Monday, July 22, 2013

Where Have All The Good T Shirts Gone?

No, really. Time was, you could go to the Gap or Banana Republic and find a substantial cotton/lycra blend for a decent price. You know, the kind that smooths over everything without clinging. The kind that doesn't stretch out beyond all recognition within 10 washes. The kind that isn't sort of see-through (not that I begrudge the modern, translucent fabrics when they're what I want).

I don't want to make my own t shirts. Sure, I spent a month creating a sloper for just this purpose, a couple of years ago. But I can't really find the kind of fabric I'm searching for on the bolt either. Not to mention, it's not exciting sewing. I'd need to find a perfect fabric, which called to me for t shirts only, in order to be motivated to sew another t shirt. (When I go through my next t shirt sweat shop phase, you can remind me of this post...)

A few years ago, when in Quebec City, I went to this little store called Paris Cartier (I think) on Avenue Cartier (in the Montcalm area which, btw, is totally where I'd live if I lived in QC) and bought a blue and white striped, crew neck T. So awesome was the thick, soft, extremely resilient fabric (which has such good recovery I'm still wearing the thing weekly), that it's lasted hundreds of wearings (though it's on its last legs). The brand - which I've only ever seen at this boutique - is Danish, called Jackpot.

This trip, I found another of the T shirts - this one in pure white - and I happily purchased it though, sadly, I sense it's too sheer to wear on its own. The drape and fit, however, are awesome.

Believe it or not, there appears to be but one store in TO that sells Jackpot, and it's in the east end (on the Danforth, near Carrot Common). I don't really go east, as anyone will tell you. But I might have to make an exception. Or order from Denmark online :-)

So desperate am I, I've even got to the point that, for the right t shirt, I'll spend 70-100 bucks. (Of course, I'll wait till the sales and spend 35.00-50.00, but you know what I mean.) But honestly, if I don't want the T to look cheap, I might have to actually throw money at these, the most predisposed to disposable of garments.

Between the neutral bra I can't find, and the perfect t shirt to go atop it, I'm feeling serious fashion anxiety. Given our recent heat wave, the other day I wore a thin-ish white T with a sub-optimal bra (right colour scheme, too lacey) and the result was horrendous. Oy.

So, today's questions: What's your go-to t shirt brand? What do you look for in a t shirt? How much will you spend? And - I need to know - what's the biggest hole in your wardrobe currently? Maybe we can help each other...

36 comments:

  1. I make my t-shirts/knit shirts (sad to say). I've made so many now (AND I've got a serger and cover stitch machine) that my "system" is pretty slick.
    But I get not making them - it's not cheaper but I'm very petite and it's hard to find them to fit. I hate clothes that are too big...I just look ridiculous. And I love me a knit shirt/top.

    BUT...I sometimes find Jackpot brand at Winners' and at another discount place called Dots (I'm in/near Edmonton, AB). So before you order from Denmark...maybe check it out.

    And my current wardrobe hole...work pants...I've got fabric and a pattern just need to get sewing! Good luck!

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    1. No sadness in making your own! They fit beautifully, I'm sure. Now that I have a cover stitch machine, I really should just shut up and do it. I had no idea you can find Jackpot at Winners. Good info (though that place is so vast, it freaks me out). Pants seem to be everyone's nemesis. Good luck to you too!

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  2. I used to rely on Land's End, but their quality has sunk too low. My last purchases were so thin and off-grain that I had to return them all. Now I rely on L. L. Bean, but they are quite basic and boxy. Still, they work OK under jackets, etc. Don't look like much on their own. I feel your pain!

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    1. Egad. I read your comment after I read Susan's (below). Is all the quality fading or did you perhaps get a bad batch? LL Bean really is too boxy, I agree. But the quality of the fabric is good.

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  3. I know what you mean... I'm constantly on the hunt for the perfect T! My last purchase was online from Lands End. They have a nice cotton/lycra blend t-shirt but the fit runs big so I sized down. Not perfect, but the fabric is substantial enough and not super-flimsy and thin like some. Susan

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    1. Land's end is one of those brands I've just never tried. I should totally check it out because they were mail-order from the get-go, yes? Thanks Susan.

