to Make a Shirt Bigger with Sewing

If stretching doesn’t work, or your needs are more significant than what this method can accomplish, then it’s time to resort to the only other method.

You can use a sewing machine and some sewing scissors to refashion your dress shirt. As a notice, this procedure is hard to perform, so proceed with caution at your own risk.

You can cut and add extra fabric to make any shirt larger; this is also an effective method for saving your favorite t-shirt when you’ve outgrown it.

Whether you plan to make a t-shirt or a dress shirt larger, be sure to use the correct needle on the sewing machine. There are different tips, and the wrong one could damage your shirt.

And remember to feed the fabric through the machine gently and not pull.

Make Shirt Bigger with Side Panels

Again, this way of making your shirt bigger is exceptionally challenging. The process is rather tricky, but it’s even more difficult to make the adjustments look natural.

If this isn’t done well, it will result in a sloppy-looking dress shirt.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle to this method is the extra fabric. Where will you find additional material that will match your dress shirt?

poplin tuxedo shirt fabric

Unfortunately, you probably can’t find the perfect fabric unless you purchase a brand new dress shirt. In that case, just buy two, so you can use the second one to create your panels.

Here’s how to do it:

  • First, cut the shirt up along the side seam on each side. Then, continue cutting just past the underarm seams.
  • Determine how much extra fabric your shirt will need. Remember, you’ll be adding fabric to both sides, so you’ll only want to make each panel half the total size you need. Cut your extra material the same length as your shirt, then a top section that makes the fabric an L shape. This other section is for the underarm.
  • Pin your panel along each side of the cut seam of your shirt. Using your sewing machine, stitch either side up the length of your shirt.

Adding Shirt Gusset for More Length

Making your shirt longer is another highly challenging prospect in making your shirt bigger. It requires great skill and a certain finesse, so it doesn’t look like a mess in the end.

A shirt that’s too short is gravely problematic. It won’t stay tucked into your pants and can create some embarrassing scenarios.

This technique is best suited for t-shirts that are too short. It probably wouldn’t look natural on a button-down dress shirt.

If you want to make a t-shirt longer, you’ll need a second t-shirt you can cut up.

Cut a strip along the bottom of the second shirt, about half an inch longer than you’ll need. Make sure the strip is as long as the circumference of your original shirt.

Pin the “front” side of your strip along the front side of your t-shirt. It has to be done so that both pieces are lying flat against each other, face to face.

Next, sew a ¼” seam around the bottom, creating a new panel for your t-shirt.

Now your shirt is longer!

Can a Tailor Make a Dress Shirt Bigger

Except for using any of the methods mentioned above, no, a tailor can’t make a dress shirt bigger.

However, they may have more skill with a needle and thread, making the sewing work look neater than you can. Otherwise, they don’t have any other professional methods to enlarge your shirt.

Dress shirts don’t have excess fabric tucked into their seams, the way that dress pants often do. Without this additional fabric to let out, a dress shirt is at the mercy of where its seams are stitched.

Tailors are well-equipped to make dress shirts smaller, however. There are many areas a tailor can take in on dress shirts, practically constructing a whole new size.

If you find a dress shirt you really love, but it doesn’t fit you in an ideal way, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy it.

If the choice is between a shirt that’s a little too small or slightly too big, go with the oversized one. A tailor can easily adjust it to fit you well; not so with the smaller one.

Alexander Stoicoff
Author: Alexander Stoicoff

Hi, I’m Alex, and I’ve studied and specialized in styling in Rome. Through my writing, I want to help men dress well and learn the purpose and significance of suits and other formal attire. My final goal is to make men more confident in their wardrobe choice and life in general.

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