Buying a t-shirt at the store or even sight unseen can be confusing.
How do you know if it’s going to fit you the way you want unless you try it on first? Honestly, you don’t.
Even if you do try it on, and it does fit good, how is it going to fit after you wash it? What if it shrinks?
Here’s a question from a reader about this exact issue:
Have a quick question.
It’s not as much about under shirts as t-shirts in general.
I wear a 2X & find that Nike has a wide assortment of t shirt fits! Some fit with a loose neck, others tighter.
Restrictive chest, others relaxed. Tight across the mid section…I could go on.
At any rate, how can I pick up a Nike shirt & know what fit it is.
Yours in cotton,
Sizing a T-Shirt Before You Buy It
good to hear from you buddy and thanks for your question!
actually, it’s pretty easy to determine how a t-shirt will fit you, so as long as you have:
1. a tape measure with you
2. an understanding of what t-shirt fit you like
essentially, you just find a t-shirt that you like and has the right fit, and lay it flat on a surface.
measure the different parts of it (see these images on google for t-shirt measuring).
focus on laying flat measurements of:
(a) body width (underarm and at bottom)
(b) collar width/depth
(c) sleeve length
(d) sleeve opening width measurements, and
(e) side shoulder length
once you have those measurements of a t-shirt you like, you can just go to any store, and measure them before you buy them. if the measurements are similar, the overall fit should be similar.
if you’re buying online, see if you can ask someone from the company for those measurements of your size before you buy it.
if you can’t, see what their return policy is.
just measure it when you get it, and if it doesn’t have the right measurements, send it back (:
hope that helps!
What Are The Exceptions?
Generally speaking, most every fabric with exception to most Polyesters & most Nylons will shrink.
But, if a shirt or t-shirt has Spandex (Elastane, Lycra), it’ll be a lot more forgiving. What does that mean?
If a t-shirt (or any other garment) is made with some amount of Spandex, it’ll stretch. That doesn’t mean that it will fit you exactly the way you want it to, but it’ll also likely never feel too tight to wear.
Frankly, I will almost never buy any piece of clothing that does not have some form of stretch to it for this very reason. Comfort is key for me.
If it doesn’t have some form of stretch, I usually buy it a little bigger to have some more breathing room.
Keep in mind that some clothing can have “mechanical” stretch, or rather, stretch built into the fabric without the use of a stretch fiber like Spandex.
A great example of this is ribbed tank tops (i.e. “wife beaters”). They are made with a 2×1 ribbing style that allows them to stretch horizontally without the use of Spandex.
Mind you, even stretch fabrics can shrink after laundering, but at least the strech-ability of these items helps them fit better than those without stretch.
Pre-Shrunk or Not Pre-Shrunk?
If you’re looking at a t-shirt that is 100% Cotton or some blend of Cotton, there is a chance that it will shrink after being washed and dried.
Of course if a t-shirt says it “pre-shrunk”, “pre-washed”, “pre-laundered”, “garment dyed”, “shrink resistant”, or anything similar, the garment or fabric has already been laundered and shouldn’t shrink too much more after laundering and drying.
Something pre-shrunk/pre-washed can shrink an addition 1-2%, but it depends on how many times the fabric or garment was pre-washed.
Even if the items are not pre-shrunk, some conscientious brands will cut the garments bigger to accommodate the amount the garment will shrink, so these items will normally feel a bit looser or bigger out of the packaging, because they will shrink after washing & drying.
Why do brands not pre-shrink some t-shirts (or undershirts)? Simply, cost.
Anytime you add something into the manufacturing process, including shrinking fabric or pre-laundering completed t-shirts (or any other garment), you add cost. When you add cost, you normally have to increase the retail price of the garment, whatever it is, to absorb the added manufacturing costs.
The #1 way to prevent t-shirt shrinkage is to wash your t-shirt in cold water and line or hang dry it.
Is there a way to tell if a fabric will shrink before you buy it, just by looking at it? So far, I haven’t figured out a way, but if I do, I’ll surely update this article to let everyone know.