Ask the sewers: puffy shirt back alteration

I bought the JCrew linen shirt and the fabric is fabulous! It is quite boxy on me, which I am still on the fence about. But the real issue I have is the back of the shirt. You can see it in the side view of #2: there are seams up the back which is wonderful for my swayback, but then they stop and the shirt completely puffs out on top of the seams. It's like a muffin back, except it's all the fabric and none of me :p I was hoping that it would resolve itself as the fabric softened, but so far that's not really happening. Is this solveable via alteration, and if so what is needed?

I was also debating having the side seam taken in just a wee bit so it's not so straight (like on the right in #2), but still loose. After Angie said that the shirt will soften, I'm okay with waiting to see how the shirt drapes after that happens before deciding on that one. But the puffy back thing just isn't working for me. Thoughts?

This post is also published in the youlookfab forum. You can read and reply to it in either place. All replies will appear in both places.


  • Sveta replied 6 years ago

    I am not a sewer but I think if there are already darts on the back they can be extended up the back to take the extra fabric in. I know that my mom frequently does this kind of alteration for me because my back is very narrow comparing to my shoulders.
    I would leave the side seam as is though: it has a nice relaxed vibe.
    Great color!

  • anne replied 6 years ago

    Yes, as Sveta says, it wouldn't be hard to extend the darts at the back. (Not hard to take the side seam in either). We must have similar backs, Aida, as I often have too much volume at the back too.

  • Meredith1953 replied 6 years ago

    The blouse is wonderful color on you and I think Sveta is right about extending the darts in the back, although I am certainly no seamstress!

  • Kelley replied 6 years ago

    Hi Aida,

    I'm a sewer and those darts could very easily be extended. It would take less than 30 minutes even by an untrained professional. ha

    I admired how flattering that color and style blouse is on you. It hits at the perfect spot at your hip (to my eye) and your skinnies are a perfect complement.

  • Abie replied 6 years ago

    I agree with Kelly, extending the dart is an easy alteration. Otherwise, I think it looks great on you!

  • Aziraphale replied 6 years ago

    Oh! Oh! I can't sew, but I know this one! I just had the exact same problem fixed.

    I bought a BR shirt last month that fit perfectly. This month, I discovered that they were making the same (I thought) shirt in black, so I bought that too, without looking closely enough when I tried it on (I was short on time). I washed it, then when I went to wear it, I noticed that it bubbled out at the back exactly like your shirt there. I took it to my tailor and they fixed it in a jiffy by deepening and extending the back darts. Now it fits great. It wasn't too costly, either.

    The other thing they could do is take the shoulders in, but that WOULD be costly.

  • Angie replied 6 years ago

    I LOVE the colour and the shirt has great potential!

    Are you ready for a *huge spanner* ?

    I vote size up, Aida. I feel this style needs to look boxier.

  • harmonica replied 6 years ago

    Angie has spoken, so I'll just drop by and say that I love the shirt and the colour is great on you! I really want to order one myself, but are on the fence because of all the hassle with shipping, taxes and finding the right size (return is not an option due to tax/shipping costs). Did you order the same size you usually wear? Do you think it runs smaller or larger or just true to size?

  • christina replied 6 years ago

    I sew and suggest wash and iron before doing any alterations.
    Love that colour!

  • replied 6 years ago

    I love the colour on you Aida! I agree, try sizing up. I think it poufs because it is closer cut around the back of your hips, and if it was larger it would kind of flow over and around and hang better. As you wear it it will get nice crinkles and textural sweeps from moving around and I think it will look great.

    I think linen looks funny if it is worn too tight/fitted -- not that this shirt is too small for you, but I think maybe a larger size will have that more relaxed swoopy vibe to it. If you look at Angie's pictures, it is much looser on her shoulders and then flows out and away from there.

  • ManidipaM replied 6 years ago

    Aida, gorgeous shirt but I think I'm with Angie on this one if an exchange is possible.

    I know because my linen tunic (cut like a longer shirt) does exactly this. I wish I'd sized up, but I only thought of it later --- too late to take it back; but I did try a similar style at the same shop (basic shape identical, just different sleeve lengths and detailing) and found the *larger* size just sat better because it *could* flow past my swayback and not get notched up at that point!

  • replied 6 years ago

    I've had that fit issue before, and it's downright frustrating. Since I don't have a sway back, I think with me it has to do with being short waisted. I'm not sure how easy it would be to alter. I've always returned such garments, as my loving mother (who was a seamstress) is no longer alive and able to advise or help me.

  • replied 6 years ago

    That's funny, my first thought was that you needed a larger size too. If you get it taken in, it will have a completely fitted back and that's the opposite of boxy. Is it too late to exchange for size?

  • Heather replied 6 years ago

    Aida, I definitely think you should size up for total body boxiness. I want to grab your purple/white ikat cardi and toss it over your shoulders and pop a pair of denim shorts on you! HA.

