Button-down blouses can be great — if they fit you and don’t gape in the bust. Some companies specialize in creating non-gaping dress shrirts for women with large breasts (e.g., The Shirt) but sometimes you just want a DIY fix for a shirt you’ve already got.
Guest poster Kathryn Rubino — one of my good friends — is a plus-sized fashionable overachieving chick who has some crafty suggestions for fixing the problem. (She has also posted about how to get a great-fitting blazer.) – Kat
We’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.)
Some of the top products to help you fix a gaping blouse include:
Above, some solutions for gaping blouses: 1) Topstick toupee tape 2) double-stick medical tape 3) Flash Tape 4) Fearless Tape 5) black & white and colorful safety pins — see more clever solutions for workwear problems in our Amazon shop!
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DIY Option #1 to Fix a Gaping Blouse: 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.
Pictured above, the best women’s collared blouses as of 2023: one / two* / three* / four / five (* = available in plus sizes; see more in our roundup of the best plus-size workwear blouses — also check out our DIY options for gaping blouses)
How to Fix a Gaping Blouse, DIY Try #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.
Pictured above, some of our favorite brands for silk button-front blouses as of 2022: 1) Quince ($59!) 2) Boden 3) Everlane* 4) MM.LaFleur* and 5) Club Monaco. For more affordable options check Grana and Lilysilk; for fancier options check L’Agence, Equipment, and Vince.
Gaping Blouse Fix #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 locate 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? (We rounded up everyone’s comments into a second post, The Best Solutions for Gaping Shirts!)
As of 2022, some great dress shirts for women with large breasts: mustard / white / blue / white (also check out this indie brand)
Picture credit on Pin: Deposit Photos / AILA_IMAGES.
Anyone subscribe to maven, glymm or luxebox? Just wondering how professional women feel about such things.
What are those?
Canadian companies (or with free Canadian shipping) that have monthly boxes mailed to subscribers.
Maven is $5 with promocode FB for the first month- you get two nail polishes, a hand scrub and a base coat. 20/m after that. All nail related stuff.
Luxe is $12 for 4-5 large size samples of beauty products
Glymm is $10 for 3-5 reasonably large samples of beauty products
It’s like a Birch box. But Canadian.
Barrister in the Bayou
OMG, I just looked at Birch Box… its dangerous, but I think its going to happen!
I have Birch Box and it’s fun to get a “present” in the mail every month. Haven’t found a holy grail item but some of the things can be nice.
I have Birchbox and have found a lot of products I really like. I’m the type of person who likes to try new things, so there are really only a few products I’ve found I need to buy in a bigger size.
Love love love Julep Maven! Seriously worthwhile. You get so much bang for your buck, and environmentally-friendly toxin-free products, to boot! Just so you don’t think there’s anything in it for me, I won’t give you my info for the referral credit. :D The free shipping on all purchases and 20% discount on all products is a bonus, too. I can’t recommend it enough.
So far I have found their customer service horrific. When you call they have no idea what is going on and I just read a complete nonsensical email from [email protected]. Im actually concerned that these people have my card.
I signed up for both glymm and luxebox.
I got my first luxebox last month- I was really unimpressed with their shipping problems, especially being in Western Canada, so it took like 3 full weeks for me to get my box from when it was shipped. I did , however, fall in love with one product, the mereadesso face gel- and for that alone, I think it was worth it. There was enough in the sample that I used it every night for two weeks, which I think is worth it.
I also got city lips (which I really didn’t need, since I already have full lips), and a mercier toner (which was okay, but not good enough that I’d buy it), and a sample of moroccan hair oil (which I’ve used before and hated, so…I gave it to a friend).
I get my first Glymm this month. I haven’t heard about Maven, but I can tell you right now that I will be doing some research on it.
I’ll continue to subscribe for at least a few months- I’ve been looking for new products, and I like this method of trying them. And the boxes totally make my day when I get them. I get to spend hours playing, its great.
Wrt “professional women”, I’m a 24 yr. old articling student…soo…does that count?
Sure! Just wondering because women like us can’t usually wear purple lipstick or neon yellow polish. I was assuming many products would be useless. However mail order services are such a time saver…
Is there something like this for Europe?
There is the Glossybox for several countries in Europe (France, UK, Spain, maybe others, don’t know).
I had never heard of these, but am very interested in hearing feedback. It sounds like a great way to try to wean myself off of my Sephora habit…I just love trying new products, and rarely finish using any of them – monthly samples would be fantastic!
