Shirt Sleeve alteration

I thought I would share how I shortened the sleeve of a dress shirt.  I had to take it up about 3 3/4 inches.

Things used:
thread to match the shirt
scissors
iron
seamripper
marking pencil

To begin I actually googled to see how other people did it.  There are two ways to shorten a sleeve and some will argue about which is actually the best way.  Some feel shortening from the shoulder is the best way to go.  Doing it this way you eliminate the need to move the cuff and placket.  Others feel that shortening from the bottom is the best way as recutting the sleeve shoulder can be a pain and can change the shape, and therefore fit, of the sleeve.  Also if you only need to shorten by 1 inch or less, you just need to move the cuff and it shouldn’t affect the size or look of the placket.

I chose to go the route of the latter mainly because the shirt I was working on was a really well made Christian Dior and they had flat felled the shoulder seam, which I didn’t want to have to redo so making the adjustment at the cuff seemed the lesser of two evils.

I also decided that it would be best to do one sleeve at time.  This way I could use the other sleeve as a reference and it lessened my chances of mixing up pieces or putting something on backwards.  smart no? :D

First things first, I very carefully took off the cuff and placket.  As I removed the stitches I took note of the important measurments: wrist measurement and placket slit.

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Next I cut off the excess sleeve material making sure to leave enough for the seam to reattach the cuff.  It’s hard to tell but I’d like to point out that most sleeves like this are not straight across at the wrist.  There is usually a little more length towards the top of the sleeve.  This makes sure the cuff appears straight on the wrist.  So I made sure that I cut off the necessary amount while following the curve at the wrist of the sleeve.

Next I measured and cut the slit for placket to the correct length.  You can see the cuts from where the top of the original slit was.

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Next I opened up the underarm seam to within a few inches of the underarm.  The sleeve needed to be narrowed at the wrist to match the original wrist measurment.

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This was actually the second sleeve I was working on so I had learned from the first one that it is best to leave this seam open until the placket is back in.  So I reattached the skinny side of the placket.  It’s edge stitched in place and at the top of the slit there is a little triangle cut.  That gets stitched across the top of the placket piece.  Sorry for such a crappy description but I’m not sure how else to put it in words.  So here’s the photo.

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Next I reattached the larger placket piece.  It’s pretty self explanatory in the photo’s, just allign it with the other cut edge of the placket slit and top stitch.

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Next I sewed up the underarm seam.  It’s a flat-felled seam so I just used the original seam at the top of the underarm seam as reference for how much to press under for the area that I had trimmed off.  Once that was done I used the original wrist piece that I had cut off as reference for where to place the pleats.  I used a marking pencil to mark the folds.  Then I lined up the cuff and edge stitched it back on.  All that is left is to reattach the button and it’s done!

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8 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Mary on February 27, 2009 at 9:13 pm

    Thank you for taking the time to show this. I have been asked to help a friend shorten sleeves on a dress shirt. How much would you charges? How long does it take?

  2. Posted by Punkn on February 28, 2009 at 12:09 pm

    I charged $10 for it. It’s the first time I’ve done something like this so based on the experience I would possibly consider raising the price a couple dollars to do sleeves like this again. It was a tad more involved than I expected but it really depends on the shirt since some don’t have plackets like this, or pleats etc. Over all it probably took a good hour and a half with ripping out stitches, ironing and resewing. Hope that helps.

  3. Posted by akaBUD on March 6, 2010 at 11:58 pm

    Nice !,,,,,do you have the same detailed instruction available for shortening the sleeve length at the shoulder junction?

  4. Posted by shirley on April 21, 2010 at 6:48 pm

    My husband & I are seniors & most seniors lose all muscle tone in shoulders so the shirt hangs off
    the shoulder by 2 inches. Is there a way to take the shirts up at the shoulder ? I,m experienced with
    sewing but not with that type of alteration. Any help would be appreciated. Shirley

  5. Posted by Punkn on April 28, 2010 at 7:51 pm

    shortening at the shoulder can be a little tricky depending on the sleeve. The problem occurs when the sleeve tapers to a different width so depending on how much you need to shorten your sleeve by, you may end up with a narrower sleeve at the shoulder and bicep area. This could make it difficult to fit the sleeve back into the armhole and may make it uncomfortable. If the sleeve is being shortened by just a little bit, this may not be an issue, but if it is being shortened substantially you may run into problems. Hope that helps a little when deciding on how to shorten the sleeve but I don’t have any detailed instructions on how to do this.

  6. Posted by Punkn on April 28, 2010 at 7:57 pm

    This is something I would highly recommend taking to a local tailor to do. It can be done, it’s just tricky to do on one’s own. A tailor would need to see the shirt on you and then they would be able to pin out the excess while you are wearing the shirt until it is a comfortable fit and looks nice. Then they would make the alteration. They would also be able to tell you right away if the alteration is possible as well. Please see my comment below about shortening a sleeve at the shoulder as the info would apply to this kind of alteration on rare occasions. I stress the term tailor for this though. Places at the mall that do minor alterations like zippers and hems may not have the knowledge for this kind of alteration (though it couldn’t hurt to ask). Good luck with it!

  7. Posted by Sophia on October 24, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    Dear Punkn,
    Thank you so much for your tutorial! Your tutorial is the only one I found on the web with a placket work. In the past I did not change the placement of a placket and the shirt did not turnout well. I followed your tutorial to shorten a flannel shirt yesterday for my husband and it worked very well. I am working on a second shirt today and have one more shirt to go after that. With the second shirt I understood better a stitching of a triangle to a narrow part of the placket – I have to turn the fabric over and stitch on the other side. I am self-taught, not a professional tailor, and your instructions were a lifesaver. Thank you so much!!!

  8. “”` I am very thankful to this topic because it really gives useful information :':

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