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. Which is why my boyfriend will say: “mind the gap” every time I put on a button-down shirt.

Shirt Gap1 Bridging the Button Down Gap

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
 yet, but it sounds like a great idea – they include hidden buttons underneath the usual placket.

how it works top left 500x355 Bridging the Button Down Gap

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).

21 Bridging the Button Down Gap

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.

What solutions have you found for finding the perfect button-down shirt?


Photography credit: Erica Hampton

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  1. 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.

  2. 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..

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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..

  6. 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!

  7. 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 :)

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

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