The Anatomy of a Dress Shirt
Before we could even consider creating a shirt that would satisfy our fit manifesto, we had to become familiar with all the parts of a dress shirt. Then once we knew how a shirt works, we made significant modifications to the way that many parts of the dress shirt are fit.
Since we tend to refer to individual components of a dress shirt throughout our site, listed here are all the parts of a dress shirt and, where interesting, a bit of explanation about how we’ve treated them differently in our product.
We are also working on a comprehensive guide to making a dress shirt to showcase our process. If you’re interested in receiving it signup here.
Much can be said about our collar (in fact we do) but in short we’ve created a much more prominent and elegant than typical collar.
The most visible part a dress shirt and what most people think of when they say “Collar”. This is the part of the shirt where millimeters matter, not inches. Poor stitching in this area will be a telltale that you are wearing a sloppily made shirt. The most important thing here, however, is the way the interlining and shirting fabric combine to create a unified leaf. Ideally, the materials selected should dictate the type of cut employed in the point length and front spread. Our collar leaves are firm enough for the long point length to stay in place along the collar bone, but pliable enough to roll slightly.
Note: Don't just consider how your collar will look and feel when its new. Think about how it will break in over time in relation to the fabric weight and collar shape.
Collar Stand (or Collar Band):
Attached to the top of the shirt and pushes the Collar Leaf up against your neck. This is the one part of the shirt, along with the top of the Front Placket (see below) that has the greatest influence on how well the collar frames your face and stands up under a jacket. As you can see, ours is very substantial (1.6” at the back) which creates an elegant look and helps keep the collar anchored.
Both the Collar Leaf and the Collar Stand are actually two pieces of shirt fabric between which is glued interlining. The interlining ensures that both pieces of the garment can withstand the heavy wear that comes with being the most exposed part of the shirt and still look good. Our interlining is a robust yet thin interlining from Wendler, an over 165-year old cotton mill in Germany.
Although seemingly just a stylistic preference, the point length can have a functional impact on your shirt. If the Point Length of your Collar Leaf is too short, it will tend to pop out from underneath the lapel of your jacket and cause you to look slightly disheveled. Our point length is a long 4.25" which ensures that this will not happen.
An aesthetic choice often driven by a debate between “Tradition” and “Avant-Garde”, with a button down being a more traditional collar and a spread, like ours, being more new world. We opted for a spread collar to accentuate our goal of integration of Italian and American style.
The Front of the Dress Shirt:
Runs down the front of the shirt and serves three purposes: 1. It ensures a clean and durable finish for the edges of the dress shirt that are handled the most. 2. It provides a double thick surface for the attachment and fastening of buttons. 3. The top of the Front Placket, along with the height of the Collar Band, helps to determine how high the Collar will sit on your neck. We’ve added about .5 inches over a traditional Front Placket to place the Collar slightly higher on your neck when buttoned and, as in this photo, to create a clean “V” when the Collar is unbuttoned. As another stylistic touch, we’ve removed the extra stitching on the FrontPplacket for a simpler look.
Armscye Seam (Armhole):
One of the greatest leverage points for how a shirt will feel. A lower armhole (read: larger) will accommodate more people and will be feel more comfortable, but it will impede movement and make a shirt look baggy. Another decision is round vs oval, where oval is the standard and a round armhole can create a shirt that is tighter across the chest. With our trim fit, we’ve opted for an oval but high armhole to provide a trimmer fit that also allows for mobility.
Sleeves are typically sewn of a single piece of fabric and cut wider than the Cuffs to allow for more flexibility. The trend in recent decades has been towards tight fitting Sleeves that are just long enough to reach the wrist when your arm is hanging by your side. This fit has the benefit of a tighter look when not wearing a jacket and ensuring that the Cuff will not cover the hand. However, when raising your arms this fit will cause the Cuff to disappear up your jacket sleeve or expose extra inches on your arm (if worn without a jacket). Not to mention that this movement will also tug on the Tail of your shirt and often cause it to become untucked. Our shirts mitigate this by adding extra sleeve length and a tighter Cuff (see below) that will cause the Cuff to stay put while allowing for more arm mobility. Coincidentally, this is inspired by a Victorian era fit when men were expected to ride horses (and thus have more mobility), in their dress shirts.
