How Should a Dress Shirt Fit?

How Should a Dress Shirt Fit?

The dress shirt fit has a lot of moving pieces - the neck, the body, the sleeves and cuffs. It is a balancing act to get them to work together, but it is definitely worth the effort. 


The neck size of your dress shirt is the most important part of ensuring that the fit is right, since the neck size impacts all of the proportions of a dress shirt. You can find the neck size on the shirt tag; it is the first number on it.

When you button up the collar of the dress shirt, one or two fingers should fit comfortably between your neck and the collar. It shouldn't be so tight that it is a struggle to fasten the top shirt button, but it also shouldn't be so loose that the collar is hanging off your neck, causing your collar and neckwear to sag. 

If the neck is too tight, and the body fits too tight as well (more on the body fit below) you will definitely need to go up half a size or a full size. If the collar is just slightly tight but the rest of the shirts fits you well, you might just want to add a collar extender to your shirt. 


The most common fit problem with a dress shirt is when you have a lot of extra fabric around your mid section and billowing out of your pants. Likewise, you don't want to feel trapped in the shirt. The right fit would be if you have enough room to move without the waistline fabric billow. 

So if you have already got the neck size right, but the waist just doesn't seem to fit you could either try a different fit (slim fit, modern fit, athletic fit or regular fit) or simply bring your shirt to a tailor and let them take in the sides or add darts to the back of your shirt. 

Another very common problem is when your muscles are just a bit too big. If you have a pronounced V-shaped torso, it is very normal to find that slim fit shirts can't contain your frame up top, but a regular fit shirt is too baggy in the midsection. Again, you can try to go with an athletic fit, however the better option for you would be to go with a custom made shirt.


When you check the fit, be sure to keep your arms down at the side of your body for accuracy. The right sleeve length should hit right at your wrist - just covering the little nubby wrist bone above your hand. Too much shirt cuff looks sloppy, but showing no cuff at all (while acceptable) will totally hide your beautiful cufflinks. 

When paired with the right fitted suit jacket, a small amount of shirt cuff should peek out from under your suit jacket about 1/4" to 1/2".