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??