Let’s talk about size inclusivity in the modern corporate world!
If you have ever ordered women’s shirts for your team or company event, you have felt the roulette-like stress of sizing.
As a woman, this isn’t new to me. We’re all too familiar with reading size charts or measurement guides to “find your perfect size”, but with men (more often than not) making the sizing calls, this process can be stressful. The last thing anybody wants is to be sitting at a conference where you’re intended to be mentally focused on the work ahead, but all you can seem to focus on is the fact that the company shirt you were provided is three sizes too small and you no matter how much you tug and pull, it’s just not going to give.
Google, and many other organizations with strong diversity programs, require that custom-branded apparel be offered in both women’s and unisex sizes. So, to put sizing to the test, I have ordered samples of the most requested women’s shirts and am taking on the role of ‘mannequin’ for everyone’s sake!
For reference, I tend to be a size medium in just about everything I order, so as it goes, I will be trying on each of these custom shirts in the size medium. For additional size notes, I am a size 6 in women’s wear, a 34DDD bra size, and a 27 in pants. My biggest areas of concern for women's shirts are the chest and upper back areas since the fabric most often pulls there. The goal here is to provide you with a finite answer for when your team asks, “Do these shirts run small?” or “How many sizes up should I order?”
Let’s dive in!
District Women’s Perfect Tri Tee:
Immediately out of the package, I can tell this is an extremely soft shirt. The cotton blend gives this shirt a slightly heathered look.
The fit is a bit small but the size does not change after being washed and dried. As shown on the website model, it tapers in at the waist and is fitted around my upper arms. I like the length and size of the arms. The taper provides a cleaner look, and the sleeve length is not too short, allowing for the widest part of my arms to be covered.
The manufacturer’s size chart is a little confusing given that it’s showing measurements for half of the shirt and I'm a three-dimensional human. My bust, measuring an inch below the armhole, is 39 inches all the way around. This comes to 19.5 inches, (which is half of 39, as to go by the size chart) which appears to be between a medium and a large in this shirt.
I would call this District Women’s Perfect Tri Tee a true-to-size t-shirt. Despite the slight pulling, this t-shirt feels good. It has an overall flattering look and the large would have been too long in both the torso and the arm length.
District Women’s Perfect Blend Tee:
I thought the last one was soft until I opened this package! This tee feels like butter and I am in love! The plush, soft feel almost makes me forget that my back rolls are on full display. The taper makes this shirt a bit more narrow around the waist than the previous shirt, and it is also a bit thinner. That being said, it is nowhere close to sheer.
After trying this tee on, I would conscientiously order this shirt a full size up. I use the word conscientiously because the manufacturer shows this to be a smaller shirt than the District Tri-Blend. I can feel this to be true in the bust area. While I still feel good in the size medium, I would order a size large solely because of the bust. However, I would recommend anyone who is a C-cup or smaller to order their normal size in this tee.
I think both of the District t-shirts are a great value. They are very soft and have a high-quality feel. While they would work great for a group event or outing, they do skew quite casual.
Alternative The Keepsake Tee:
If you are looking for a more professional-looking t-shirt for your conference, trade show, or standard office wear, this is it! The longer body, high neck, and narrow collar band give this tee shirt a more sleek look. In the stock images, the fabric appears heathered, but it does not appear that way in person. The knitting is a bit looser, so you can see the loops and the “ribbing” of the material - something you are not able to see in the previous shirts I reviewed.
This shirt is described as “fitted” by the manufacturer and I agree. Again, the tightest part of this shirt for me is across my upper back, as the fabric is pulled forward. Having tried this shirt on in the size medium, I would certainly order a larger, therefore ordering up one size.
The medium certainly fit my 39” bust, but for maximum comfort, I would personally size up two sizes larger than my normal shirt size.
Bella+Canvas Women’s TriBlend Short Sleeve Tee:
This may be the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever posted online…and I was among the first generation of Facebook users, so that’s saying something! This shirt looked tiny when I first opened the package. I could see that the shirt is fitted from the model on the website, but seeing it in person made me question whether I actually selected the women’s sizing or if I accidentally stumbled into the children's section. Rest assured, everything has its purpose, and I reminded myself that this could be my daughter’s new nightgown, as I proceeded to throw it into the wash. Post wash, I cannot say for sure that the shirt shrunk, however, it’s appearing so tiny now that I am hesitant to even put it on for the photo! Nonetheless, this shirt is a size medium, but it is safe to say the size guide on the website is not helpful here. The bust sizing seems to be the largest problem area for me; a flat shirt measured across the bust means nothing. Still, true to this reporting, at 16 inches across, it’s a full 2 inches smaller than the others. The model on the website makes this shirt appear to be a semi-relaxed fit, but if you cannot yet tell, I wholeheartedly disagree.
Clients often ask me about the style and fit of a shirt before they order, and I can now point to this post as to why I encourage samples before ordering. A brand like Bella+Canvas is known throughout the promotional merchandise community, and those of you who do the swag-buying, because of their quality. Their shirts are soft, and they do not pill the first month that you own them. They do not shrink or stretch out, unlike others, thus becoming an addition to the already large pile of lousy, free shirts you never wear. Nonetheless, caution is required with this order. Bella+Canvas also offers a similar t-shirt that claims to be fitted, so I wonder what that means for my self-esteem...
I would opt for the unisex version of the shirt and save yourself the headache. If you have a group of women who want a slender custom tee, then err on the size of larger, and order 2-3 sizes up. I would get a 2XL in this last shirt over my normal size medium. Semi-relaxed fit, my @$$!
I do see quite a bit of merit in offering women’s sizes as opposed to just unisex sizes when it comes to ordering custom apparel. Custom t-shirts should be worn confidently, and as a woman, I appreciate when a shirt not only fits, but fits well, or might I even say, perfectly. This may not be true for everyone, but I know I perform better at work, in meetings, and in front of crowds, and overall feel more confident throughout my day when I feel good in my clothes; and women’s styles or cuts do just this.
This being said, it is important to keep in mind that not everyone is comfortable outwardly selecting a size, and depending on your team, opting for unisex sizing may be a more inclusive option. Moreover, while here at Coolperx we strive to work with brands who display size inclusion, not all brands have made those efforts quite yet. Be sure to glance at all of the sizing options that your t-shirt brand offers before presenting your team with the standard Small - Extra Large sizing, especially if we’re talking about women’s fits/cuts (has this article taught us nothing?!).
Whatever your company’s diversity requirements may be, I hope you find this guide valuable! As always, we never want to overwhelm you with shirt options. We have a very selective and trusted array of shirts here at Coolperx, curated just for you.
Please feel free to share this with your team when you’re placing your order. (They will thank you later!)