Dear Kathi,

I am getting ready to restock my dress shirts. In the past I have always just bought whatever shirts were on sale. Now I would like to buy better quality shirts but need some details to make an informed decision. Do you have any tips about finding the best quality?

John > Cardiff by the Sea


As you restock your shirt collection, look for pearl buttons. All quality shirts will have mother of pearl buttons. These buttons wear longer than manmade buttons that tend to crack & discolor after a few visits to the drycleaners. Verify that buttons and buttonholes are sewn tightly, with no unraveled thread. In general, the more buttons a shirt has, the higher quality it is; spare buttons are an added plus. Inspect fabrics to make sure patterns line up at the seams especially at the shoulders, collar and sewn-on (patch) pockets. When purchasing striped shirts, make sure the buttonhole is running right through the middle of the pattern or lying plumb between the center of the two stripes. Verify that all stitches are secure and straight. You should see about 8 to 12 stitches per inch. Examine hems, which should be nearly invisible. Hemmed bottoms should hang straight and not curl or pucker. The seams on a good shirt will lay flat and the extra fabric will be minimal. Confirm that patch pockets lie perfectly flat against the cloth, with no space between the pocket and the front of the garment. While holding the garment upright, make sure that the pocket doesn’t hang away from the front. Try on a shirt before buying it. Button it fully, making sure that buttons are placed well so that the shirt doesn’t gape open across the chest. Good shirts, while more expendable than suits, are worth the money they cost, within limits. No shirt, unless it’s made-to-measure, is worth more than $150. If you’re going to spend more than that, have it made for your body. As an aside, it’s always good to wrap your buttons in tin foil before dropping your shirts off at the cleaners and always ask them to scrub the collar.

Good luck and happy shopping!

Kathi is a professional organizer, image consultant and event planner based in San Diego California.

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