The Best Way to Shorten Sleeves on a Dress Shirt

A dress shirt with sleeves that are too long can look sloppy.

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Nothing says unprofessional like a dress shirt that doesn't fit. Sleeves that hang past the wrist can look like you're playing dress-up in your big sister's closet. You can return your purchase and hope another size does the job. But going one size down can mean snugness in the chest or shoulders -- a major no-go. Solve the problem by simply tailoring the sleeves. You don't always need a professional to get the job done, just some tools and a little time.

Before You Start

Make the process of do-it-yourself tailoring as painless as possible. Before you let your inner seamstress run wild, slip the shirt on and measure how short you want the sleeves. This will save you from trying to estimate once the project is under way. You'll also want the right tools on hand. A good pair of sewing scissors makes cutting fabric a breeze. A proper seam ripper lets you detach the shoulder or cuff without destroying the shirt. Add matching thread and a sewing machine to your list and you're ready to sew!

At the Cuff

If your shirt has tailored shoulders that puff up princess style, or fancy seaming, it's best to save yourself the headache and shorten the sleeves at the cuffs. Remove the cuff and placket -- that's the portion of the sleeve that buttons up the arm. Trim the sleeve down to your desired length. Split the seam up the underside of the arm. Cut a slit for the new placket. Reattach the placket, then sew the underside seam back up. Sew the original cuff back onto the end of the sleeve. You may have to create a pleat as the sleeve fabric may be wider than the cuff.

At the Shoulder

If removing the cuff seems like a totally daunting task, you can also shorten a dress shirt sleeve at the shoulder. Carefully remove the sleeve from the armhole. Trim the sleeve down to your desired length, making sure to follow the rounded shape of the shoulder. If you don't, you're going to end up with a sleeve that doesn't fit. Gals who plan on trimming the sleeve down more than 1 inch should also take in the sleeve's underarm seam. This involves opening the underarm seam and resewing it so it fits the diameter of the arm hole. Finish up by reattaching the sleeve.

Downside to Do-it-Yourself

Trimming your own sleeves comes with a few traps. If your shirt has a plain Jane cuff and simple shoulders the task should be easy breezy. But little details such as French cuffs, fancy stitching and epaulets can make things more complicated. High end fabrics such as silk and satin are also going to be harder to alter than cotton. If you've purchased a really expensive dress shirt it's best to get it tailored by a professional, especially if you're totally green when it comes to sewing. The last thing you want is to destroy something you spent a large portion of your paycheck on.

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