Mind the Gap: Some DIY Options for Gaping Blouses

Button-down blouses can be great — if they fit you and don’t gape in the bust.  Some companies specialize in creating non-gaping versions for larger-busted women (e.g., Carissa Rose, Rebecca & Drew) but sometimes you just want a DIY fix for a shirt you’ve already got.  Today’s guest poster Kathryn Rubino — one of my personal friends — is a plus-sized fashionable overachieving chick who has some crafty suggestions for fixing the problem. (She also posted a few weeks ago about how to get a great-fitting blazer.) – Kat

How to Fix Your Gaping Blouses (DIY) || CorporetteWe’ve all been there. You’re getting ready for that big interview/meeting/presentation and as you look yourself dead-on in the mirror you are the image of professionalism. As you reach for the straightener to put the finishing touch on your perfectly coiffed hair there it is. It’s your bra. Peeking out from that infuriating gap in your button-down shirt. It almost seems like it is mocking you, “maybe you aren’t as put together as you think you are.” It is maddening. So, how do you deal with this problem? I’ve tried all the work-arounds. The camisole under an unbuttoned button-down. A wrap-style dress shirt. A button-down that is deliberately ruched at the bust. And these are all pretty good solutions, but sometimes I yearn for the simplicity of the classic button down. So this plus size writer test drove three potential solutions to the problem. Obviously, your mileage may vary, but here’s how they worked for me.  (Pictured: Mind the Gap, originally uploaded to Flickr by toastbrot81.)

1. Sewing. This seemed like the most professional option. It was easy enough to find matching thread in a travel sewing kit I had from my last stay at a fancy-pants hotel. Okay, it was a white shirt so that wasn’t too difficult a task, but Amazon has some options that seem pretty comprehensive at under $10. I found it pretty straight forward to lightly tack the gap closed with a small x-shaped stitch, though more time consuming than other options. I found I didn’t have to worry about it too much throughout the day and I felt super strong ripping out the stitches with my bare hands at the end of the day.

2. Taping. This seemed like the easiest option. Just use Hollywood Fashion Tape (or other pre-cut double-sided tape) to lock down the gap. And it was easy! I just worried over the tape peeling away throughout the day. While I never had any major mishaps I did have to subtly press down on the gap to re-stick my shirt together several times throughout the day. I would probably continue to use this for finer fabrics I worry about putting holes in, but it would not be my first choice for cotton shirts. One tip that I haven’t tried, but I received from a few friends in the costume industry is toupee tape. It may sound silly but I am assured that it holds better and is generally cheaper then the other options.


3. Pinning. This seemed like the most familiar option. It feels like I am forever pinning closed low cut dresses or gaping shirts. And I know it works, I just hate the tell-tale glint of silver at my chest. Then I found these. Black and white safety pins. (Jo-Ann’s actually caries them in a variety of colors; so does Amazon.) For me, this is the perfect combination of lazy and effective. I didn’t worry over the gap throughout the day, and I loved that I could re-use the pins. But if you can’t location these little gems, or your gap emergency happens before the two day shipping arrives I still prefer the pinning option. Usually button-downs will have an extra fold down of fabric along the button line and you can use this underside of material to keep your shirt closed without a pin showing through. I also prefer smaller pins, and I attach them upside down (so that the closure points toward my feet) as that helps to disguise the usage of the pin.

Readers, do you consider gaping blouses one of your big problems?  What has your solution been?


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  1. Anyone subscribe to maven, glymm or luxebox? Just wondering how professional women feel about such things.

  2. i hate this problem – i’m a 32C and pretty small everywhere except my bust — this means that i’m a perfect fit in xsmalls and 0/2 tops, except my bust. i have this problem with every single button down i own. i’ve always dealt with it by stitching on snap button right where the gap is as soon as i get the new button down blouse home (making sure to keep it invisible from the outside/front of the shirt). it’s a pretty simple fix that is permanent and i never have to worry about it again.

    • Genius. I just bought 3 tailor made button downs and it was a disaster! They are 135 bucks a piece, the forearm space was fit for Popeye, and there was no gap but they just went down from my chest so it’s like I bought a large size. Now they have to come back and resize them. What a pain. Will not do again.

