Garment Doctor Series: Shirt Darts

February 20th, 2013

If you have a problem with “billowy” shirt fabric at the lower back, there is a very simple solution. Add back darts to your shirts.

If your tailor only takes-in the side seams, he has to make the front and back slimmer by equal measures. Problem is, most guys have a flat or convex (curved-out) front stomach but a concave (curved-in/hollow) lower back.

Therefore, even with a shirt that has been taken-in at the sides, there can be annoying extra fabric billowing at the lower back.

See here:

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Back darts are two simple straight seams, sewn from the inside, that turn this extra fabric inside-out.

This allows the shirt to follow the natural curve of your back, creating a much more flattering silhouette.

See here:

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I have darts on 95% of my shirts, and I sew them myself. It’s very easy to learn.

It’s a five minute alteration that can make a huge difference.

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Yours in style,

Dan & the TSB crew

 

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  • http://www.thetailorsroom.com.au rue vogiatz

    Sorry, not a fan of this…although for some it would suffice. I would undo pleats above darts and incorporate these into dart maintaining a fluid finish. Careful pinning is needed to make sure shoulder blades are not restricted. Is that a centre back seam in yoke? The excess could be moved into centre back as to have one continuous line. Although this does not suit all figure types, darting either side suits some figure types better.

  • John

    Hi!

    Do you have a guide how to do it?

  • Jonathan

    I dart my own shirts – it works really well and save’s ££’s over tailors, especially if your weight goes up/down and alterations are needed more than once. Best bet is to get a tailor to measure up and do one for you then copy it onto your other shirts – job done.

  • http://ramblingsofawould-berenaissanceman.blogspot Joseph

    Just to echo some of the other comments, some sort of guide would be incredibly cool. I definitely have this problem with quite a few shirts and this would be very useful to learn to do. I’ve actually already taken in the side seams on a shirt myself, so I’m not unfamiliar with this kind of alteration. Specifically I’m wondering how you figure out the appropriate placement and length of the dart. Do you sew them straight up or at an angle?

  • carlos

    Let me just wanna start off saying that I love your site and keep up the good work.
    Let me begin with that I have the same exact problem here.
    I am a big gym buff so I have wide shoulders and a very thin waist (30″).
    As I was reading this article I was saying to myself this is exactly what I need here!
    So..i went to my tailor.. a very nice lady i might add.. and she told me that it will be more expensive to add darts to a button up dress shirt then rather taking it in. Because of all the measurements and the fitting that comes with it..
    And I thought it was a easy way to get all my dress shirts to fit me right!

  • TO

    Darts also apparently clean up your “mullet” quite a bit. Kidding of course, but just by judging on the camera angles in both shots. In all seriousness, great informative piece on a very a simple but very effective alteration!

    Keep the series going:)

    • http://tsbmen.com Townsend

      Haha, the “pre-dart” pic was shot was when my hair was slicked back for an event later that night… wicked mullet. I’m smart enough to not roll around with that look all the time… ;)

  • dalton

    Let’s get some short tutorial youtube videos up in this!!! I need to know how this is done.

    • http://tsbmen.com Townsend

      It’s like you’re reading our mind… Lots of exciting new developments to come VERY soon!

    • Joe

      ditto – looking forward to it.

