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A well-fitted shirt is the key to pulling together an outfit. It’s also a potential ticking time bomb, since few are aware of the extent of damage that a poorly fitted shirt can inflict on your clothing budget and your closet space. When you buy your first dress shirt, it’s tempting to throw them all on without regard for fit or budget. But do that and you’ll quickly discover that it’s not enough to just buy one: you need at least four different patterns to ensure a good fit with anything more than one shirt in rotation. If you don’t treat your shirts with the care they require, they will sooner rather than later start eating away at all but your most expensive haberdasheries – which is why it makes sense to invest in some repair techniques as soon as possible rather than waiting for things to go badly wrong. We’ve outlined the most effective ways below to keep repairing your shirts instead of replacing them – no matter how many holes they have – until there are none left standing in the same spot from whence they came.
Check the collar and shoulders
The collar of your shirt is where the real damage occurs. When you wash a collar, it expands; when you dry it, it shrinks. This causes the fabric to rip in the most fragile part of the collar: the stitching that holds it together. Deteriorated collars make the most obvious holes – the most obvious of these being the fact that there are now two holes – but they are also the cause of the shirt’s most difficult-to-repair damage. The collar is where a shirt’s shape is created, and with the collar being the only part of the shirt wearing the iron, it’s also the only area that shows any evidence of wear and tear. The shoulders of a shirt, being part of the body of the shirt, are less likely to show damage from repeated wear. However, it’s worth checking them, too, just to be sure.
Button-down shirts have the most obvious repairs, which is good because they also have the most obvious damage. If you have a rip right down the centre of the chest, try ironing it with a damp cloth first to see if you can mend it. If not, you’ll need to find a shirt with a proper collar so you can sew it together. When the damage to a button-down shirt is less obviously along the chest, it’s usually because the shirt is too small. This could be due to you being an in-between size or just that the manufacturer’s measurements between sizes are different to yours. If the damage is around the collar, you can iron it or press it with a damp cloth until it mends.
Cashmere sweaters are the most expensive of all shirt repairs, but worth every penny if you’ve got one. These shirts are made of the softest, most luxurious fibres; they are intensely shrink-proof; they are extremely difficult to damage; and they are almost impossible to repair. There have been cases of cashmere being repaired, but they are rare and expensive, so don’t expect to be able to do this to your own sweater any time soon. However, if you’ve only got a small rip in a cashmere sweater, you can iron it with a damp cloth.
Slim-fit suit jacket
A suit jacket’s most obvious damage is the rip in the pocket. It’s rare, but a jacket pocket can rip from the force of someone trying to take something out of it. This is usually more a matter of shoving something in there than pulling it out, but it’s worth checking before you leave the office. If the rip is along the bottom of one of the sides, it can be repaired with a straight stitch and a thread matching your suit or with a patch, which can be ironed onto the fabric.
If your pants have a rip or damage, it’s easiest to stitch it to the lower leg of the pants and not the pant leg itself. If your rip occurs at the top of the leg, you can stitch it to the pant leg, then finish the seam on the lower leg of the pants. If your rip happens at the knee, you can stitch it to the pant leg, then finish the seam on the leg of the pants.
Trouser tip repair
If your rip is along the tip of a pair of pants, you can simply stitch it back together and press the rip flat. However, if it’s along one of the seams that forms the tip, you’ll need to unpick it and stitch the seam back together. You’d be better off trying to mend the damage yourself before you run out and buy a new pair of pants. For example, if the damage is along the top of one of the seams forming the tip, you can unpick it. Then, on a clean, flat surface, you can sew the seam back together and press the rip flat. You can also do this with a trouser pant leg, but it’s more fiddly.
Trouser hem repair
If you’ve got a rip in the hem of a pair of trousers, the best option is to sew it back together. You’ll need to unpick the rip and then sew it back together. To do this, you need to bring out your measuring tape and find the length of the leg that the rip is on. Then, using a pencil as a guide, mark the position of the rip on the leg of the pants. Then, using the same pencil as a guide, use the tape to measure out how many inches you’ve ripped off and how far from the leg the rip is.
If you’ve got a hole in your shirt, the best thing to do is to patch the hole and press the rip flat. If you’re not sure how to do this, you can consult our guide on how to patch a hole in your shirt. It’s worth noting that many of these repairs can be done while the shirt is still in the wash, so you don’t have to wait until your next dry-cleaning session to do them. We recommend ironing your collar and shoulders, buttoning up your button-down shirt, repairing your trouser hems, and repairing your trousers tips while your shirts are still in the machine; you’ll save a significant amount of time. There will be inevitable damage along the way, but they are all fixable. You can even do a bit of preventative work by ironing your collars and shoulders and buttoning up your button-down shirts before you put them away for the season.