How Should a Shirt Fit?

Chances are you’re still working from home, so giving your upper body a little fashion attention makes sense for all those video chats.  At the same time, if you’ve been working in the office every day, or safely socializing with family and friends from a distance, impressing them with a new look might be the mood-lifter you need. And eventually, once the world hopefully goes back to normal, you will be moving around freely, heading to dinner out with friends, interviewing for new jobs and having first dates. Looking your best at any time means finding clothes that fit, and there are some basic guidelines you should follow.

In this post we'll cover:

Shirt Fit Types for Men and Women

How Should a T-Shirt Fit?

How Should a Dress Shirt Fit?

Mens and Womens Shirt Sizing + Fit Differences

Shirt Fit Types for Men and Women

The way a shirt should fit varies from style to formality to gender. Making sure you have the right top for the right occasion can help resolve any questions about fit as you choose your outfits, and make sure you’re looking good and feeling confident. 

For men, there are a few things to keep in mind whether you are looking for a nice button down, a polo for the office, or just a nice looking tee to run errands in. You’ll want to make sure any fabric isn’t looking too loose and baggy, while also avoiding anything that is too taut. You want to be comfortable, and making sure you’re starting with the right amount of fabric goes a long way. A few other helpful hints are to watch where the seams lie. You’ll want a shirt whose seams line up with your body naturally - for example, a shoulder seam should fall right where your arm starts to slope down. Having the seam too far down your arm or too high up on your shoulder are giveaways the shirt doesn't fit right.

For women, it can be a little different, depending on the style and fit of the shirt. Some basics to keep in mind are to watch where seams and darts fall and to make sure you have the right fit, no matter the style

How Should a T-Shirt Fit?

Because most t-shirts are made of stretchier fabrics, keep a couple things in mind. Pick a t-shirt with enough room in the sleeves. If they’re too tight, they’ll ride up uncomfortably. The neckline should lie flat and not gape in the front. A t-shirt fits well if you can only grasp a couple inches of fabric at the sides. Again, keep in mind that more fabric isn’t necessarily flattering camouflage; it’s just more fabric. If you’re a guy who wants a longer t-shirt, look for one specifically constructed that way instead of just sizing up.

For women, t-shirts tend to have shorter sleeves and fit closer on the upper arms and torso. Shirts that stretch across the bust and create a horizontal dent are too small. Many women’s styles also are shorter, but you still want a length that’s comfortable when you raise your arms. You’ll need a little extra length if you’re doing a French tuck.

With casual woven shirts or t-shirts, there aren’t as many “rules.” Keep your shoulder seams at your shoulders and make sure any button plackets aren’t gaping open. For men, sleeves that end in the middle of the upper arm are the modern look. For guys, the bottom hem should hit mid-fly, but if the shirt is longer, go for a slimmer shape. Casual doesn’t have to mean shapeless.

How Should a Dress Shirt Fit?

Taking accurate measurements is the first step whether you’re buying a custom fit or S, M or L. With men’s dress shirts, knowing your measurements is essential. You’ll need to measure around your neck and from your shoulder to wrist to buy many dress shirts. 

The old rule with collars is that two fingers should fit inside, next to your neck. A more modern fit, according to GQ magazine, is one finger. Tighter and you’ll make co-workers and clients wonder if you can breathe; looser looks like you’re borrowing someone else’s clothes. 

Men’s shirts taper from chest to waist. The classic fit is boxier and wider through the torso, but you’re fooling yourself if you think extra fabric hides extra weight. Stick to modern or slim-fit styles, as they look neater. The shirt buttons should lie flat, with no pulling on the placket (where the buttons and buttonholes are located). The shirt should be long enough that it fits smoothly when tucked into your pants, but not so long that it’s uncomfortably bunched up down there.

The same basic fitting guidelines apply to women’s dress shirts, but there’s more variety. Many women’s dress shirts have princess seams, which bring the shirt closer to the body. Curvier women also can look for shirts with bust darts that fit their bodies better. Three-quarter length sleeves are common among women’s dress shirts. 

For women and men, a shirt’s shoulder seams should sit right at the top of your shoulder bones. A shoulder seam that twists and pulls makes for an uncomfortable work day. In the body of the sleeves, you only want about an inch of excess fabric, too. Too loose and all that extra fabric will look like a wrinkled mess when you take off a jacket. A long sleeve should taper down to the cuff, which will sit where your wrist and the palm of your hand meet when buttoned. With men’s business suits, about 1/2 inch of cuff should show under a jacket. 

Mens and Womens Shirt Sizing + Fit Differences

Of course, many shirts work for women and men, but here are some differences. Men’s shirts have buttons on the right side while women’s are on the left. Men’s shirts are typically cut looser than women’s. That’s where knowing your measurements comes in. You can match your inches to whatever size the manufacturer indicates. Many clothing companies have done the work for you and include sizing charts on their websites.


The way a shirt fits has a huge impact on your style, and finding one that’s made for your unique body type is important when trying to look your best. Whether you’re on a video conference, working from the office or socializing with friends and family, find a shirt that fits and avoid any fashion faux pas. 

If you’re looking for a specific shirt type, turn to Thread Logic. With a wide variety of men’s, women’s and unisex shirt options, we can craft a custom shirt design that perfectly compliments your look. Look to our shirt apparel products and take your fashion sense up a notch.

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About Jeff Taxdahl

With over 20 years’ experience in embroidery and business ownership, Thread Logic owners Jeff and Wenda Taxdahl, and the Thread Logic team, know what it takes to make custom logo embroidered apparel that people are proud to wear.