Q & Answer: Darts Vs. Side Seams

January 4, 2016

Q & Answer: Darts vs. Side Seams

Ken writes to ask: I know you can slim a shirt down by either taking it in at the sides or adding darts to the back, but is one better than the other in certain cases? When should you add darts to the back or shirts, and when should you avoid them? 

For those unfamiliar, darts are folds that have been pinched and then sewn into a garment. They’re basically a way to add shape – turning a flat piece of cloth into something with curves. On tailored trousers, you sometimes see them at the back, just below the waistband, where they help the pants curve over the wearer’s rear. On a jacket, they’re sometimes used at the front, just above the hip pockets, to help the jacket better follow the wearer’s waist. 

You don’t see them that often on ready-to-wear shirts, but they can be easily added at any local alterations tailor for about $20. 

So when would you want to use them?

  • When you want to slim a shirt down further than what a tailor can take out of the side seams (this is particularly useful for people who have a big drop from their chest to waist sizes – body builders, for example). 
  • When you want to bring the shirt in at the lower back. Remember, darts help add shape, which means – in addition to slimming the waist – they’ll take out the fullness at the lower back, helping reveal that hollowed shape. As a result, you’ll have a bit more of a sculpted look. 

And when might you not want to use them?

  • Darts look more appropriate on dressier shirts, such as the white one on James Bond above. Less so on casual shirts, such as brushed cotton flannels and chambrays. I also think they look a little funny on oxford-cloth button-downs, but only because I think of those as a very casual American garment. If your taste run a bit more European, you could go either way. 
  • If you stand with a bit of a stoop, they could also accentuate your bad posture. Remember, they’re mainly used to reveal the hollow at your back, but if your shoulders are hunched and pitched forward, they’ll give your posture a bit of an S-curve. 

Slimming down a blouse-y shirt is almost always a good idea, it’s just a question of how much. Taking in the side seams is pretty standard, but if you want to go a step further, you can also add darts. If you’re uncertain about them, add them to one shirt before transforming your wardrobe. You can always take out the darts if you don’t like them, but doing so can leave small holes where the seams used to be. 

(photo via The Suits of James Bond)

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