Sleeve Placket (and button):
Just like the Front Placket, this serves to finish edges and reinforce the button fastenings. However, it also has two additional functions 1. Having a placket opening allows for sleeves to be rolled up past the elbows easily and elegantly. 2. The Sleeve Packet Button originated in the days when men wore longer Sleeves which would allow a tight fitting Cuff to stay put when the arm was raised (typical shirts today do not have extra sleeve length and thus pull the cuff back towards your elbow when the arm is raised).
Another critical part of how your dress shirt is perceived as both Cuffs should be visible even beneath a blazer. A well fitted Cuff allows for it to stay put when paired with longer sleeve length and an effective sleeve placket (as explained above). It turns out that since most men’s wrist measurements are within a 1.5 inch range, we are able to recreate that fit without a custom fit shirt.
The Back of the Dress Shirt:
Back Collar Height:
The back of the collar is extremely important in maintaining the tension and fit of the Collar around your neck and shoulders. Ever have a shirt Collar that floats around your neck, aimlessly? There are several factors that we mentioned earlier when we talked about our Collar Leaf. The Collar Leaf should extend over and beyond the Collar Band to rest on the shoulder line. This excess beyond the Collar Band helps create a 'hinging effect' whereby the Collar Leaf pulls the Collar Band closer to your neck because of the height difference. An added benefit is also that your tie is less likely to poke out from under the back of your Collar!
The Yoke of shirt provides three important functions 1. It strengthens the shirt in the most load-bearing area. 2. It conceals the shoulder seams and makes for a more comfortable fit. 3. It allows for the back of the shirt to be fit more to the body.
The Yoke can be either one piece or two piece and I’ll let “Shirtmaking” by David Page Coffin tell you about why we chose a one piece yoke:
“Shirt advertisements nowadays occasionally mention two-piece yokes, as if everybody knows how desirable they are. In fact, there are only three reasons for a two-piece yoke: first to allow for each half of the yoke to be cut differently to accommodate unequally sized shoulders (obviously not a feature of ready-made shirts and a very tricky and questionable business anyway); second, to permit the seam of the yoke front in a striped fabric to be on grain so that it will run parallel to the stripe (a distinctly British touch that looks quite odd--but not uninteresting--to the American eye and causes a sort of chevron effect at the center back); third, to save material.”
Not a unique feature to dress shirts alone, a Dart is formed by folding fabric onto itself and sewing it down to create a permanent fold. This adds three-dimensionality to a garment and helps reduce any negative space or billowing. Darts help our shirt pattern (which is larger than the measurements of a typical ‘trim fit’) by bringing in some of the excess fabric that most men complain about at their lower back (think of the traditional Brooks Brothers blouse).
The Tail of the shirt is a hugely important factor. These days, a lot of shirts claim to have a “hybrid” length Tail. The truth of the matter is that if your Tail is not long enough to fully cover your entire seat, its going to untuck easily throughout the day. For an active person who likes his shirt to stay in place, a long Tail is an absolute must and something that has been valued in ready-made shirts even since Wrangler started making denim cowboy shirts.
The Hem is a standard 0.25” seam that runs along the very bottom edge of the shirt, and is generally one of the last parts of the shirt to be sewn. There are specialized sewing machine attachments that take up a raw edge, fold it upon itself and sew it down to create a finished self-edge. A necessity on any shirt to keep it from unravelling.
The Hem of the shirt side seams endures a lot of flexing and pulling because it is essentially a hinge point for the shirt tail when you sit down. A good maker will put what is known as a Gusset here (an extra small piece of fabric) to act as an expanding bridge between the front and back panels of the shirt. This takes a lot of stress of the side seams and increases the wearer’s comfort.