The Lowdown on the T-shirt Design Size Chart

t-shirt design size chart

Think you know the size you wear, only to order something that doesn’t fit? Or worse, you stock an entire inventory of shirts that don’t fit customers as expected. Customer service finds themselves overly busy and you’re stuck handling returns.

T-shirt size charts are, indeed, notoriously inconsistent. 

Fortunately, we know how to make sense of the madness. Here’s the lowdown on the t-shirt design size chart.

Step 1: Take Some Measurements

Before mass production, everything was made to order. Well, so clothes probably fit better. But they also didn’t have the epically awesome materials we do now–certainly nothing as comfortable as a t-shirt!

What got lost along the way, though, was a particular skill set: measuring for fit.

Most people walk around in clothes that don’t quite fit. They’re too big here or too small there. Shoe stores still commonly measure people, or even do a shoe run test. But when it comes to other clothing items, people seem to settle for “good enough.”

But what if you could ensure shirts fit, well, like a glove?

It’s not that difficult. You just need a flexible measuring tape and a couple of measurements.

Take These Measurements for a Perfect T-shirt Fit

You only need a couple of measurements for size. Then, you consider two other measurements for style.

For size, measure these three things:

  1. Chest circumference at the widest part of your chest. For men, this is often right under their armpits.
  2. Waist circumference at natural waistline.
  3. Center back length, on the back from the top of the shoulders to the desired length.

Those 3 measurements alone can get you a great fit! 

But for style, you may also want to consider neck circumference (how loose around the neck) and sleeve length.

Step 2: Compare Manufacturer T-shirt Size Charts

Once you have those measurements, you can trust fit.

The only other thing you need is the t-shirt size chart from the manufacturer. Manufacturers all provide this information. They do this because, well, not a single one of them seem to agree on what size a small, medium or large should be. Especially since they also commonly have size ranges down to XXS and up to 5XL, you have many options. 

What do you do when a desired size falls between sizes? It seems that even with so many options, people often do not fit any particular size.

In that case, three rules for properly sizing clothes, in general, include:

  1. If you want a snugger fit, order down.
  2. If you want a looser fit, order up.
  3. If you want a “just right” fit, order for the largest measurement, and then tailor.

While many people never bother tailoring clothing, fitting clothes custom can make them look and feel amazing! Yes, even a t-shirt can be tailored.

For example, a curvier woman may feel more comfortable in a bigger size, but bringing her shirt in at her waist will be more flattering.

Similarly, a person with a bit of a belly may be more comfortable with a larger size, but taking in a little extra at the shoulders or chest will keep them from drowning in it!

Step 3: Never Order on Autopilot

Alright, so you discover that a medium is the perfect fit, so always order a medium, right?


Remember when we said that manufacturers always size differently? A man who fits a medium in one piece of corporate apparel may be an XL in another!

The thing to do is to re-measure (step 1) if you’ve had any change in size at all. Then, look at the manufacturer’s guidelines again for the next order.

Never order without consulting the manufacturer’s guidelines!

Now, if the manufacturer’s products do not fit their own published guidelines, you can send things back for replacement.

If you didn’t measure, you might get stuck with something that doesn’t fit.

Bonus: Design Custom T-shirts Right for Size

Alright, so following these guidelines will get you a perfectly fitting t-shirt every time.

What about ordering a design in multiple sizes? For example, you may be ordering for a whole team of employees. Will an XS look right with the same design as an XXL?

In general, when ordering custom t-shirts, you want to request certain adjustments, such as:

  • Pocket size – A children’s shirt and an XXL won’t look right with the same size pocket. Commonly, the manufacturer will adjust size of pockets for shirts, as well as location (closeness to the edge). When in doubt, ask for pictures.
  • Design size – As the size goes up, the design will too, though not necessarily for every size. This is commonly done digitally, to keep proportions perfect.

If you’re ordering custom t-shirts and you’re uncertain about anything related to design or size, order a sample! It’s well worth the trouble to get it right.

T-Shirt Labs has Got Your Back 

At T-shirt Labs we are design experts. We also work with reliable manufacturers and double-check everything for accuracy with our t-shirt design size chart. So contact us to get your custom t-shirts done right, every time!

Get a Custom T-Shirt Quote.

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