Shirts cannot be tweaked and tucked quite as fully or often as a jacket, unfortunately. There is no inlay in the side seams, and therefore it cannot be expanded except with the addition of a rather ugly extra panel.
Still, more changes are possible than many people think. Shirt sleeves can of course be shortened – you just take off the cuff, cut down the sleeve and reattach (this can even be done from the shoulder if you want to retain the length of the placket). But sleeves with double cuffs can also be lengthened slightly. Depending on the make, there is at least half an inch of inlay in there, which can be sufficient to give you that crucial exposure of cuff at the end of a jacket’s sleeve.
Darts can be put in the body of a shirt, to narrow it at the waist and – depending on the run – alter the hips and a little of the chest. Depending on the fineness of the make, these darts can also be removed or changed several times. Turnbull & Asser, I recently discovered, charges merely £15 for this, despite having to send each shirt to Gloucester to the original tailors and then fetch it back. As with many things, T&A is a big name but provides a tailor’s value.
Turnbull & Asser also places its darts closer to the side seam than many makers, particularly the Italians. I prefer this, both because it makes them less conspicuous and because functionally they are closer to what you ideally want altered – the side seams.
At T&A’s prices it is affordable to narrow a whole collection of shirts, and that is what I am in the process of doing, having lost weight over the past three months. Nothing like a close-fitting shirt to make sure the weight stays off. Andrew Courtney at the extremely convenient City branch of T&A is being extremely helpful in this regard. It is a wonderful thing having a tailor within walking distance.
One word of warning, however: try any alterations on one shirt first, and be conservative with the change. Cotton doesn’t stretch like wool, and you can’t take your shirt off in the office; it must remain comfortable even in your most slouched sedentary position. I made this mistake the first time round and it has lengthened the process needlessly.
Picture: Andy Barnham