How To Shorten Your Dress Shirt Sleeves

Author: Zachary Lowell

Long, Short & Cut Off Sleeve Dress Shirts

We get some pretty strange tailoring questions here at ShirtsMyWay – not “strange” in a bad way, of course; just uncommon – but one of the most frequent things we hear people ask is: “can a tailor cut my dress shirt sleeves?” While we’re in the business of helping people get the sleeves on their custom shirts right the first time, for those off the rack shirts in your closet that just don’t fit properly, we can still offer some information.

Basically, the simple answer to the question above is yes, any tailor can most likely alter the length of your sleeve, although some forms of shirt surgery will be more complicated and costly than others.

If you want a total sleeve-ectomy a la Larry The Cable Guy, this can probably be done in just a few minutes and shouldn’t run more than a couple of dollars. Actually, you can probably perform this operation yourself at home with just a pair of scissors.

For more exact sleeve adjustments of only an inch or two, things can get a bit more complicated. There are two basic ways a tailor could go about shortening your sleeve. One opinion would be to cut away the excess fabric from the wrist area of your sleeve by first removing the cuff. If you just want to convert your long sleeve shirt into a short sleeve or 3/4 length sleeve shirt – in which case your fancy cuff would be chucked and replaced with a simple hem – this approach is fine. But reattaching the cuff in just a slightly higher position can interfere with the buttons on your sleeve placket; and with all this cutting, reassembling and resewing involved there are plenty of opportunities for error, even for skilled tailors. What you may end up with is a sleeve that looks more Frankenstein than fashionable.

A simpler approach to making fine sleeve alterations would be to leave the cuff alone and remove the sleeve from where it meets your shoulder. But since this area of the sleeve is wider than the part closest to your cuff, a few pleats may be necessary to keep your sleeve from looking like that of a 17th century conquistador. Again, there is also the risk that the sleeve may be cut or put back on crookedly, so ask your tailor if he’s done this kind of operation before.

Whatever the reason you need a sleeve shortened, any good tailor can probably help. Just keep in mind that results (and cost) may vary and the best way to avoid the hassles and uncertainties of aftermarket alterations is just to get your sleeve properly fitted from the beginning.


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