A classic dress shirt may look simple, but it is actually a complex piece of clothing with many different parts. A dress shirt can be one of the more difficult items of clothing to sew. Dress shirts are generally sized according to their sleeve lengths, chest widths and neck widths. Knowing the terminology used to describe the different parts of a dress shirt could be useful should you ever need one tailored for a perfect fit.
Fabric and Buttons
The fabric of a good dress shirt is typically cotton. Cotton is a durable fabric that holds up well and is easy to clean. Shirts can come in a variety of thread counts to fit the price range and quality requirements of many individuals. Mother-of-pearl buttons are the gold standard for dress shirts, and flimsy plastic buttons should be avoided, as they can crack or fall off.
The collar is the most distinguishing feature of the shirt and can come in a variety of styles. The stitching along the edges is important, because this stitch helps keep the collar edges stiff and neatly in place. A poor stitch here can lead to a floppy, messy looking collar. The collar also serves as a frame for a tie.
The collar point is the part of the collar at the front of a shirt where, literally, the collar comes to a point on each side. Some collars have buttonholes here to fasten them to buttons located on the body of the shirt. Collar stays will sometimes be tucked inside the collar at the collar points, but not all shirts include collar stays. They help keep the points of the collar in place and neat looking. If your shirt does include collar stays, they should be removed before laundering.
Front Center Placket
The placket of a shirt is the area down the front center of the shirt where the buttonholes are placed. Most often this will consist of the edge of the shirt, which has been folded over and sewn in place. Buttonholes should be uniform in size and easy to get the buttons in and out of without being loose.
Most dress shirts have either short or long sleeves. The long-sleeved variety is typically seen as being more business appropriate, while a shorter sleeve is more casual.
The most common type of cuff on a dress shirt is a barrel cuff. Barrel cuffs have a closure consisting of one or two buttons. Another type of cuff typically seen on dressier shirts is the French cuff, which requires cuff links to be held closed. A convertible cuff can be closed using either cuff links or buttons already on the sleeves.
The yoke is the area of fabric that goes across the back of the shirt from shoulder to shoulder. If your shirt has been custom made, this area will often be comprised of two panels of fabric connected down the middle. The two panels allow the shirt maker to adjust each shoulder individually to get a perfect fit. Some higher-end shirts also have two panels to make tailoring the piece easier.