Friday, December 21, 2012

Breaking Collar Rules? Yes? No?

With the Fall season plays in the rear view window, I've started another shirt.  I had in mind to make something that is a hybrid between a dress and a casual shirt.  Always a recipe for disaster. 

 This is a work in progress that I hope to finish up over the weekend.

Men's shirts with a stand and a point collar have unwritten rules about the gap between the folds of the collar and the center button.  Normally, there's just enough space, 3/4", for the knot of a tie.  The collar point spread can be narrow or wide, and the length of the collar can be anything from a short stub to a long 3 1/2".  Men's shirt styles have varied on this simple combination for decades.  I wondered what it might look like to assume that a long tie would never be worn with the shirt, so I decided to experiment with a very wide 2 1/2" gap and a collar point that would appropriately touch the the shirt front.  The collar would be open and loose.  I guess it's a look that is like wearing a baseball cap backwards, or the feel of boxer shorts instead of briefs.  Gals might not get this, but the guys would.  I'd love to hear your thoughts.  This shirt is all white, but if I do this again, I will use either a print or a contrasting color color stand.

I will use contrasting color buttons, teal or blue as I used a very light teal So Fine! #50 thread and a 80/12 Topstitch Organ needle that I bought from Superior Threads.  I am pleased with both the thread and the needle, which is on my Pfaff 2046.  Superior does have a "Try Me Special" where they pick the color you get; I bought the maximum of five at $3.00.  Beware of the recommended topstitch needle size of 100/16 if you order both the needles and the thread together.  The needle is really is supposed to be a 80/12.  Off topic I suppose, but since I've wandered away from my collar.... my mom gave me a catalog from WAWAK Sewing Supplies.   If you want to find those impossible notions, tools, zippers, tapes, do check them out.  I've been reading the catalog and feel like on every page I want to shout "Eureka! It does exist!!"

Back to this shirt.  It's 100% cotton, washed but not ironed until I'm finished making the shirt.  I cheated and serged the seams then folded them over to make a faux flat felled seam.  I intend to do a serged rolled hem on the bottom instead of a sewn rolled hem.  Maybe I'll cook up a different tie to match this shirt.  Orsen Wells preferred broad bow ties in his later years.  It's a thought.

Slowly but surely, I'm drifting over to the dark side with my Elna serger.   My next posting will be about my visit to the Merrow Company in Fall River, MA where they make commercial sewing machines. I'll also introduce you to "Maria," my latest flea market sewing machine acquisition.



  1. Tom, I have a few shirts that came out looking like your white one (unintentionally) -- usually because I mis-measured the collar or the neckline stretched out. I guess I'm conservative at heart because I prefer the classic collar gap size. That said, you can make your shirt anything you want it to be and it might even look better. I think a lot depends on whether you wear your shirt collar open or not. Good luck with it!

  2. I think it's great you are not following the "rules" about how your shirt should look. I almost always tweak the collar as I like a spread and length that's a tad shorter and wider than conventional dress shirt points. Now that I don't have to wear them to the office, I'm going to be more adventuresome - maybe even make a few shirts with removable collars so I can mix them up.

  3. Since I only button the top button when I wear a tie, I haven't put a top button on any of the shirts I have made since I consider it useless. The photo you have with the collar not pinned closed is the way I would wear it. I think your shirt looks great.

  4. Thanks guys! I have a love=hate relationship with dress shirt collars and ties, particularly the long tie. Oddly, I am fond of bow ties. Some 55 years ago, I started wearing dress shirts and long ties as part of my parochial school uniform. All these years later, I still have my grade school tie and it's just a small version of the same tie I wear to work every day. Men's shirts and styles change slowly over the decades. We're into the new century by almost 13 years. The wide gap shirt was a first step, but I need to create a new tie to go with it. I've been giving thought to using a bow tie band with the usual clip, or a snap, as a platform to hold a fabric device to fill out all that new real estate at the neck. Maybe a trapunto geometric shape? Maybe a fan of pleated fabric is a star burst pattern? Pleating seems to have endless possibilities. I'll work up something over the next few days. Thanks for the support!