The Dress Shirt: Getting the right fit and style

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If you're like most guys, you get by with one or two suits and you made the decision to stick with something classic and more traditional, maybe a dark navy-blue Italian suit, for example.  Still, you're probably itching for the chance to show your true colors and let your personality stand out.  The good news is that the dress shirt is a great opportunity for this and if you follow a few simple guidelines, you'll be able to not only look your best but make a distinct and unique impression.

Let's start with the basics, sizing and cut.  Dress shirts are measured according to the collar and sleeve lengths.  Using a tape measure, you can measure the collar in two ways: either wrap the measure around your neck, just below your adam's apple (The tape measure should be snug but not so tight that it cuts into your skin or cause discomfort) and take that measurement then add 1/2 inch.  For example if you measured 15", then your shirt collar should be 15.5".  Another option is to take a shirt that fits well and lay out the collar flat and measure that.  Your sleeve length is measured from the center of your back, over the shoulder and then down to the wrist.

As far as tailoring is concerned, there are two basic options, you can select either a full-cut or a tailored fit.  Full cut is the standard style.  As the name suggests, it is cut with plenty of room in the shirt and for most guys this is going to be the cut that you want.  Of course, you can also choose to get a more closely fitted shirt and choose the tailored fit.  Tailored shirts are tighter around the chest and sides and are especially flattering on slimmer builds that often get lost in the more full cut.  If you are carrying a bit of a stomach you may find that a tailored shirt fits to tight in the front.

Lastly, a word about collars.  There are only a few basic choices here: standard/spread and button-down/buttonless.  The distinctions are subtle and mostly come down to personal taste.  Standard collars are more traditional, spread collars are simply cut to leave a wider gap between the tips of the collar, as such they wrk best with a big chunky knot on your tie and a slimmer face.  Similarly button-down collars are ones that have a button on each collar tip to hold it down on the shirt as opposed to relying on stays (plastic or metal inserts) or starch to keep the collar down.  Button-down is less formal but is usually considered appropriate except for the most formal situations.  Now that we've covered the basics, next time we'll be continuing our discussion of shirts with color and patterns.

Eggplant, buttonless, spread-collar shirt

Beige, button-down, standard collar shirt

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