How to Buy a Better-Fitting Dress Shirt

Knowing your body measurements is imperative for dialing in a great-fitting dress shirt.

guide to life dress shirt
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Dress shirts may be playing second, or more likely, third fiddle to other shirts these days. T-shirts and sweatshirts are the go-to garments for people working remotely. But, many companies rely on Zoom meetings for internal and external communication, so there's still a need to dress professionally.

While the shapes of T-shirts and sweatshirts are more forgiving, the designs of dress shirts are not. With the increased attention to your upper half in video meeting, you'll need one that fits well. There are numerous variables to get to the right-fitting dress shirt. It's a complicated journey, but we're here to walk you through every step. Here's how to buy a better-fitting dress shirt.

Know Your Measurements

Before you even look at a dress shirt, you need to do a little data entry. Knowing your body measurements is imperative for dialing in a great-fitting shirt, especially if you're not able to try it on at the store.

You'll need a tape measure and someone to help take your measurements. Here are the measurements you should take:

  • Neck: The thickest part of the neck.
  • Shoulders: The length across the back from one shoulder bone to the other.
  • Arms: From the center of the neck, to the shoulder, down to the wrist bone.
  • Chest: Around the widest part of the chest, usually at the nipples.
  • Waist: Around the widest part of the torso, usually at the belly button.


    Let's start with something that you absolutely need to get right. There's not much leeway here. The shoulder seams should fit right at your shoulder bones. Too high and the fabric can pull, too low and it'll look sloppy.


    The chest is another area you should really have dialed in. Tailors can work wonders, but the chest (and shoulders) are tough to fix. Make sure you still have enough room (at least two inches more than your measured chest) so that the fabric isn't pulling at the buttons as you move. You also want to avoid having too much room at the chest to avoid bunching.

    Higher armholes offer a sleeker silhouette and more range of motion while more traditional, lower armholes can be more comfortable, but look a bit stuffy.

    Gitman Bros Vintage Classic Oxford
    Gitman Bros


    These days, the value of a neck tie continues to decrease. Still, you'll thank yourself for getting the right neck size on the rare occasion you'll need to button your shirt all the way to the top. As a general rule of thumb, make sure your neck measurement allows enough space to fit two fingers. This way, you won't succumb to asphyxia by a double four-in-hand.


    Manufacturers list their sleeve measurements two main ways. The first is the measurement taken from the center of the collar to the shoulder seam and down to the cuff. This measurement will likely be somewhere between 32 to 36 inches. The second measurement is only taken from the shoulder seam down to the cuff and will likely be around 14 to 18 inches.

    Classicists will tell you that your sleeve should be long enough to cover your wrist bone when your arms are raised out in front of you. For a more modern fit, however, sleeves need only to touch cover the wrist when your arms are relaxed and down by your sides.


    While dress-shirt makers often size their shirts by neck and sleeve, the waist is another area to focus on. Two people could have the same neck and sleeve measurements but vastly different waist measurements. Again, make sure that the fabric isn't pulling at the buttons. Leave enough room to move around comfortably, but not so much room that it looks like its overflowing from your trousers when you tuck it in. And remember, the waist measurement for your jeans is not the same as the measurement for your dress shirt.


    A dress shirt is a shirt you'll wear tucked into a pair of dress pants. There are plenty of brands that make button-up shirts that can navigate a more casual, untucked situation, but they're generally not great at either. That said, a dress shirt should be long enough that it stays tucked in, even when you raise your arms. This should be long enough to cover about half of your rear. As with many of the tips here, because everyone has a unique body, this one is a rule of thumb.

    Take it to Your Tailor

    You may not be able to get every variable to fit well. That's to be expected. As restrictive as a dress shirt's fit may be, there is still margin to play with. Namely, the sleeves and the body. These are the most common alterations tailors perform when it comes to dress shirts. If you're not able to get the exact sleeve length or body width, make sure to get a shirt that's slightly bigger so that a tailor can cut it to the correct size.

    That said, you need to make sure that the chest and shoulders are as close to perfect as you can get. These areas are trickier to alter and require a very skilled tailor and a solid line of credit.

    Do Your Research

    There are plenty of brands that offer a variety of dress shirts online. Make sure to thoroughly look at their measurements and compare them with your own. If you have a well-fitting dress shirt already, compare its measurements with the options you're considering.

    Other shirting brands offer made-to-measure shirts. These are really convenient and usually just plug-and-play. Enter your measurements, choose your fabric and other details, and you wait for it to show up at your door.

    There are many paths to a well-fitting dress shirt whether you're looking for off-the-rack, made-to-measure or want to tweak the fit of your existing dress shirt. Once you nail down the right fit, you'll be one of the best-dressed people on the Zoom call.

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