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.
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!
Great info. Thanks.
If you have a good tailor, he or she can do that as well. I typically have a tailor add a tiny snap between the buttons across my bust. If you have a hidden placket shirt, even better.
This is what I do with all my button downs before I wear them. Perfect.
Those “as seen on TV” Style Snaps are fantastic for gaps!
@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.
Wow, this is brilliant. I will have to try this. I just avoid button downs like the plague.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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!
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!
The orange Neutrogena liquid face soap will also do the trick. It’s way too harsh for my face but has saved my clumsy butt numerous times!
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
@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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
You can use hook-and-eyes instead of snaps, too!
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!
I usually wear a camisole under a button-up shirt. I have a few lower-cut/more casual button-ups from places like James Perse and the camisole covers any stray cleavage. Generally if the shirt is gapping too much you probably should get rid of it, but I wear a camisole just to have some freedom of movement.
I do this too. I think of it as wearing an undershirt like most men do. I also do not like when you can see the outline of my bra if the shirt is a thin or light colored fabric so the camisole hides that.
That being said, I really like this snap idea, and may try it for my darker button downs!
To “second” an opinion from above, I LOVE the Brooks Brothers No-Iron button downs. I try to buy them on sale, but will pay full price if I have to. They come out of the dryer looking great and stay looking good all day. They also travel really well. When I used to wear “regular” button downs, after carrying my laptop bag and purse, by the time I got to the office I looked like I had slept in my clothes. I don’t have that problem any more.
Oh my god all of these options for fixing gaping are atrocious. Hand sewn, pin (seriously?) and tape–any of these options is going to make you look sloppy. Just invest in a couple of bespoke button-down blouses and be done with it. Kat and/or guestposter can you dig up some tailors in major cities?
Well, the ladies that post here manage to keep their jobs despite “looking sloppy”. I think most of us would get custom-measure clothes if we could afford it and had the time. Maybe you didn’t mean it that way, but this comment sounds really snobby.
I’ll bite- how much do YOU pay for your bespoke button-downs? I think pret-a-porter is a more reasonable option for a lot of people, given that there are no fittings, it’s cheaper, etc.- but if you give the price range that you generally pay (and mention your closest metropolitan area), then the women who love the button-down look may give it more consideration.
Personally, I look like I’ve been cut in half vertically when I wear button downs, so I avoid them at all costs.
Too bad not all of us are making big law salaries. Too bad not all of us work in major cities.
I guess the rest of us will just have to stick to our sloppy gap-closing methods.
What’s bespoke button-down? And what about all my other button downs that fit except for that gap? Why would it make you look sloppy if you can’t see it? This reminds me that I should make sloppy joes tonight, so I conclude unoffended and uninformed.
Those were suggestions for if you were in a pinch. I do agree with you about bespoke shirts, though. Given the intended audience, many readers should be able to afford them.
I think $600 spent on a two or three shirts that fit perfectly will yield more value than a handbag or a pair of sky-high heels that hurt.
I just went to the said sites and they don’t make shirts in my size. Despite being really busty I am small. I would swim in a shirt designed for someone with a 30″ waist and boobs as small as a C cup.
I wear a 30″ FF bra size. That breaks down to a 24″ waist and 36″ bust. I would love to buy shirts that fit, but I can’t find any. As it is, it is almost impossible to buy bras. If you can tell me of a store I can go to and buy button ups that would fit me without gapping I would be very happy. I’ve been looking for a while. In the mean time, I will be glad to use many of the techniques mentioned here.
I’m a big fan of adding snaps. I do it myself, just takes a few minutes per shirt. I usually add two snaps between each gaping button. Not sure why more shirt makers can’t add extra buttons on the placket, that would solve this issue for sure.
I recently discovered the best trick ever (for shirts you’re never wearing open, at least). Remove all of the buttons, then sew the placket all the way down on *both* sides (be sure you leave enough buttons un-sewn at the top for your head to fit through). Reattach buttons, though they’re obviously just decorative at this point.
This is really great for me because I am a plus-size girl with a little extra around my middle. Shirts that fit my middle tend to be fine at the bust, so button downs look great when I’m standing up, but when I sit down I get gapping in all kinds of weird places. As a result, I avoided them like the plague until I discovered this trick :)
We’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.
Well, no. Some of us don’t have straight hair, and not everyone is full-busted. I understand that the point of this post is to give advice to women with that figure type, but let’s not make assumptions about everyone else.
