“Mind the gap” is now a running gag in my household ever since we went to London. The phrase is ubiquitous at the Tube stations – signs everywhere, audible warnings repeatedly blared overhead. All so that subway riders remember to notice the gap between the platform and the car when entering. Returning home, we found we couldn’t get it out of our heads, and used it whenever even mildly applicable. Example: my boyfriend will jokingly remind me to “mind the gap” every time I put on a button-down shirt.
I’m sure most ladies know what I mean. That gap around the chest where most shirt companies seemingly forgot that you can base a shirt on a traditional men’s shirt, but need to remember that women have a different silhouette. I have tried toupee tape, added tiny clear snaps, and opted for stretchy fabrics. I haven’t tried these shirts by The Shirt yet, but it sounds like a great idea – they include hidden buttons underneath the usual placket.
Even if that gap’s not an issue, we all have to consider the gap at the waist. You want enough tail on the shirt so that it stays tucked in. But you don’t want so much that you’re stuffing a ton of fabric into your waistband.
Beyond gap issues, every body type has special needs when it comes to the button-down shirt:
If you’re self-conscious about your waist, consider wearing your shirt untucked. Just make sure it’s long enough to fall past your hipbone. Avoid fitted shirts and look for something that will bring the eye upward, such as detail close to the face, or a darker colored shirt with a white collar.
If you’re very thin, go with a tailored, tightly tucked in shirt. Also, consider some details to add volume – such as breast pockets or pleats. Add softness to a straight silhouette by opting for silk, or other flowing fabric.
If you have broad shoulders, make sure the shirt nips in at your waist, and that the sleeve seam lines up with the outer edge of your shoulder (or look for a shirt without sleeve seam lines). Add a long, narrow necklace or draped scarf to pull the eye toward the center of your torso.
If you’re long-waisted, you can get away with wearing your shirt untucked (but make sure it’s a well-tailored shirt so you don’t look messy).
If the task of shopping for such specific requirements is daunting, consider custom tailoring. There are online sites such as Moi-Même and there are also terrific tailors from Hong Kong (famously brilliant and not expensive tailors) who often tour the US, take personalized measurements and then mail you the finished product. Check out DDaswani Hong Kong Tailors or Raja Fashions to see when they’ll be in your area.
After all, a working-woman has a thousand more important things to worry about during the day than whether or not her shirt is gaping.
Photography credit: Erica Hampton