Dress Shirt Measurements: good fit starts here

Dress Shirt Measurements: let's get started

Are you wondering where to start to find dress shirts that fit? Not a surprise, because most guys don't know the basic measurements that define great fit. But it's time to step up because first impressions matter. Poorly-fitting outfits put you at a disadvantage vs. your better-dressed peers. Here's the good news: you're about to learn how to find shirts that will fit the way you want.

To get accurate results, you're going to need a cloth tape measure. If you'd rather not make a trip a store to pick one up, Amazon is always open.

Tape Measure for Dress Shirt Measurement from Amazon
$2.69 from Amazon

If you'd like to build your personal size profile as you work through your measurements, you can open a new tab here.

Measuring your neck for Collar Size

Dress Shirt Collar Measurement Video
  1. Looking in a mirror, wrap the tape around the base of your neck, where the collar would rest. This is just below your Adam’s apple.
  2. Look straight ahead and relax your shoulders.
  3. Place the tape right against the skin then slide one finger underneath it. This makes sure the collar will be comfortable). 
  4. Read where the numbers overlap the end of the tape. That's your measurement

Measuring your Sleeve Length

How to measure dress shirt sleeve length
Helpful illustration from Ratio Clothing

Accurately measuring shirt sleeve length is easiest with a friend’s help. If you have a shirt that fits, you can measure the shirt. .

  1. Stand with your hand on your waist. Measuring with your arm bent ensures you'll have the ease to move around without the sleeve cuff getting stuck around your forearm.
  2. Have your friend start from the middle of your back, starting from the bone at the base of your neck.
  3. Run the tape measure across your shoulder to your shoulder joint, and then guide the tape down along your arm to your elbow, and finally on toward your wrist.
  4. Stop at the point where your thumb meets your forearm, to make sure that cuff will cover your wrist bone.
  5. If you don’t have a friend to help, you can try measuring a shirt that fits properly.

Now, about fit through the body...

When you wear your shirt without a jacket, you want to move comfortably but not have excess fabric. The problem: two guys with the same neck size may not be have the same chest and waist measurements.  A shirt might fit an ultra-lean marathon runner perfectly.  His friend who lifts weights won’t even be able to button it.

Brands try to deal with this by having 3-4 fit models for different body shapes and fit preferences. Unfortunately, they come with a confusing grab-bag of names: Extra Slim, Extra Trim, Milano, Trim, Classic, Traditional, Regular, etc. To make it even worse, one brand’s “Slim” might have the same measurements as another Brand’s “Standard” fit.

Taking two more measurements will help you find a shirt that will best fit your needs.

How to measure your chest

Dress Shirt Measurement Chest Video
  1. Measure around the widest point of the chest, right over your nipples.
  2. Don't flex or puff out your chest. 
  3. The tape should be level all the way around, and snug on your skin but not digging. 
  4. As an added benefit, you now know your jacket/suit size!

How to measure your stomach

  1. Measure at the narrowest point of your torso, around your belly button. This is a few inches above where you would measure for pants. 
  2. Keep the tape measure level all the way around. 
  3. Stay relaxed; don’t suck in or stick your stomach out.

Fit Guide: the old-fashioned way.

Usually, off-the-rack shirts don’t list these measurements.  Knowing them can help you better understand how to find brands that are best for you. Buried deep in the basement of many menswear websites, you can find sizing tables that tell you the sizing of different “fit models” the brands offer. You can use the following guidelines to get your desired fit:

  • Regular: your measurement + 5-6” (more comfortable)
  • Trim: your measurement + 4-5” (most popular with young, trim guys)
  • Extra-trim fit: your measurement + 3-4” (uberstylish, but may restrict your movement a bit)

If you dig deep into most brands’ websites, you will find a page that lists their detailed sizing specs.

Size Chart

Some examples

Brooks Brothers

Charles Tyrwhitt


T.M. Lewin

Dress Shirt Measurements for Guys with Trim Waists

Most dress shirt brands take a "big tent" approach to waist sizing: go wide, to include many guys as possible. Unfortunately, if you're in good shape with a trim waist, this means their shirts fit you like a big tent. Fortunately, a select few brands have designed for guys in better shape. These brands offer multiple sleeve lengths to fit your arms, and collar sizes to the nearest 1/2" so your neck will be comfortable on days where you need to wear a tie. Here are some examples, each for shirts with 15.5" collar size.

Chest  Waist   Brand and Fit

41.0     37.0     T.M. Lewin Super Fitted

41.2     36.5     Charles Tyrwhitt Super Slim Fit

41.5     38.5     Charles Tyrwhitt Extra Slim Fit

42.5     37.5     Calvin Klein Extra-Slim Fit

43.0     39.0     Nordstrom Men's Shop Extra Trim Fit

43.5     38.5     T.M. Lewin Fitted

44.0     41.0     Charles Tyrwhitt Slim Fit

44.5     40.8     Boss Sharp Fit

45.0     40.0     Nordstrom Men's Shop Trim Fit

45.0     40.0     T.M. Lewin Slim Fit

45.5     41.0     Paul Fredrick Slim Fit

45.6     41.8     Buttoned Down Tailored Fit

46.0    42.0     Jos. A. Bank Tailored

If you want to see the chest and waist for other collar sizes, click on the brand link to see their sizing chart.

Fit Guide: the easy way.

Does this seem like a job for a machine, not a busy guy who hates shopping? Now that you know your basic measurements, there's a dramatically better way to go. A service that searches over 1,000 sizes from 17 top brands in seconds. A personalized assortment that fits the way you want, available online today. With no styling fees, no markups from brand’s website pricing, and no subscriptions.

Want to see your best options that fit your body and your budget, in the next 60 seconds? Try a free Personalized Wardrobe Search from The Wardrobe Essentialist

Free search for dress shirts that fit your body and your budget
Mark Hill

My name is Mark, and I’m the Founder & CEO of The Wardrobe Essentialist. I've spent my career in business and business casual offices, initially at Bain & Co in Boston and San Francisco, and then as a Business Unit General Manager at global Fortune 500 companies.

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