decades, the Men's Dress Furnishings Association was a resource
for men's dress shirts and ties for manufacturers, retailers and
consumers. Today, the MDFA lives on in spirit through
All About Men's
All About Men's Ties
How to Buy Men's Shirts
How to Buy Men's Ties
How to Match a Shirt &
How to Match a Shirt &
Shirt and Tie Matching
How To Tie a Tie
Dress for a Job
Ask The Experts
About Men's Shirts
What makes a dress shirt - a dress shirt?
thing, dress shirts are sized by collar and sleeve length, unlike
sport shirts which are sized small, medium, large. Sizing a dress
shirt by collar and sleeve length allows for a closer more tailored
Additionally, dress shirt collars are designed and constructed to
accept a necktie without bulging, puckering or lifting. Finally, the
types of fabrics used are generally different leaning more to richer
and more polished constructions.
diagram shows the various parts of a men's dress shirt and we will
talk a little bit about each. In some circles plackets and types of
yokes are the subjects of heated debates. Hopefully, you don’t
travel in those circles, so we will keep it simple.
Dress Shirt Construction
1. Collar Band
A strip of fabric that forms the inner part of the collar and
attaches the collar to the shirt. The top button is part of the
collar band. The band’s width determines the rise or height of the
See section below for discussion of styles. A good shirt collar is
always stitched around the edges to stiffen and hold the folded
material in place. Usually this stitching is not more than a quarter
inch from the collar edge.
3. Collar Point
The points should lie flat and be wrinkle and pucker free. In shirts
that have them, the collar stays will be on the reverse side of the
points. These will be either permanently sewn in or removable. It is
advisable to remove stays before laundering. Button down collars
usually do not have stays.
4. Collar Spread
This varies depending on the style of collar.
5. Front Center Placket
The piece of material on the front of the shirt where the
buttonholes are placed. Once it was a separate piece of cloth sewn
to the front, but today shirt makers fold the edge of the material
to form the placket. It gives the shirt a defined center and makes a
clean finish where the shirt sides join to be buttoned. Most shirts
will have a six or seven button front.
Most dress shirts today have this feature, but it is absent on some
Dress shirts come in either full sleeve or half sleeve versions.
Many fashion arbiters insist that only the long sleeve is
appropriate in a business setting, a tough sale in the warmer
8. Sleeve Placket
This is the open area just above the cuff. Also known as a
“Gauntlet.” Many better shirts have a working button on the placket
so that this gap can be closed when the shirt is worn. It originated
to enable men to roll back their cuffs. It also provides a better
fit around the forearm.
Dress shirts usually come in barrel cuffs, with one or two button
closures, French cuffs and convertible cuffs. French cuffs fold over
and require cuff links for closure. They are somewhat dressier and
bulkier. A convertible cuff can either be buttoned or secured with a
This is the strip of material sewn across the shoulders to
attach the front and back pieces of the shirt. Custom shirt makers
use a split, or two-piece, yoke so they can adjust each shoulder
separately for a custom fit. It is also frequently found on finer
quality manufactured shirts.
This allows for flexibility across the shoulders.
It should be long enough to be tucked into the pants and remain so
during normal activity, but not so long as to bulk out the front of
the trousers. A current style is wear the shirt un-tucked with the
Most dress shirts are woven from three basic fabrics: broadcloth,
oxford cloth and cotton.
Broadcloth is a tightly woven plain weave fabric with a fine
rib or ridge in the crosswise direction. It has a smooth finish and
a crisp look, especially when starched. Because of its tight weave,
it resists soiling.
Oxford is a basket weave with a coarser or heavier appearance
than broadcloth. It can either look dressy or casual depending on
the garments worn with it. It is often used in button downs.
Cotton shirting is a group of woven fabrics that have a
smooth surface. Chambray, madras, or end-on-end fabrics fit in this
Most dress shirts are made of all cotton or cotton and synthetic
blends. The better the quality of the cotton, the stronger the
fibers, as well as the smoother and finer the surface of the shirt.
A very high quality cotton fabric will feel almost silk-like and
have a luxurious appearance.
Cotton is absorbent and breathes, making it a comfortable fiber to
wear but prone to wrinkling. Polyester is blended with cotton in
shirting fabrics to provide wrinkle resistance. Polyester does not
breathe, however, making it less comfortable.
In blends, the higher the percentage of cotton, the more absorbent
and comfortable the shirt will be to wear. The most common blends
are 65% polyester and 35% cotton, 50%/50% polyester and cotton, and
65% cotton/35% polyester.
Care is influenced by fiber content, fabric structure and garment
finishing. Check the care label for proper care requirements.
Many people take shirts to commercial laundries. Normally, customers
specify if they want no, regular or heavy starch. Be aware that
starch (cotton) or sizing (polyester) is not completely removed in
laundering. It will build up over a period of time and could
decrease the wear life of the shirt.
Polyester/cotton blend shirts and 100 % cotton shirts with wrinkle
resistant finishes are now commonly available. These shirts can be
laundered at home with little or no need for ironing.