  • Milton

    TSB Team,

    I’m considering starting a relationship with a tailor here in Charleston by taking a few shirts in for alterations. My questions are pertaining to removing the extra fabric around the waist of button-downs. But first, some explanation.
    Most of my sports shirts are Brooks Brothers’ extra-slim fit or slim fit in size small, or 15 1/2 X 33 extra-slim or slim for dress shirts. My neck (15 1/2 or 16) requires at least a medium, but I avoid buying them because of my torso shape. I have fairly wide shoulders and a 30″ or 31″ waist at 5’10 and 150lbs. From my waist down, I have next-to-no behind and thin legs. Because of my body shape, I end up with a large amount of billowing shirt material at my waist, especially at my sides and back that completely throws of the proportionality and tidiness of my look, regardless of my tucking technique. As you would expect, this kills the confidence that should be granted by a well-put-together appearance. Also, my few pairs of beloved trousers fit my thin lower half very well after alterations, which adds to the confusing billow at my midsection.
    So, TSB Team, what should I do with my shirts? The sleeves need a tad of slimming, I’ve got that down. But what about the body? Should I take in the side seams? How about darts, as suggested above? Or maybe both? From my sternum to my waist, I have a flat profile while my back is concave. I look forward to hearing a little more specifics about controlling that extra flab below my chest.
    I also wanted to take a moment to thank you gentlemen for your work, advice, and guidance. As a young college student transitioning into dressing like a man (and follower of The Style Blogger for over a year), your blog is an incredible place of inspiration. I truly appreciate what you’ve been doing. So thank you very much Alex, Dan, Townsend, and Wes!

    Milton

    • http://undefined Jack

      You might be overthinking this one. I have the same body type – “concave back” and all – and wear the same BB extra-slim fit shirts. You could take them to your tailor for darts, but instead of chasing after that elusive, perfect fit, I’d just let it be.

    • Thomas

      Milton,

      I’m from Charleston and wish I had a good tailor to recommend, but your question was about fit if the tailor takes in your shirts at the body then in order to balance the shirt out the sleeves should be shortened as well as the armpit raised. As long as your shirts fit in the shoulder a good tailor should be able to help you out. To be safe bring in one for testing

    • ernie

      ever tried wearing an untucked oxford shirt with your beloved trousers? sometimes a looser fitting top that’s untucked will hide an imperfect upper body. college chicks dig the more casual look on a young dude anyway

  • John

    Thank you so much for that! You have mentioned darts in the past, but actually seeing them helps! I’m definitely trying it.
    Thankfully my patterned shirts aren’t billowy (I’ll double check though).

  • Adam

    I’ve known that darts are what I need to fix this very issue but my problem is that none of my shirts are plain white like the example above. They’re mostly gingham or plaids. When darts are sewn in they’re immediately visible since they break up the pattern. Is this just something you’ve got to deal with for shirts that fit?

    • http://tsbmen.com Dan Trepanier

      Good point Adam. In my opinion, I’d much rather have a slightly distorted pattern than a billowy shirt.

      Cheers.

  • Sergio

    Towni, I’m on the same boat as everyone else, can you explain to us how to do it? I have this issue with a lot of my shirts as most shirts with my neck size are huge in the stomach area. If I could do this myself that’d be great!

  • Bob

    This makes me wonder why my tailor (whom I visit 3-4 times per month) has never recommended darts and prefers to alter the seams instead. I kinda suspect the seam alteration costs more than adding darts, so maybe I’ve been missing out on a cheaper alternative all along??

    Darts also seem to have the advantage of being undone later if you need to let the shirt out for some reason, while a seam adjustment seems less (or not at all) reversible.

  • Brad

    Alright, time for a tutorial if it’s so easy. Do you use a sewing machine? I’m not sure I know too many guys that own one.

    They look great.

  • xxx

    “I have darts on 95% of my shirts, and I sew them myself. It’s very easy to learn.”

    So how do you do it!?

  • Ace F.

    By the way, I sent an email via this sites contact form.
    I need help on how to fix my trouser problems.
    I know you guys can help me.

    Thanks.

  • Tjay

    Very helpful post! I’ve been wondering for a very long time just what the heck darts were. Two questions though:
    1) Do you usually tailor the clothes you buy yourself since you’re already a tailor? and
    2) Can you apply darts to blazers or suit coats as well?

  • LouCaves

    Good “fyi” post. Actually going to sit with my Mom this weekend (don’t laugh, :D ) to learn darting and some hemming. She’s a whiz with a sewing machine.

    Thanks Dan, TSB has inspired me to learn some of this basic stuff.

    LC

  • Ace F.

    Damn! I actually have this problem with most of my shirts.
    Glad I have the solution now.
    Thanks for sharing this.