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Field Guide to Custom T-shirts for Women – A Comparison

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. I’m fairly adept at reading size charts and picking the size that most closely describes my bust and my waist, because none of the other measurements have ever meant anything to me. But, with a large group or (welcome to the party) men doing the dirty work of selecting sizing for women, this process can be extremely stressful. The last thing you want is a group of teachers sitting around in shirts 3 sizes too small at a conference where they are supposed to be getting excited about teaching our children.

Google, and many other organizations with strong diversity programs require that custom t-shirts are offered in both women’s and unisex sizing. So, I have ordered samples of the most requested women’s shirts from reliable brands and am playing the role of *insert name of favorite supermodel* for everyone’s sake…again, happy, confident teachers are preferred when educating our youth.

For reference, I’m a medium in just about everything I’ve ever ordered, so that’s the size I’m trying in each of these custom shirt options so that when someone asks how many sizes to go up, we’ll all know. I’m a size 6 in women’s wear, wear a 34DDD bra and 27 pants. My biggest areas of concern for women’s sized shirts are my chest and upper back since the fabric is most pulled there.

Here it goes…

District Women’s Perfect Tri Tee: This is an extremely soft shirt. I love the feeling even just out of the packaging. The blend makes it slightly heathered.

The fit is slightly small, but doesn’t change after being washed and dried. As shown on the model, it tapers in at the waist and is fitted around my upper arm. I like the length and size of the arm. It’s not loose and sloppy, and it’s not too short, so the widest part of my arm is covered.

The manufacturer’s size chart is a little confusing since it’s showing measurements for half the shirt. My bust measurements an inch below the arm hole is 39 inches all the way around, so 19-1/2 inches is half…about a medium in this shirt. I would order this in a medium, possibly large since my bust is not necessarily proportionate.

I recommend this as true-to-size simply because despite the slight pulling, this feels good, it looks pretty good and the large would be too long in both the body and the arm lengths.

District Women’s Perfect Blend Tee: I thought the last one was soft…this one is butter. I’m in love. The softness ALMOST makes me forget that my back rolls are on full display.

I would cautiously order this as true-to-size…similarly to the District Tri-Blend. I say cautiously, because the manufacturer shows this to be a smaller shirt than the District Tri-Blend. And, I still feel good in the medium every where except my bust. I would order a large. Someone who is a C-cup or smaller would have no problems with ordering their normal size here.

I think both District shirts are a great value. They are soft and feel high quality. They aren’t thin, so you can’t see through them at all. They would be great for a group event or outing, but are very casual.

Alternative The Keepsake Tee: If you are looking for a more professional looking t-shirt for your conference, trade show or just to wear around the office, this is it. The longer body style, high neck, and narrow collar band make this look dressier. In the stock images, the fabric looks heathered, but it doesn’t appear that way in person. The knitting is looser, you are able to see the loops and the “ribbing” of the material…something you aren’t able to see in the other shirts reviewed.

This is described as “fitted” by the manufacturer and I’d agree. Again, the tightest part on me is behind my shoulders as the fabric is pulled forward. I’d certainly order a large in this shirt. So, for me, that is one size larger than what I’d define as my normal size.

This is another size chart that doesn’t explain the actual size of the shirt. The medium certainly fit my 39” bust, I wouldn’t go to an XL and order along the lines of this near useless size guide simply because it fits everywhere else and isn’t extremely tight across my chest.

Bella+Canvas Women’s TriBlend Short Sleeve Tee:

This may be the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever posted online…and I was on the first generation of Facebook users, so that’s saying something! This shirt was small when it came in. One of those, “this is going to be my daughter’s new nightgown” shirts. Then, I washed it. I can’t say for sure that it shrank (shrunk?), but, it’s so small now that I’m hesitating putting it back on to take a picture. It’s a size medium…ordered for consistency in this guide. You’d even think with the 8/10 size description that the medium may work well. Then, there is the bust description. Again, a flat shirt measured across the bust means NOTHING. Still, true to this reporting, at 16-ish inches across, it’s a full 2 inches smaller than the others.And, it fits like a bathing suit. This is where the catalog images prove to be absolutely useless. The model makes it look like another loose fitting t-shirt. When clients have asked me the fit of shirts in the past, this is why I’ve always ordered samples. This is ridiculous. A brand like Bella+Canvas is known throughout the promotional merchandise community and those of you buying swag because of the quality. These are soft shirts that don’t pill the first month you own them. They don’t really shrink or stretch out or become useless with the other pile of shirts you’ve either received as part of a conference, a fun run or bought at a concert after a bottle of wine. But, caution is required with this order. Bella+Canvas offers a similar one that states that it’s fitted. This one is described as a semi-relaxed fit…I beg to differ.

Recommendations: I’d choose the unisex version of the shirt and save yourself the headache. IF you have a group of women who really want a slender custom tee, then order 3 sizes up. I’d get a 2XL in this shirt over my normal M. Semi-relaxed fit, my @$$!

Anvil Ladies Tri-Blend Tee: As one of our value brands, Anvil is a lesser known brand and we don’t sell them often. The company is one of the world’s leading cotton mills.

The material feels similar to the Bella+Canvas and the District tri-blends and also heathered due to the blend of materials. The description says the shirt has a “semi-fitted contoured silhouette and side seam.” Since most tee shirts have a side seam I’m confused as to why they listed it in the description. But, after trying it on, I notice that the shirt is higher at the seams and dips longer at the front and back. The shirt is small, but nothing compared to the Bella+Canvas shirt. The detail of the hemline is a more youthful and fashionable style and would lend best to high school and college custom shirt orders. On me, the shorter length makes me feel thicker around the waist.

The size guide provided by Anvil shows body width measurements that are all the way around your body…amazing. Only, what defines body width? After some investigating, I found out that the body width is a shoulder-to-shoulder measurement. Again, this is challenging for adult women to use. It’s not a measurement most of us have ever used and therefore don’t know. I would estimate ordering one size up, but no more than that. This shirt is much shorter than the rest, so if you are looking to tuck something in or cover your butt, this isn’t it.


I do see quite a bit of merit in offering women’s sizes instead of just unisex sizes. Custom t-shirts should be worn confidently, and as a woman, I appreciate when I’m feeling like a woman. This may not be true for everyone, but I perform better at work, in meetings, talking in front of crowds, and am more confident throughout my day when I feel like I look good in my clothes. Women’s fits help me in this.

Whatever your diversity requirements are, I hope you find this guide valuable!



         New Jersey | Indiana


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