Perhaps not everybody knows, or has paid much attention to the fact, that all the parts of a men’s shirt, the elements of tailoring required for creating it, have precise names, that have remained the same over a long time.
Although some elements have been removed because of the industrial production and evolution of fashion, according to the tradition of tailored shirts a quality shirt has to be made of these following parts. To understand the complexity of a tailor’s work, let’s try to separate and recognize, one by one, all the most important parts of a men’s shirt, including details that define the quality of a shirt.
Front: The front of a shirt is composed of two parts, buttons and sometimes pockets are sewn here.
Breast pocket: Usually sewn to the left-hand side of the front. A detail most often placed on casual shirts, especially on those with a button-down collar. But also on work shirts, on which it has an efficient function, in addition to being decorative.
Buttoned placket: This is the area down the front center of the shirt, where the buttonholes and buttons are placed. Placket front is the one folded over and sewn with visible stitches, typical to casual shirts. Plain front, on the other hand, is used on classic dress shirts, here the edge is folded inside, without visible stitching. An alternative is a fly front, where the buttons are hidden.
Cuffs: Different shirts have different kinds of cuffs. Classic shirts for the most part have round or angle cut barrel cuffs. The most elegant shirts have link or french cuffs, which have buttonholes on both sides and are to be closed with cufflinks. Usually these shirts also have pleats in the seam line between the sleeve and the cuff. The more casual shirts often have square cuffs. All shirts have also a sleeve placket sewn on the opening of the sleeve fabric near the cuff, it’s normally closed by a little button.
Sides: Side seams let you evaluate the quality of a shirt. In fact, more stitches there are in a seam, higher is the quality: an excellent shirt has about 8/9 stitches per centimeter.
Hem: Finishing done on the lower edge of shirts, it varies according to the shirt model and manufacturer.
Buttons: Buttons are a hallmark of a quality shirt. Classic and elegant dress shirt buttons should have a thickness of at least 2/3 mm, preferably in nacre. Behind the buttoned placket there should be sewn at least a couple of spare buttons.
Armholes: This is the point at which the sleeve is attached to the body of the shirt, good quality shirts have top stitched armholes.
Yoke: This part of the shirt covers the shoulders. Quality shirt yokes are made with a separate piece of fabric, which is cut double and half vertically. Some high quality shirts have a yoke made out of two panels, which allow further fit adjustments.
Back: Different shirts have different backs, to assure perfect fit. Many shirts nowadays have a smooth back, while some still have a central box pleat or two side pleats. Slim fit shirts have two darts on the back, to give the shirt a fit that highlights the figure.
Collar: There are also many different collar styles available. The most common and well known ones, however, are italian, french and button-down, the latter has two little and characteristic buttons on the points of the collar. High quality shirt collar is kept stiff by the insertion of collar stays made out of metal, bone or plastic material.
Hem gusset: A triangle of fabric sewn on the lower edge of both side seams in order to reinforce the seam.