Bridging the Button Down Gap

"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.

button down gaps

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.

fix button down gaps

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).

wear a sleeveless suit

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



  • kylie rachel says:

    The gap has been one of my worries too when I wear button down shirts. What I usually do, however, to prevent my inner skin showing, is I wear a skintight tank top inside, on top of my bra. That way, even when I sit down or stand up and I don’t notice the gap, I am confident that the skin inside is covered.

  • Helga says:

    Oh yes, that’s a very common problem among us ladies who love to wear button downs. Thanks for sharing your tips, Heidi. I usually use double-sided fabric tape on my shirt, but sometimes, it also fails..

  • Marie Clare says:

    Unfortunately, I haven’t found the perfect button down shirt for me. All I always get are those that could offer a little “peek-a-boo” along the gap.

  • Sophie says:

    I experienced this kind of wardrobe dilemma often, but now I’ve learned my lesson. If before, I like shirts that are quite fitting to my body, now, when it comes to polo or button down shirts, I see to it that I got a bigger size, and the bust area is wider than usual, so that I wont feel restricted and constricted in breathing when I have to button up this side of my breast area.

  • Here’s a trick I learned from my mom. I sew a small x-shaped stitch on the breast-gap area of my button down shirt. That way I wouldn’t and didn’t have to worry about minding the gap on my cleavage..

  • Kelly says:

    Oh there’s this simple yet very effective solution that I’ve tried a countless times – using colorful safety pins! I actually get mine over at Etsy’s and there’s a lot to choose from. Yes, just put these pins in between those gaps, and viola! problem solved!

  • Barbara says:

    So far I haven’t gone through all that stuffs like pinning the in-betweens or having to stitch the gap. I guess I have been lucky with the button down shirts that I bought lately 🙂

  • Susan Armstrong says:

    Thank you for sharing your tips on handling gaps in button down shirts. I specifically liked the first one, which is wearing your shirt untucked. I am always conscious of my tummy so I do that untuck option with my shirts.

  • Margaret Walters says:

    When I wanted to wear a button down shirt, I make sure that the gap in between the buttons is properly secured with a small stitch. I did it on my other shirts too and so far, I’ve been satisfied wearing it without worrying.

  • Nikki Anne says:

    I have two button down shirts from The Shirt and it works splendidly as they claimed. they’ve got the no-gape button technology, my chest has never felt more secured than ever.

  • MJ says:

    I like the idea of hidden buttons underneath the gaps on button down shirts. It makes me feel more secured and confident that not a skin could be seen when I bend or move.

  • Ruthie says:

    Oh, I thought I’m the only one getting annoyed with this gaps when wearing button downs. I actually have to wear button down shirts for my work and most of the time, I have to stitch the indented gap to avoid my inside flesh from being seen. THanks for the advice.

  • I like this one: If you’re self-conscious about your waist, consider wearing your shirt untucked. – I am overly conscious with everything that has to do with my waist especially because I got love handles here and there. And I’ve got at least 6 button-down shirts I use interchangeably at work (required dress code) so I often encounter those gaps. Thanks for the tips!

  • Barbara says:

    I haven’t really found a solution to this gap problem, so I am glad I stumbled on your page and got these suggestions/tips! Thanks so much!

  • Gabrielle says:

    Oh, this had been my dilemma with the gaps too. Everytime I think of buying a polo shirt or long sleeves shirt, I have to make sure that the gaps in between won’t show my skin. I am quote conservative like that. What I usually do is to put a small sized safety pin on the gap to prevent anything from showing up. Quite tedious actually.

  • Jenni Clark says:

    I’ve worn a piece or two of Moi-Même clothes and most people compliment it for being chic and when I tell them it’s custom made, they couldn’t help but admire. I’ve got no worries with button gaps with Moi Meme

  • Misty Dew says:

    Oh I love this idea! Now I wouldn’t have to worry about the gaps anymore on my button-down blouses and shirts, thanks to The Shirt. This is really convenient. I never thought someone would develop it. Thanks for sharing.

  • Lorelei says:

    These unbuttoned gaps had always been my problem too. I had tried sewing these spaces but I always had a hard time putting on my blouse because it became narrower.

  • Charlene says:

    Thanks for the additional tips like tucking and untucking shirts, I’m actually always tucking mine which my husband really gets annoyed with. He says I shouldn’t buy longer dress shirts if I have just to tuck them in.

  • Allyson says:

    Hmm… I think this is what most girls are having problems with. The gap. And being able to find a solution like this hidden button option. Thanks for this Heidi

  • Chiarri says:

    This is good. I actually have a hard time managing my dress shirts. It’s a pain to see the flesh beneath the gaps.

  • Honeylette says:

    Love this various ideas to prevent the skin from showing through the gaps. Thanks for sharing them.

  • lisa says:

    Marks & Spencer now sell “NO GAP” shirts. they have an inner lining of buttons that button down the inside as well as the traditional outer buttons. I dicovered them last year and now they are the only shirts I buy, since i am fuller busted with a small waist

  • Hilary Austria says:

    I definitely got issues with gaps on button down dress shirts. I’l think of all thee options you mentioned. Thanks!

  • RayJean Flowers says:

    Those are quick and easy suggestions to prevent the gap from showing your skin. I will surely do them when I wear my button down dress.

  • Bea says:

    No Gap button down dress shirts are really what I want. This is it!

  • Rimy says:

    I want to wear button down shirts with collars but it’s always the same story for years with the gaping front (it wasn’t like this before 2000). Tight at the bust can make you feel very uncomfortable and embarrassed to be in public and on top of it these shirts tend to shrink. Plus it’s just not nice for a shirt to be too tight like that. Looks cheap. If I buy one size bigger, then it’s fine but the back is all loose at the waistline; I blame these “recent” designers. Why would it be so difficult to make the bust line a bit bigger and leave the rest the same? Doesn’t matter what make, could be expensive to the cheap- they are all the same. Even a Jones NY shirt which is supposed to be cut for a woman’s figure has the same problem. Medium is gaping at the bust, a large is too big at the waist and sleeves. Now don’t get me started with how short dresses are and how too long or too short cardigans are, can’t even find a decent classical length anymore.

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