Learn to Fix a Dress Shirt That’s Just Too Big

Bonnie Payne Wiscombe
by Bonnie Payne Wiscombe
5 Materials
2 Hours

Thrifted clothes that are just too big is a problem we all face! There’s no need to get rid of your clothes when you can learn how to fix them. I thrifted a dress shirt that I adored but it was just too big for me. I decided to get sewing and fixed the shirt and now it fits just right. I am totally obsessed with my dress shirt and I am so glad I didn’t get rid of it. If you have a shirt that is a little oversized, follow my tutorial and learn the ins and outs of fixing a dress shirt that is too big. My simple, step-by-step guide will leave you with the perfect fitting shirt in no time.

Tools and materials:

  • Scissors
  • Measuring tape
  • Pins
  • Sewing machine
  • Needle and thread
Take in a dress shirt

Cut the shirt 

To kick off this refashion project, I turned the shirt inside out and then cut off the sleeves. 

Cut the sleeve’s seam allowance

Once the sleeves had been cut off, I cut off the seam allowance from the sleeve itself. If you are cutting a lot off of the sleeve head, later on, you can probably just skip this step. 

Cut the side seams

Next, I cut the side seams of the shirt open so that I could take in the shirt later. 

Adjust the darts

Make adjustments 

I realized that I needed to adjust the darts on the front of the shirt to get the perfect fit. I tried on my dress shirt and decided to move the darts an inch inwards towards the apex of the breast. This is also the perfect time to adjust the width of the shoulder seams if you need to. I have broader shoulders so I didn’t need to change much but if you have more narrow shoulders, you’ll want to cut off enough so that the shoulder seam fits you just right. 

How to take in a shirt

Take in the side seams

After those adjustments, I decided where I wanted my new side seams to be. I took in about an inch and a half on each side of the shirt. I made sure to pin the two sides together. 

Serge the edges

I sewed the sides together and cut off the excess material. I then finished off the raw edges using a serger but you can also use a zig-zag stitch. If you need to hem the bottom of the shirt, this is a great opportunity to do that as well. 

How to take in a dress shirt

Alter the sleeves 

I measured the armhole of the blouse and took note of the measurement so that I could make sure my sleeves would fit perfectly on my refashioned dress shirt. 

Mark the sleeve

I then measured the sleeve head and marked it so that it would match the sleeve hole. 

Cut the underarm seam

In the next step, I cut the underarm seam along my marking. I only cut halfway because I knew I would be making short sleeves later. 

Cut the sleeve head

Once I had trimmed under the sleeve, I decided to get the best fit I would need to recontour the sleeve head. I cut the sleeve head shorter and made sure to match the curve of the original one. 

Shorten the sleeve

This was the perfect time to try the sleeve on and find the new length I wanted. I cut the first sleeve and then used it as a template to cut the second so that they would be the exact same length. 

Take in sides of dress shirt

Reattach the sleeves 

Finally, it was time to reattach my new and improved sleeves to the shirt. I left the shirt inside out and had the sleeve right side out. I placed the sleeve inside the shirt and matched up the underarm seam with the seam of the sleeve and pinned them together. I then pinned the fold of the top of the sleeve with the shoulder seam of the bodice. I pinned all the way around and then sewed on the sleeves. I finished the raw edges with my serger. 

Hem the sleeves

Hem the sleeves 

Next, I had to hem the sleeves. I serged the raw edges and then double folded the sleeve to create a cuff. I made sure to tack down the top and bottom of the cuff to the sleeve. Once I tried on the shirt, I decided I wanted a more polished look for the sleeve so I slip-stitched it instead. Slip stitching involves hand sewing the sleeve to the inside portion of the cuff where it won’t be seen. I made sure to press my cuffs to get a professional finish. 

Thrifted dress shirt

This dress shirt turned out perfectly! How would you style this piece? Let me know in the comments below! 

How to make jeans bigger

Got a pair of jeans that are too tight? Check out this tutorial on How to Make Jeans Waist Bigger: 5 Easy Methods!

Suggested materials:
  • Scissors
  • Measuring tape
  • Pins
See all materials

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Join the conversation
3 of 6 comments
  • Gail Kelly Gail Kelly on Jan 24, 2021

    Thank you for the detailed description of how you turned the oversized shirt into a practical, wearable shirt.

  • Will try this but I have seen large shirts/blouses with the collars too big. Could it be shortened from the middle bacK?

    • Bonnie Payne Wiscombe Bonnie Payne Wiscombe on Mar 13, 2021

      Yes, you could definitely try that. Retrofitting the collar brings some additional challenges but let us know if you give it a shot!