How to Alter a Shirt to Make It Smaller: 6 Tips

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Whether you enjoy online shopping or recently lost a few pounds, odds are you own a handful of too-big shirts. These tops are embarrassingly large, so you refuse to wear them, even if they feature sick designs or represent your favorite sports team. This guide will outline how to alter a shirt to make it smaller with six tips. 

1. Soak and Shrink

One of the easiest ways to make a shirt smaller is by soaking it in hot water. The high temperature causes the fibers to constrict, which effectively shrinks the garment. Although all fabrics will contract in some way or another, this method is most effective on cotton, linen, satin and other natural materials with looser weave.  

First, place your shirt in a pot of water and bring it to a boil. Switch off the heat and allow the garment to sit for five minutes, then remove it and allow it to cool. Wring and dry the shirt and repeat the process until it reaches your ideal size. You might also place it in the tumble drier on the highest heat setting to accelerate the process. 

2. Sew a Dart 

If your shirt is too big in the waist and bulges in the back, try putting a dart or two in it. Darts are common on dress shirts in the back or waistline and can easily remove excess material. Plus, they’re relatively straightforward, even for beginner sewers. 

Use two simple straight seems on either side of the back of your dress shirt. Try folding and pinning the material you which to take in and trying the shirt on before threading your needle. Once you’re sure it fits properly, sew the folds in place. 

3. Hem the Bottom

Your shirt can fit perfectly in all the right places, but if it’s too long, you’ll still look silly. And forget tucking it into your pants. If you’re dealing with more than an inch or two of extra fabric, odds are it’ll bunch around your hips and make it look like you’re trying to hide a muffin top. Luckily, you can solve this conundrum by hemming the bottom of your shirt. 

Is your top an inch too long? Fold the bottom under once, secure it with pins and sew the hem. If the shirt is much longer, you may have to cut some material off, fold and then make a stitch. 

4. Use a Pattern

Guys who feel comfortable wielding a needle and thread may prefer to work with a pattern to ensure a proper fit. In this case, you’ll need a top that you like the fit of to compare with your too-big shirt.

Layer the smaller shirt — which will serve as the pattern — on top of the larger one, aligning them in the middle. Use the edge of the small garment to cut the sides and armholes of the big one. Cut down the sleeves and reattach them to the armholes. Sew the underarm and side seams and hem the bottom if need be. 

5. Make a Few Tucks

Gentlemen who don’t mind a bit of detail or embellishment may favor tucks over darts. Tucks are vertical seams on the inside or outside of a shirt. They serve the same purpose as darts, except you can add them all around the garment to reduce width in problem areas. 

Sew the fabric like an inverted pleat when making inside tucks. Otherwise, you can use pin tucks, release tucks, twisted tucks or another pleat design to add intrigue to your ensemble. Plus, it’ll look amazing for date nights with your partner. 

6. Roll Up the Sleeves

Short guys know better than anyone how annoying long sleeves can be. However, whipping out the needles and thread isn’t always an option. Sometimes, you need a quick solution, which is where rolling your sleeves comes in handy. 

This concept is rather straightforward, but you’d be surprised how many men roll their sleeves incorrectly. Instead of twisting, pushing or making a single fold to unbuttoned cuffs, fold each one up to the desired length. If they’re loose, create a thinner, more fitted look by turning the entire cuff over itself once. 

How to Alter a Shirt to Make It Smaller: Go the Extra Mile

If you really care about a shirt and want to wear it more often, invest a few extra minutes into making it smaller. Instead of simply folding or pinning it in place, make a more permanent change with a needle and thread. 

Putting in that extra ounce of effort will ensure you look fly every time you wear it, which should be fairly often. However, you’ll still be free to rip out the seam if your shirt gets too tight.


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