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  4. I've had some luck with the ladies' Kirkland brand t-shirts at Costco. Of course, you never know when they will have them, so I stocked up in every colur in my size when I saw them in the store.
    I find the fabric to be good quality, and the length is good for me. I wish they had more basic colours (I ended up with a hot pink and a rich blue green, which are not my preferred colours, but they'll be OK on the weekend with jeans).

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    1. Oooh, interesting. I don't go to Costco cuz I don't have a car and there aren't any downtown. But good suggestion. Thanks!

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  5. I feel your pain! I have been happy with fabrics from Banana Republic - they have nicely shaped tee shirts in (usually) substantial fabrics. For the most part, I have been happy and the knits have lasted at least a year without significant pilling or stretching. I'm in my mid-30s and I still have Gap and Express tees from my highschool days that are totally wearable but for the fact that they are just too short for my style now. Why I have held on to these shirts, I'm not sure but every season they survive the culling largely because they look virtually new. I feel like quality took a nose dive sometime in the last 5 years.

    At Nordstroms, I have found the brand Caslon brand to have good quality tees as well. They are having the semi-annual sale now, too, and have a great return policy.

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    1. The BR shape is better than most but the last shirt I got (which was thick) seemed almost too thick. Quality really has taken a dive. I had some Gap T's that were terrific. Now I buy them to sleep in and in 6 months they've got holes (I'm not careful with them, but still...) I've not heard of Caslon. Gonna check it out. Thanks!

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  6. I am trying to make all my tees, but I haven't gotten very far. I have had good luck with REI, but I must disclose that my husband works there so I get a discount. They specialize in outdoorsy stuff, but you can get some basic Tees there that work for everyday. They have a very liberal return policy (although not as good as it was). I don't think they have any brick and mortar stores in CA but they do have an online store.

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    1. V: I've never thought of REI but I just checked the site and there are some cute, substantial offerings. Thanks!

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  7. Tshirts are always an issue. They're usually too long and sometimes too boxy. And I rarely do cotton. It doesn't drape well if it's loose.

    I'm satisfied with some shirts I recently bought at François Beauregard. They could be shorter, but the length is not too bad.

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    1. I know! Who needs long or boxy. I'm short and curvy! I've wondered about those t shirts. Thanks for the tip.

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  8. I gave up on manufactured tee shirts years ago, since they never did my figure any favors... took me a while to come up with a TNT pattern to make my own, but once I realised that I could use princess seams to get a more shapely front, there was no stopping me. I realise that this doesn't answer your question about best sources for readymade though in the last year I have made almost a dozen tee shirts, mostly for me but a few as gifts.

    Currently the biggest gap in my wardrobe is underthings, specifically bras, and I am on a quest to come up with a TNT bra pattern. Since I cannot find stable non-stretchy thick cotton knit, I am wondering about actually using a woven cotton for the cups, which are supposed to be non stretchy. Have not found much if any information about doing that, but will be giving it a try anyway. (at my size, stretchy cups would be a bad idea)

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    1. The crazy thing is, I spent all that time making a TNT - I should be making them, I suppose. And I love your idea about adding princess seams!

      I really recommend that you do a clone of a bra you already wear (but it must fit). If it's not in good shape, rip it up to get flat pattern pieces. If it's still in use, do a rub off (see previous post comments for some tips).

      You can totally use woven fabric that isn't lingerie-specific but be careful. Lots of those fabrics have a slight nap (which means that clothes will cling). You can always underline a stretchy fabric with sheer cup lining (one supplier of this stuff is on this page https://www.bramakerssupply.com/site2009/cart/shopdisplayproducts.asp?id=24&cat=Linings+and+Paddings). Between beige and black, you can basically underline anything. It's really neutral under a fabric.

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  9. When I can't find tee shirts that fit or in fabric I like I go back to making them - I am in a making phase, again, and have just finished about a dozen. I love Jalie patterns for tees and tanks. I have tried the V neck tank from StyleArc, but I didn't pick the right size. I like the 11 oz rayon jersey knit from EmmaOneSock and the rayon spandex from SpandexWorld - both have good color selections and carry these fabrics all the time. I've also tried Sophia double knit (poly/rayon/spandex) this time and I'm really liking it.

    The biggest hole in my wardrobe right now is good, casual pants. I've lost some weight so my TNT pattern no longer fits. I need to develop a new one, but I don't think my weight is quite stable yet and I'm reluctant to put the effort into it.

