Plaid flannel shirts are back! It feels like high school to me when I see all this plaid in the stores. Of course, not many of us are wearing our flannel with Doc Martens anymore (remember those days?). I’ve purchased a few comfy plaid flannel shirts, and I have one beef with them: flannel shrinks, so after a few washes the shirt still fits fine in width but ends up just a little too short. My solution? Buy larger men’s shirts at the thrift store and take them in for the perfect fit with a little extra length. Today I’ll show you the right way to take in a shirt.
Here’s the before and after of my flannel shirt. It always seems like I should just be able to wear an oversized shirt and have it look cute – it sure looks cute when girls on TV do it – but no, it doesn’t turn out that way. Oversized shirts just make me look, well, oversized. As you can see from the before photo, the arms are too wide, the body of the shirt is too wide, and the sleeves start too far down on my shoulders.
I’ve seen plenty of tutorials that tell you to take in a shirt by sewing up the arms and back down the body – I actually did that myself on this dress – but you’ll actually get a much better fit (and more mobility in the arms) with the method I’ll show you today.
I like my new shirt – just long enough to cover my backside when I wear skinny jeans.
Here’s the right way to take in a shirt to make it smaller:
Lay your oversized shirt down on a flat surface, smoothing it out flat. Place a shirt that fits well directly on top of the larger shirt, making sure it is smoothed out completely flat and not bunched up anywhere. Pull the sleeve inside the shirt as shown above so you can see the “scoop” of the armhole.
Using the shirts that fits as a guide, trim away the sleeves and excess on the sides. BE SURE to add seam allowance – more than I did would probably be good. (For the best fit, you may want to add an extra half inch to the armholes on the back of the shirt only. As you can see, I didn’t do that, but it would have been a good idea.)
Trim away the excess on the other side as well, making sure they match.
Next you’ll want to cut down the sleeves. Lay your guide shirt on the ground, this time smoothing out the sleeve. You’ll see that at the armhole seam the sleeve makes an S shape. It’s important to smooth and spread that out as much as possible, then use that as a guide for cutting your new sleeves.
When you cut new sleeves from the oversized shirt, don’t cut through the cuffs. Most men’s shirts have two buttons on the cuff so even if they are a little large you can just button them a bit tighter and not have to worry about trying to sew them back together. Turn your sleeves inside out and sew them back together along the bottom. Turn the shirt inside out and sew both sides together.
Now all you need to do is set the sleeves back in. Leaving the shirt inside out, turn the sleeves right side out. Place the shirt and one sleeve as you see in the photo below, making sure the buttons on the cuff are down toward the table (if they’re up, you need to switch sleeves). Slide the sleeve inside the armhole, as shown in the second photo below.
Match up the raw edges of the sleeve and armhole, easing the material to fit. Pin well, then sew.
Repeat with the other sleeve, press your seams, and your new shirt is ready!