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dress shirt shrinkage

How Much Will A Dress Shirt Shrink?

Posted on: 28th Feb, 2018

When you’ve invested time and money into a custom dress shirt, it can be frustrating to discover it’s shrunk, especially if you don’t know exactly how it’s happened, or even why. Since the exact amount of shrinkage can also vary depending on the fabric itself, it can end up being quite a chore to work out where the problem is. That’s why we’ve dedicated this week’s blog to clearing up some of the most pressing questions, as well as giving you some top tips on how best to anticipate the issue.

How A Dress Shirt Shrinks

As a general rule, dress shirts are made from woven cotton fabric. Woven cotton shrinks an average of 2%. As we touched upon above, this figure can vary depending on the exact fabric, so it’s wise to assume a fabric will shrink anywhere between 1-3%. In case that doesn’t sound like much, we’ll put it into perspective. If a typical sleeve length first measures 35”, that can translate to a full 0.7” of shrinkage. Pretty sizeable!

dress shirt cuffs

We use sleeves as an example because dress shirt fabrics tend to shrink more in the warp than the weft (in other words, in the length rather than the width). Sleeve length, shirt length and collar are all the places where you can expect the most shrinkage to occur. Now, shrinkage happens over time, and unless there are some drastic circumstances the average shirt fabric won’t suddenly shrink dramatically, so don’t panic too much. You’ll generally only find it starts to get a little tighter after you’ve washed it a good few times.

What Makes A Dress Shirt Shrink?

Again, it depends on the fabric. Finer shirting fabrics like chambrays and silks tend to be exceptionally shrinkable, but mainly dress shirts shrink because of the way they’re washed. For example, if you’re in the habit of washing the shirt on a high heat in the washer, and then drying it on a high heat in the dryer, you’re obviously going to notice a pretty significant difference when you next come to wear it. On the other hand, if you’re selective about when you wear the shirt, and occasionally have it spot cleaned by a professional dry cleaner, it’s going to be a longer time before you start to feel a difference.

A particularly good trick is to anticipate it before it even occurs, by up-sizing the shirt slightly during the tailoring process, so that the normal amount of shrinkage is taken into account.

How You Can Avoid Dress Shirts Shrinking

dress shirts on hangers

The most important factor to note is that ultimately, you can’t – not unless you never plan on washing it! However, there are measures you can take to drastically slow down the process, to the extent that you might even be looking for another shirt before serious shrinkage even becomes a problem. Amongst these measures are:

  • Dry clean your dress shirts if possible
  • If you wash them at home, opt for cooler cycle settings
  • Always avoid putting them in the dryer – instead, hang them out to dry naturally
  • Choose your fabric cleaning products carefully
  • Avoid using starch and bleach!

If you’re looking for the perfect cotton shirting fabric for your bespoke dress shirt, you’re in exactly the right place. Here at Acorn Fabrics, we have a wide selection of quality shirting fabrics. Our Cotton Marcella is our customers’ first choice for bib fronts of dress shirts, and can be used together with our Royal Malham 250 fabric.