How Proper Cloth Adjusts Shirt Dimensions for Shrinkage

Most shirts are expected to shrink some amount, and at Proper Cloth we take this into account when we make our shirts.  In general, we make two types of dimension adjustments, or “allowances,” to shirts: Standard Allowances and Special Shrinkage Allowances.

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 to be aware of: 

  • We add 5/8” (0.625”) to Collar Around
  • We add 1/2” (0.5”) to Sleeve Length

If a fabric has Special Shrinkage Allowances, Standard Allowances are still applied in addition to the Special Shrinkage Allowances. 

Standard Allowances are not explicitly added to compensate for shrinkage (we don’t always expect a shirt to shrink exactly these amounts), but this extra fabric does compensate for the standard 1-3% that typical dress shirts shrink.  Beyond shrinkage, these allowances are helpful for matching industry standards (and customer expectations) for how the collar size and sleeve length of a shirt should fit when a shirt is new.  

Special Shrinkage Allowances

Special Shrinkage Allowances are percentage adjustments applied to a shirt to compensate for the expected shrinkage (or stretching) that will occur when the shirt is cleaned according to the suggested care instructions.  The Special Shrinkage Allowances applied will depend on the specific shirt fabric used.  Many fabrics don’t have any Special Shrinkage Allowances. 

Special Shrinkage Allowances are applied uniquely to the length and width dimensions of the shirt. Some fabrics will only have Special Shrinkage Allowances for the length dimensions, others will have them for the length and width.

  • Length Dimensions include: Collar Around, Sleeve Length, Shirt Back Length, Yoke Width, Shirt Front Length, Cuff Around
  • Width Dimensions include: Chest Width, Midsection Width, Bottom Width, Sleeve Width

Special Shrinkage Allowances are always applied in addition to the Standard Allowances described above. 

Typically, washing a shirt once according to the suggested care instructions will cause most, but not all, of the shrinkage to occur.  After 2 washes the shirt may be slightly smaller still, and after 50 washes it will likely be even smaller.  Generally speaking, since most of the shrinkage occurs in the first 1-2 washes, we try to make shirts such that they will match the ordered dimensions after one wash cycle.

For fabrics that stretch less than 1-3%, we may apply a negative Special Shrinkage Allowance. In this case, the shirt will arrive with measurements slightly smaller than shirts without this adjustment, but after a wash or two all shirts should be consistent.

Examples of Standard and Special Shrinkage Allowances Applied

  • If a shirt has a 35” Sleeve Length and uses a fabric with a 1% Special Shrinkage Allowance for the Length Dimensions, the Sleeve Length will be made: 35+(35*0.01)+0.5 = 35.9”.
  • If a shirt has a 35” Sleeve Length and uses a fabric with only Standard Allowances, the Sleeve Length will be made to measure: 35+0.5 = 35.5”.
  • If a shirt has a 30” Back Length and uses a fabric with a 2% Special Shrinkage Allowance for the Length Dimensions, the Back Length will be made to measure: 30+(30*0.02) = 30.6”.
  • If a shirt has a 30” Back Length and uses a fabric with only Standard Allowances, the Back Length will be made to measure 30”.
  • If a shirt has a 9” Sleeve Width and uses a fabric with a 2% Special Shrinkage Allowance for the Width Dimensions, the Sleeve Width will be made to measure: 9+(9*0.02) = 9.2”.