The Secrets to Choosing the Best Shirt

by lizdavenport.

When in conversation, the eyes of your audience are looking at your face, shoulders, bust and waistline. They are looking at your shirt – the princess of garments. Take your time in the fitting room with this checklist of Liz’s secrets to really choose wisely.
shirt tips


  • Not see-through unless you intend to wear a cami – people don’t want to see your bra or your midriff.
  • Not too thick or stiff as it is fattening.
  • Choose fabric that will not sweat mark under the arms. The dark circle is a disaster.
  • Stripes or checks must match on the collar and cuffs and down the front edges – check them carefully.


  • A stand up collar is the ultimate classic. It adds height.
  • Check for no puckering and that the collar does not come up too high at the back of the neck.


  • The shoulder line should never be too wide or too narrow. It should sit on the point of your shoulder.
  • Not too many gathers, as they add width, which is fattening and very distracting.


An open-shirt-style neckline elongates the neck and forms a frame for stylish jewellery.

Bust Fit

  • Button placement – at the centre of the bust point to prevent straining or gaping. Pull your shoulders back to check. I call this gaping ‘the smile’ – it’s a bad look.
  • Quality buttons very securely stitched on.
  • Spare button in the side seam.


Check the forward reach by bringing both arms forward. You must be comfortable to drive or sit at a desk.


  • Tight sleeves will give the dreaded sausage squeeze. Wide sleeves will make the entire garment look too big.
  • Sleeves that are too long or too short will be distracting.


When you move your hands, you are waving your cuffs in people’s faces. If you fuss with your cuff, you look nervous, so get it right.

  • Not too wide or too narrow on your wrist.
  • Not too flouncy or frilly.


  • Not too wide or you look bigger.
  • Not so narrow that the bottom button is strained.
  • Not too long or it overwhelms.
  • Not so short that it reveals flesh when you raise your arms.


Check the stitching for a flat finish.

Watch Out

Turn side on to the mirror and check that the shirt is not lifting up or poking forward at the front.

P.S. Don’t ever buy a bargain shirt without this full checklist (also available in Liz’s book Liz: A Life of Colour). If you hear yourself saying “It’ll do”, put it back. “It’ll do will not do.”