The Past Due Button Down

Just over a year ago, I gave my husband a semi-selfish gift for Christmas: the Negroni Colette pattern along with some green fabric and buttons.  It was the promise of a shirt, and it took a year for me to keep my promise.
chris in shirt2

In September I traced the XXL Negroni pieces, and set out to alter the pattern to match the measurements of his favorite button down shirt.  I sewed up the muslin, finishing one sleeve and the collar and facings before asking him to try it on.  The collar was hanging down, at least two inches too big.  Where had I gone wrong?  I set out to revise the pattern, but I couldn’t figure out why the collar was too long.  I decided to give-up on the pattern–I didn’t really like the facings anyway.

For round two, I cut up his favorite shirt (the elbows had torn quite badly), and I traced each piece of she shirt, making my own pattern.  It worked wonderfully.  The completed shirt has a collar stand rather than the casual camp collar of the Negroni.

Over the course of a couple months, reading through multiple blogs, I think I found where I went wrong in altering the Negroni. Maddie’s post on collar roll height helped me recognize the sizing difference between the camp collar and a collar with a stand.  I also read through many of Peter’s blog posts on men’s shirts, which expanded my understanding of the different styles of men’s shirts.

So here are some of the details I included in my man’s shirt:

The collar buttons down.  You can see in the top photo that the collar is flipping out quite badly (It took me a couple weeks to get the small buttons and fix it).  My husband is quite particular about his shirt collars.  I never knew (till after getting married) that men’s shirts have an opening on the underside of the collar for plastic points to be inserted, to reinforce the collars.  I saw these little plastic pieces sitting on my husband’s dresser–I guess the dry cleaner puts them in to keep the collar nice and straight–and he explained to me how they worked.  I suggested just tacking the collar points down permanently, but husband explained he couldn’t get a tie on that way.  Button down is his preferred collar style.

The buttonhole placket was cut on the bias for pattern contrast, a detail I picked up from looking at my brother-in-law’s many Ben Sherman shirts.

The yoke is also cut on the bias.  I followed the Colette Negroni directions for inserting the lined yoke.  There is a center back pleat, a detail that I copied directly from the original “favorite” shirt.

The cuff was cut on the bias as well, and the sleeve has two tucks to gather in the fabric.

I used the Negroni pattern piece and directions for the sleeve placket.  This pattern piece looks intimidating, but the Colette directions make it pretty easy, and it is especially satisfying to finish.  It’s like fine architecture.  Seriously, who designed the sleeve placket??  I’m in awe.  It’s so cool the way the fabric folds up and finishes the sleeve opening.

I’m not completely satisfied with the buttons.  I don’t like the black buttons, but I had a difficult time finding buttons that looked masculine enough for a men’s shirt.  I also think I may have sewn them down too tightly–anyone have tips for keeping the buttons a little looser??  The buttons at the collar are pulling the shirt a little as well–I don’t know if I need to use some fusible interfacing here to stabilize the body of the shirt?  Or just loosen the buttons a little?

Despite my button problems, I’m really proud of this shirt and can’t wait to make more shirts for my husband.  He’s a big guy, and it’s really hard to find RTW shirts that fit him, so I hope to be his tailor for his future shirt needs.

Have you made a men’s shirt?  Does your man have collar preferences??


  1. This looks great! What a wonderful gift! To be honest, I find men’s shirts so scary! I still need to attack a men’s shirt for my hubs, but I keep dragging my feet! I can’t believe you made your own pattern– great job, dood!

    1. Thanks Ginger. I have to say, sewing him a shirt was sooo satisfying! And I think he wears his shirt more than I have worn a lot of my own me-made garments. And all the straight lines in men’s clothes are much easier than curvy girl garments ;)

  2. Love that shirt. Did you hand sew the buttons or use the machine? When I handsew buttons on I will sometimes sew over a toothpick or a small sewing needle. Gives the button wiggle room.

    The shirt is amazing. Enjoy making more. g

    1. I used a machine on the buttons because I’m very slow doing them by hand. The toothpick idea is great, thank you so much! I suppose if I practice my hand sewing more I’ll get faster at it ;)

  3. Beautiful!! I’ve done the same thing for my husband – make a standard button down shirt but used the Negroni instructions. And Peter’s tutorials were a godsend! Your husband’s shirt turned out beautifully!! And he looks very handsome in it!

  4. Hooray for giving button downs for gifts!! I love that you cut the buttonhole placket and yoke on the bias – these are fabulous touches to a really polished shirt. I had a similar button issue when I was sewing on buttons for Rob’s shirt, so I went back and shanked them by wrapping thread around the base of the button to make it stand up a little higher. I may have overdone it a bit, but he can button his shirt fine now!

    I really like the fabric you chose, and I think the black buttons are a nice touch, especially on the collar. Well done, and bravo for blazing your own trail with your own pattern!

    1. I always thought buttons seemed so simple, but no, there is actually a little more to sewing them on then meets the eye! Thanks for sharing Meg–hopefully my next set of buttons will lie a little nicer now!

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