The suggestions seem helpful for people with this problem.
“We’ve all been there” is a figure of speech. If it doesn’t apply to you then don’t read it. And maybe you should try to relax and give the author a break.
In the long term, the best thing, if you have the money, would be to invest in some custom shirts. If you could get even a couple made, you might be able to take them to a cheaper tailor who might be able to copy them.
You could also consider having a pattern specially made for you that you could take to a tailor. Most custom services are “made-to-measure,” that is, they alter a basic block pattern to fit you, instead of making a pattern from scratch based on your measurements.
If I really liked that style of a shirt, I’d consider the latter option. A classic, well-made shirt can be worn for years.
I have never had a gaping problem – with broad shoulders and flat chest, I have to buy shirts a size up to be able to move my arms and then the bust and waist are baggy. When I was in school, I assumed that button downs were the only appropriate shirt under a suit (I had never encountered professional women in my youth to know anything about shells and lightweight sweaters, so I emulated the male uniform). Once I realized that I could wear something else, I abandoned nearly my entire collection of button downs for three reasons: (1) I hate to iron; (2) the collars just don’t interface well with jacket collars; (3) with a small waist and curvier hips, they never stay tucked right. I will occasionally layer a caridgan or crew neck sweater over a wrinkled button down when it gets chilly to make it work appropriate. I actually love Target’s elbow length t-shirts. They layer well, have a nice high, round neck, and don’t cut under your arms like a cap sleeve.
So what exactly am I allowed to wear under a blazer? Setting: an interview or a job that requires “professional attire”.
Not sure if anyone has posted about this but I found the perfect shirt to address this issue. It’s callled “The Shirt by Rochelle Behrens”. I found mine at Bloomingdales but you can buy them online. There are double the number of buttons through the chest but half of them are covered so it doesn’t look strange on the outside. Absolutely no gaping at all. They come in a number of different colors, are made of great quality material and just fit really well- long enough to tuck in but short enough to wear on the outside if you prefer. They are nearly $100 but they are a total staple and well worth it if you have any concerns about the price. Google it and you will get right to their site! I wear mine all the time and have an order out for a few more. Enjoy!
love the tip about finding colored safety pins. so simple yet i never thought of it
I have to add my classic white shirts to the list of options for D+ women who don’t want to deal with sewing, taping or pinning.
I learned the hard way and now NEVER EVER buy shirts that gap. IF you have a custom shirt made, the tailor places the first button in the right spot to prevent gapping and then places the rest of the buttons relative to it. That is the secret. I cannot always afford this so now shop with greater care-for me, shirts from the Limited fit without gapping as do Bobeau blouses. The last time this happened-to a Jones New York shirt that gapped VERY slightly, I had my tailor double button the shirt-this necessitated switching out the buttons and adding extra buttonholes but worked very well for this shirt. Toupee tape is good but is a major PITA as you do need to check it. I’ve occasionally tried sewing in a snap or sewing the blouse shut-all these are decent fixes, but as I said I now avoid buying blouses that gap, and buy multiples of those that fit and treat them with care.
A note from the sewing world: shirts gap because there isn’t a button precisely between the nipples. I’ve never had a gap since I learned to place that button and then creatively rearrange the position of other buttonholes around it. So examine carefully the strategic button on any shirt you’re contemplating buying. Is it close enough to the desired position? If not, would it be possible for an alterations service to add other buttons in a way that’d look more interesting without destroying any hope of symmetry (like either in the center of current intervals, or off enough to make pairs seem deliberate)?
Full-busted women are always better off buying shirts big enough for their bust, and having them tailored down. I’d advise a good dressmaker, personally, less fuss and no more expensive in the long run.
Check out PINX!
This little pin’s unique design makes it easy to use, and stays completely hidden without damaging your shirt. It makes the gap in a button up shirt disappear completely and quickly. Check em out at http://www.justbetweenthegirls.com.
I love your blog so much – this is first time I´m here but I really like what I see and read so far. I have to come back later, you have so many interesting articles over here.
Most of us generously endowed girls have seen safety pins but the toupe tape was something new on me and I think it could be a great idea. It is undoubtedly strong so should be able to deal with the strain.
I love a product called Blouse Button. They close up button gaps and low cut blouses without having to fuss with hiding a safety pin. They are totally awesome! I have them in every color. I got mine at LoveThatAccessory.com