We’ve probably all got one; a t-shirt with a neckline that falls juuuust lower than we’d like. Or a sweater that started out fine, but after a few trips through the washer, it’s stretched out so that the neckline droops and sags.
Here’s a quick fix that works great on most casual wear with round necklines: a lot of t-shirts, sweatshirts, and casual dresses have a neck band that is a folded piece of cloth which forms a tube all the way around the neckline. This allows us to take in the neck band by adding some elastic cord inside that tube.
You will need a tapestry needle, which is a thick needle with a blunt tip and a large eye. You also need elastic thread, or 1/16″ (1.5 mm) elastic cord, if your shirt is thick and much heavier than a t-shirt. A doubled length of elastic thread will work fine for most shirts, but the elastic cord is the heavy-duty option if you’re fixing something thick or heavy, like this sweater:
I got this gray sweater from a thrift store. I love it… but the gems on the shoulders add significant weight to the front of the shirt, which the neck ribbing is too weak to support. This pulls the front of the shirt down, and creates a large horizontal wrinkle that makes the whole shirt look droopy.
I threaded 1/16″ elastic cord through the tapestry needle and worked it all the way around the inside of the neckband, then slid the needle out through the same hole where it went in.
With this shirt, I could just push the needle in between the stitches on the neck band seam, and thread it in and back out of the tunnel without much of a problem.
If you can’t get the needle and elastic to go in between the stitches, you have two other options: make a tiny snip on the inside of the neck band, through only one layer, just above the stitches that join the neckband to the shirt. Or, you can unpick a few stitches on the seam that joins the neckband into a circle.
After you have threaded the elastic cord all the way around the neck band, pull on the elastic to draw the neckline up. Try on the shirt to see how much slack to take up. But be careful that you don’t let the ends of the elastic cord disappear inside the neck band! Tie the ends in a temporary bow in order to keep track of them.
When you’re happy with your alteration, knot the elastic and roll some permanent glue into the knot with your fingers, to make sure it doesn’t come undone. (I use my favorite fabric glue.) Let the glue dry, cut the ends of the elastic short, and pop the knot inside the neck band. I used the blunt tip of the tapestry needle to help shove the knot inside. Ta daa!
You can take out a few inches of slack without altering the way the rest of the garment hangs, especially if you’re correcting a shirt that was stretched out. But if you take up a large amount of slack, the fabric will have gathers in it around the neckline, which might suit you just fine. Take a look at this dark green rayon shirt that I added gathers to on purpose:
This ready-to-wear shirt had 4 tucks sewn in to the neckline when I got it, but I thought it would look better with more gathers, so I added some. I used a doubled length of elastic thread, because the fabric is very thin and lightweight. I like the way it hangs better, now that it has more gathers around the neck, and the shirt was long enough that pulling it up so much didn’t make it too short for my liking.
This is my friend April. She wanted the neck of this shirt made smaller, because it was so floppy it was practically falling off her shoulders.
The shirt looks like a V-neck, but it isn’t… it’s a round neckline with a tab of fabric that wraps around the neck edge and gathers the front of the shirt.
April’s shirt had small stitches securing the neckband seam, so I went ahead and unpicked them in order to thread the elastic through. I re-stitched the neckband seam when I was done.
I have also used this trick on the armholes of tank tops that gaped too much, and to take in slack on some shirts where the neckline sagged when I leaned over. It works quite well, but if you find that you took out the wrong amount of slack and you want to try again, it’s easy to undo it by cutting the elastic.
If you don’t like the way the elastic trick works on your top, or if your shirt doesn’t have that little tube of fabric forming the neckband, here are a couple of other ideas that might work for you:
You can clip a spring-gate O-ring on each of your sleeves, trapping your bra strap and going around the neckline, like this:
I like the 1″ inner diameter rings for this purpose. It’s easy to swap out the rings to use them on a different shirt, or change out the color from gold, to silver, to bronze, to rose gold. I particularly like the way this trick works on V-neck shirts:
In addition to looking awesome and dressing up a plain tee, the rings tighten up the neckline. You end up with a higher but wider shape to the collar, almost like a Queen Anne look. And guess what, this is yet another one of my ways to keep your bra straps from slipping off your shoulders!
If you don’t like the O-ring idea, you might want to look into buying or sewing a modesty panel like this, which attaches to your bra straps underneath your shirt and fills in the gap.
Or, you can add a half-cami like this over your bra, to add some more coverage right where you need it, without adding too much bulk.