How Proper Cloth Adjusts Shirt Dimensions for Shrinkage

Updated 2/21/2023

Most shirts are expected to shrink by some amount and at Proper Cloth we take this into account. It is generally not necessary to understand why or how this works. The important thing to know is just that we automatically adjust the dimensions used to produce a shirt such that the shirt will match your intended dimensions after it is laundered 1-2 times.  To be clear, for most shirts we intentionally make the shirt larger than the dimensions specified, so that after the shirt is washed it will fit correctly and be consistent with other shirts made from different fabrics. 

We make three types of adjustments to shirts now: Standard Allowances, Counter-Shrinkage Adjustments, and Counter-Stretch Adjustments.  These are explained below.  

Standard Allowances

Standard Allowances are adjustments that we apply to all shirts, regardless of how the fabric is expected to shrink. There are two Standard Allowance adjustments: 

  • We add 0.4″ to the Collar Around dimension
  • We add 0.3″ to the Sleeve Length dimension (long sleeve shirts only)

Standard Allowances are not intended to compensate for shrinkage.  These allowances are only necessary to match industry standards (and customer expectations) for how the collar size and sleeve length of a shirt should fit when new.  

If a shirt has Counter-Shrinkage or Counter-Stretch Adjustments applied, Standard Allowances are applied in addition to these adjustments. 

Counter-Shrinkage Adjustments

Counter-Shrinkage Adjustments are adjustments made to a shirt’s size so that after 1-2 launderings according to the suggested care instructions, the shirt will fit as intended (matching the Ordered Dimensions plus Standard Allowances). Counter-Shrinkage Adjustments are: 

Applied Uniquely to Each Fabric

Every fabric shrinks differently, and we use different Counter-Shrinkage Adjustment factors for each fabric. To calculate the expected shrinkage of a fabric we use a mix of data provided by fabric mills, our own wash tests, and customer feedback. 

Applied as a Percentage

Unlike Standard Allowances, Counter-Shrinkage Adjustments are applied on a percentage basis. This means the amount a dimension is adjusted will be larger for larger dimensions than it will be for smaller dimensions.  

Applied Uniquely to Each Shirt Dimension

In addition to different fabrics shrinking differently, not every dimension of the shirt is expected to shrink by the same percentage. This is partly due to fabrics shrinking differently in length and width, but also due to the way a shirt is constructed. For example, some parts of a shirt are constructed with one layer of fabric, some with multiple layers of fabric, and some parts have interlinings sewn into them. We modulate the expected shrinkage percentage accordingly for each shirt dimension.

Counter-Stretch Adjustments

In some cases, a fabric will actually become looser when it is laundered.  This situation is less common, but prevalent enough for us to want to address it.  In these cases, we apply Counter-Stretch Adjustments (think about them as negative Counter-Shrinkage Adjustments) to the shirt.  Counter-Stretch Adjustments work exactly the same as the Counter-Shrinkage Adjustments described above, just in the opposite direction – meaning we intentionally make a shirt smaller than ordered so that after it is worn and laundered it will measure close to its specification. 

Understanding How Your Shirt Dimensions Were Adjusted

Because the formulas used to adjust the shirt dimensions are quite complex, it is hard to explain and display exactly how your size will be adjusted for a shirt being made in each fabric.  However, once you have placed an order, in your order history, you can now (as of 2/18/2023) click to see the “Pre-Wash Dimensions” of the shirt.  These are the dimensions that the shirt should measure when it is first delivered to you, prior to it being worn or laundered.  

Image showing how you can see the Pre-Wash Dimensions for your shirt in your Proper Cloth account.

How to Disable Shrinkage Adjustments

If for any reason you do not want your shirt to be automatically adjusted for shrinkage, you can turn this option off in your Account Details. Sign in to your account and scroll to the bottom of this page.  In Advanced Details, change “Yes Auto-Adjust” to “No, Make as Specified”.  

Image showing where to disable shrinkage adjustments in your Proper Cloth account.

Changing this setting will affect orders placed after you make the change and have no effect on orders already placed. 

While we generally encourage customers to leave this on, you may want to turn it off if you’re having a shirt made for a special event and won’t have time to launder it prior to the event. That being said, most dress shirt fabrics don’t shrink very much so it won’t make a huge difference either way. 

Importance of Following Care Instructions

How you wash your shirts will make a big difference in how much it shrinks.  For this reason, we strongly encourage customers to follow the specific shirt care instructions assigned to the shirt you purchase from Proper Cloth.  Doing so will help ensure that your shirts fit the way you intend after they are laundered, and that different shirts you order using the same size will fit consistently.