    Lois K

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    1. Oh, I suppose I would do this (even though it's not so exciting - I mean I do have a coverstitch machine now!) but I can't really find the kinds of fabrics I want. I want a cotton with some lycra (for skim and fittedness). Where do you get your fabric?

      Ah, casual pants can be a bitch! Hopefully you have a good pair of dark wash jeans to tide you over till you make that new TNT.

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  10. Not really related, but with all the bra talk on this blog, I'd love to get your take on your favourite undies.

    I've recently discovered Hanro underwear and absolutely love it. Most of the styles are all-cotton or mostly-cotton but of the most absolutely soft, fine fabrication. They're European, which explains the high level of quality. Quite expensive, but as with many other things, I find the older I get the less I am able to tolerate crap quality, even with my underwear! It just seems when you jump up to a higher level (with whatever it might be) you can't go back. Something like with your cardigan talk as well... Helen

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    1. Hanro is venerable Helen! I've always been intrigued but a) it really is pricey :-) and b) they don't have bras in my size and I only wear sets. But I've felt the fabric of the undies and it's amazing. Wear those with great enjoyment. Beautiful things, that no one else sees, are the loveliest.

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  11. I like Splendid! Been wearing them for years.

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    1. Never seen that brand - gonna look it up!

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  12. We have a Jackpot shop here in little ol' Nanaimo, believe it or not -- See? you have to come for a visit! But I generally make do with Gap t-shirts, replacing often. Honestly, I don't wear t-shirts a lot though . . .

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    1. You have to be kidding me! What is wrong with Toronto?? :-) I do have to get there. Not only is it beautiful. With T shirts. But you are there!

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  13. The best t-shirts I've had in the last few years have been from Marks & Spencer, and Uniqlo - both 100% cotton I think. M&S recently had a free international shipping offer so I stocked up again - the t-shirts are only £5-8 and my last couple have lasted 3 summers (I've gotten sick of them rather than they've fallen to bits). A Uniqlo T-shirt I bought in about 2006 is still going strong (not worn frequently), but the last basic Uniqlo T I bought was ridiculously long so I need to take it up, and the fabric feels a bit thinner (though the fit is still great for my relatively small frame and they have colours I like). I did buy a breton-style top at the same time that feels more substantial, isn't so long, and has been worn a lot more.

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    1. Oh, I remember when M&S was in TO! Miss that...

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  14. I've started buying t-shirts from Everlane (and they just started shipping to Canada) and I'm pretty pleased. Unfortunately, the free shipping is US only, but the t-shirts are only $15 each. I prefer the U-neck t-shirts myself, but the fabric on the crewneck and v-neck t-shirts is the same and quite nice--very soft and resilient, but not too thick or stiff. I had bought their original Ryan t-shirts but they were not 100% cotton (they are redesigning them now). And they're all made in LA, not a deathtrap factory in Bangladesh, which is a bonus.

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    1. I'm going to have to pay more attention to Everlane, apparently. Glad to hear that the production process is humane!

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  15. I second Everlane: I am not a big t shirt person (so many are too short, too boxy or spring spontaneous holes (hello JCrew)) and while I am not 100% sure about Everlane since I have not washed them yet, I have four v necks and they are all long enough, not too revealing, very soft, lovely color choices and responsibly made here in the USA. I would say they are generously sized: I am a 10 - 12 and got a L but could have done M.

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    1. Thanks for that sizing info Margaret!

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  16. I used to be happy with Lands End and LL Bean but I don't like those anymore because they are not stylish. I have been pretty happy with Elieen Fisher tees but don't like the sleeve caps. Otherwise they are great.

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    1. Oh, Eileen Fisher has gone through a huge renaissance lately. Must check out the website...

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  17. Re-commenting because Blogger seemed to not take my comment. I love the concept of a Tee, comfortable to the max. For men I don't like the style of a Tee except for their comfort. My problem with Tees is that M is too small and L is too big. Oh well.

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    1. Hey Martin: I agree - it's a good concept! :-) You'll just have to design your own that fit perfectly.

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  18. I get frustrated with the cheap t-shirts too. Eddie Bauer used to be my favorite, but now they seem to be getting thinner too. I've bought a few at Costco that have been better quality. For winter I actually like their merino wool ones. The gap used to be a favorite, but haven't found any good ones. Last year I found some nice ones at Mark's Work Wearhouse, of all places. Went back to get some this summer...no luck. Very frustrating

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