  3. Brooks Brothers, which sells those amazing non-iron shirts, will sew a snap between the two buttons that gap. This snap is sewn in such a way that neither the snap nor the thread sew – they appear to sew into only one layer of fabric – on a shirt plackard, there is usually two layers. The first time I went, they did it for free, the second time I went, I had a different sales person, and she charged me $5. Either way its completely worth it!

  4. Those “as seen on TV” Style Snaps are fantastic for gaps!

  5. Geneticist :

    @Andrea, wow, I never knew Brooks Brother offered such a thing but now that makes me really want to consider buying from them (too bad they’re still kinda pricey for a grad student salary).

    • Your tailor could do the same thing on your non-BB shirts.

    • they are pricey (i’m a law student) but i’ve gotten mine for 1/2 price during online sales (not uncommon). or if you have an outlet nearby, they’re 1/2 price there too. they’re my favorite button front shirt by far.

    • Another more permanent option is to sew (or ask the dry cleaners to do it) a small buttonhole in reverse right between the two existing buttons where the gap happens — the button is on the top layer of the shirt going toward your body, and the hole is on the lower layer of the shirt. So when you button the shirt, the new button will actually be touching your skin. This is slightly more complicated than a snap, but really high-end shirtmakers use this method instead because you can still wear the shirt open. Assuming it is done with thread the color of fabric, you can’t even see it. So, if it is a shirt you tend to wear open also, this is worth it.

  6. Threadjack… I’m considering buying some suede knee-high boots that I have my eyes on… got them (and two other pairs to try) from Zappos so I’ve been walking around the apartment in them but am hesitant to pull the trigger for two reasons: 1) I’ve never had real nice suede boots before so am worried about how much of a pain it’s going to be for care (I’m in DC, so we get all weather here), and 2) Due to a surgery several years ago, my left calf is about half an inch larger than my right. So, the boot fits great on the right and is tight on the left – does anyone know if it will stretch out a bit over time, or is this something a cobbler could help fix? There are small stretchy panels about an inch from the top which are helping, but I don’t want to just snip them out or something. I’d only be wearing these in casual settings (like with leggings or tights), but my stupid left leg is holding me back! Any ideas??

    • Before you make a decision:

      – take them to a cobbler/shoe repair and ask them about getting the shoes sprayed and treated with suede-specific fabric protectant. Realize you need to avoid wearing them in rain/snow if you can help it .. and obviously don’t slosh thru unplowed sidewalks, etc. That’s about all you can do on that front, so it’s your call on whether the price vs. wearability equation is worth it. if they are relatively dark colored, you will get more wear out of them.
      – while at the cobbler, see if they ask if they think they can stretch the calf a bit, and by how much.

      it’s a beautiful look, so if you get a classic pair that goes with many things, it’s just a matter of committing to taking care of them.

    • another anon :

      Another factor to consider: driving while wearing suede footwear will rub a nasty spot above the right heel. Boots will be a pain to remove before you run errands in the car. I think I’ve sworn off suede shoes due to poor wearability.

  7. i can vouch for toupee tape, aka topstick. it’s legit and does hold up WAAAAAAAAAAAAY better than any of the other “fashion tape” brands. i get it from sally beauty supply (just bought some the other day).

    @kaydee – a. living in washington dc was AWFUL for my entire shoe wardrobe as i was constantly needing repairs from cobblestones/pebbled sidewalks. as for stretching, you can get them stretched, but most cobblers will tell you that with a stretch panel, it won’t do much good. also, won’t make any difference if it’s faux suede. they should stretch over time, though.

  8. one more idea, if it works for the outfit, is to wear a silk scarf over the shirt, loosely tied or knotted in front to cover the gap, and slip some fashion tape on the bottom side of the scarf so that it holds in place against the shirt.

  9. you’d think designers would cut shirts for busty women by now.

    not that they’ve made any progress on the whole gaping pants problem.


    • can you define the gaping pants problem?

      • My guess is that anon 1:25 refers to pear or hourglass shapes, people with small waists and large hips/behinds compared to the way clothing is sized and shaped.

        • That would be me. I’m stuck in dresses and A-line skirts till someone figures out that not all women have a 1:1 waist to hip ratio. Tired of showing the world my underwear every time I sit down.

          • It’s a pretty easy fix for a tailor — they just take in a bit along the center seam long the back, tapering it where necessary, and you end up with a non-gaping waist. I have had this done with many suit pants that fit everywhere else but the waist.

