It is common knowledge that a dress shirt will likely shrink, and this poses a problem for those who have purchased it with specific measurements, bought it to fit them at the time, perhaps even trying it on. There are instances where shirts are pre-shrunk, and also when getting a bespoke shirt made, the fabric can be pre-shrunk - however most tailors when making you a dress shirt to measure, will allow for shrinkage. This means that they will leave an allowance of around 1 to 3 %, as this is the amount it is likely to shrink over it's lifetime.
Dress shirts are most often made from woven cotton, which is known to shrink about 1-3% over time. The shirt does not shrink just all at once during the first initial wash though, but the first wash is when the most shrinkage will happen. A good dress shirt will indeed shrink in some capacity, however some do it is a way that is hardly noticeable at all, while others might make the shirt shortened in a more noticeable way.
It might not sound as if around a 2% shrinkage is much to worry about, however this can result in a large amount of shrinkage depending if it is from the collar or the sleeve length. A few percent from the inch measurement around the collar can make for an uncomfortable, ill fitting shirt in the end. When a dress shirt shrinks, it will shrink more in length than it will in width. This is due to the nature of the fabric weave, the warp and the weft. As the fabric is slightly distorted in this way, sometimes the width of the shirt can expand a little and the wearer may notice the garment being looser around the chest, the middle, or the arms.
What can I do about dress shirt shrinkage?
The best way to deal with this happening is to buy a shirt where shrinkage has been allowed for. A high quality shirt from a reputable shirt maker, such as ourselves at WH Taylor Shirtmakers, will ensure that within the measurements, shrinkage has been allowed for. Shirtmakers know what they are doing in terms of this allowance, and so when you buy off the peg from them, you can rest assured that you can buy your usual size of dress shirt, and shrinkage will have already been incorporated and allowed for.
Does Dry Clean Only stop a dress shirt from shrinking?
Despite what a lot of people may think, dry cleaning a shirt as the only way of laundering it will not prevent it from shrinking. The only way to ensure the least shrinkage as possible is to wear the shirt infrequently, and spot clean only as much as is required, via a specialist dry cleaner. Shrinkage will be much more severe if the dress shirt is washed and dried frequently at high temperatures.
Because high quality dress shirts tend to be made from a specific type of cotton, shrinkage is expected. Any other type of fabrics will have different effects on the allowance required. When caring for your shirt, this small amount of shrinkage cannot be avoided, however it can be helped by not frequently washing in high temperatures, tumble drying, and continually pressing at high heats. A dress shirt is usually not something that is worn on a regular basis, requiring frequent laundering, therefore it is best to keep dress shirts for those special occasions that they are required, and cared for to ensure they are looking at their best when taken out the wardrobe to wear.