  • Aida replied 6 years ago

    Thanks for the tips on the alteration, I am SO glad that it's something easy and straightforward! I have returned other shirts that did this, but figured it was time I asked to see if it was solvable ;)

    Angie, really?? :o It is already very boxy and waist surrendering on me, I'm not sure if I'd be comfortable with it being even more so. Does linen shrink when washed? So far the material has relaxed only a little bit (these photos were right out of the box, and I was standing in a way that would exaggerate the poof problem), and it looks even looser now; I can grab a good handful of fabric nearly anywhere. While I'm usually OK with waist surrender, honestly the idea of wearing this a size larger freaks me out. But I trust your eye so I will try it.

    Harmonica, I ordered my normal size but I am way curvier than the JCrew fit model is. Anything I buy from JCrew is immediately waist surrendering and very, very straight cut on hourglassy me. The SA said the shirt is cut looser than the regular Perfect Shirts, and I would agree with that.

    Heather, now that is a fun color combo! If I can get this shirt to fit me correctly I will try it :D

  • Scarlet replied 6 years ago

    If you size up on the shirt you could also tie the waist for the days when you want waist definition. I definitely would not take in the sides and would be interested to see the size up. In any case, thanks for asking the question. I often have this fit problem with shirts and dresses. I thought maybe my back is shorter than the shirt is cut for? But maybe not if you can fix it by extending the darts.

  • Deborah replied 6 years ago

    Interesting! I was also going to suggest sizing up:). Aida I actually don't think this size looks boxy on you at all. I would love to see you in the next size up so we can compare. The color is absolutely stunning on you btw.

  • sarah replied 6 years ago

    I don't have a great suggestion, although you could always try the larger size and post. I mostly chimed in to say that when I first saw your post, I thought you meant "Ask the sewers", as in "storm sewers" or "sanitary sewers", as in where our waste water goes. LOL.

  • Heather replied 6 years ago

    Admission: Sarah, I totally read that, too, at first.....*snicker* :D

    Wishing you luck on finding a solution!

  • Diana replied 6 years ago

    Question for you, Aida. How is the fit at the hips? Is it tight there? I ask because I often have this muffin back problem, and in my case while it is exacerbated by my swayback i think it's actually caused by the fact that I am short waisted with wide, high hips relative to my waist. Most shirts are too long from shoulder to hip for me, but they also tend to be tight at the hip so I can't just pull them down lower. This is particularly exacerbated with brands like j crew where the cut tends to be pretty straight.

    So, I think Angie might be right if this is the case. A larger size will fall and drape better, although it will be boxier. You coul have the waist tailored though. A petite size might also work although I've had limited success with that.

  • Angie replied 6 years ago

    Aida, this is not a boxy fit to my eye. It's ill fitting at the back because the shirt proportions are too long for your petite height. The fit is actually quite tight across the hip and bottom area. And very shaped across the bust and shoulder - quite snug under the arm because the armholes are not low.

    I vote size up! I think that the proportions will fall into place :)

  • replied 6 years ago

    Hi, if I might add my thoughts to this thread; I've sewn for customers for many years and come across this a lot. Diana has hit the nail on the head saying that you need more room across the back hips. the shirt is too long in the neck to waistline and no amount of dart lengthening will get rid of that. To erase that the pattern would have needed to be re-cut prior to cutting out the fabric. By going up a size and then taking it in a little through the darts may be a solution but a sway back is tricky to fit. I have an order for a customer for some tops and her sway back means I will do a mock up first to make sure I get it right. Often designs with a center back seem are easier to alter for sway backs as you can curve the seam out to skim over the high hips. By sizing up you have more hip room then shape it after through the waist. Hope this helps.

  • cjh replied 6 years ago

    Hate to continue any poopooing, but yes, the reason the back bubbles is because it's too small, believe it or not. So I agree with Angie and Claire to try a size bigger. The color is divine on you, though. Good luck!

  • Jonesy replied 6 years ago

    It's funny: I saw your post right after you first posted, and I was going to say that you should size up but then I didn't because I was second-guessing myself, after having written several replies to different posts all saying "Maybe a bigger size?" or something along those lines! I started to wonder if my love of slouchy/looser right now was clouding my judgment!

  • catgirl replied 6 years ago

    I'm with Angie on this - size up. Plus j. crew runs a bit small in this style. My grey Equipment shirt seems a tad smaller than my others and fits more like this one on you, and it just doesn't have the same flowy look. To me, this shirt looks pretty nicely tailored as you are wearing it- not tight, but certainly not loose or boxy. And unlike me, you have nice hips which this shirt needs to flow over more instead of getting stuck there. (I bet if you tucked this shirt in the bublble problem would be solved!).

    You know I'm all about oversized and waist surrender, so go ahead and embrace the look all the way!

  • Aida replied 6 years ago

    Thanks for the further input on this, sorry to get back to it so late! I've ordered the size up and hope that it works because it's final sale, whereas this one here is still returnable. Fingers crossed!

    Angie, I think my definition of boxy on myself is skewed to include waist only! I usually forget to take hips into account, and I definitely have those ;)

    Diana, I think it's a combo of the swayback and that my bum is big (starts high and goes low heh). But my torso is proportionally long (arms, too) so it doesn't come up often, just when tops are very straight in shape.

    Diane, thank you for the detailed info on swayback garment shaping! This fit issue is something I have started to finally consider having alterations done for in some of my tops since it's a persistent problem area.

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