  10. Regarding the sewing option – I actually sew the gap all the way closed on almost all of my button-down shirts, permanently. If the shirt can be slipped over my head with those two buttons closed, it is well worth the time (it’s really only 5 minutes) to securely and invisibly stitch the entire gap shut after purchase of a button-down. This way I know the gap will never open, and the stitches are strong enough that the fix will withstand being put on/taken off over my head, as well as laundering. Most button-down shirts are either stretchy enough or drape-y enough that this works out well.

    The only drawback: your significant other may be disappointed in your inability to coquettishly unbutton your entire blouse.

  11. Oh I am very familiar with this problem. I am wearing a button up taped at the gap with matchsticks (ie – double sided tape from jcrew).

  12. First time poster here — I keep wanting to try these:

    the-shirt dot com (not sure if it’s okay to post a website on here)

    I haven’t tried them yet, but they look awesome!

  13. Threadjack: Dropped a chunk of greasy Mexican-restaurant ground beef on my light gray skirt. Tried to dab at it with a wet, lightly soaped towel (my usual method of breaking up greasy stains), but it looks like it only made the stain bigger. Help!

    • what material is the skirt made of?

      • actually, i would try Tide Stick if you have it (and if the material can take it) .. otherwise just get it to your dry cleaner asap. grease can come out but time is of the essence.

      • Wool and Elastane (whatever that is- mostly wool at 96%). I wish that I had a Tide stick! Probably no way to get to the cleaner today before they close. Darn.

        • hmm. all i can suggest is a run to CVS for a Tide Stick, or better yet, an emergency run to AT Loft for a replacement bottom (this is a very indulgent option, not very practical) so you can take the skirt to the cleaners. good luck either way.

    • Dish soap will remove grease stains, but make sure it’s not the kind with bleach in it!

    • I’d be really careful of the Tide Stick! I’ve had them sort of leave a bleach mark, and then even when the stain comes out, you’ll have a bleach mark. Is there a cheaper store option near your office that you can grab a skirt or pants and not feel too badly for the unexpected splurge?

      • try some baby powder/talcum powder. it sucks up most of the grease and will buy you time until you get to the cleaners. i’ve had lots of luck with grease from fried foods on all kinds of nautral fabrics

  14. @Rachel – I used to do this. Then I took my sewn shirts to the dry cleaner and they UNSTITCHED them. Sloppily. Now I pin, but I hide the pin by not pinning all the way through the hem. I just pin through the back – it’s a far cleaner look.

    • Probably it came unsewn in the machine. Normally drycleaners will make repairs to clothes damaged in the machines free of charge – seams rip and buttons pop off all the time. If it happens again just ask them to fix it.

      • I used my Bernina and duplicate stitched over the top-stitches. They could no more come out in the wash than my nose could fall off my face. :) They used a seam ripper – and admitted to it when I called it out. Apparently having it closed made ironing more challenging. No more business from me.

  15. Seattleite :

    I’ve used toupee tape for years. It will even last through several washings if I pull the shirt off over my head. It’s never left a residue even on delicate fabrics.

    Bonus of toupee tape is that it works really well to anchor low-cut gowns, etc. I used it on a whole passel of high-school girls getting ready for prom a couple of years ago. One side on b**b, one side on dress, press, voila!

  16. I found this trick years ago, and it works… I sew in a very thin piece of velcro between the buttons. Gives it just enough hold and I only have to do it once!

  17. I got this recommendation from my sewing instructor….I sew clear snaps between the 4th and 5th button holes (where I get the largest gaps). It doesn’t take very long to sew them in, and once you get some practice, you will get good at doing it. I used matching thread, so you can’t tell at all. The snaps keep the gaps closed, they stay on it the laundry, and are very discrete. I’ve been happy with the solution.

  18. Why wear a button-down shirt at all, in such high-tension setting as an interview or business meeting? Why not a silk tee-shirt blouse, or a silk crew-neck short-sleeved sweater? Think of the first time Melanie Griffith borrows one of Sigourney Weaver’s suits in “Working Girl.” No button-down shirt under that suit, and it was a clean, polished look, and she didn’t have to worry about button gaps.

  19. You can use hook-and-eyes instead of snaps, too!

  20. Research, Not Law :

    These are all interesting suggestions. I’m really liking the snap idea.

    I long ago simply gave up on button-downs. I never found them comfortable or flattering for my busty figure anyway. But if I ever feel the urge to try them again, I’ll definitely be trying these suggestions!

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