New Year’s Resolution: Ladies’ T-shirts

Ever notice how sites like ThinkGeek tend to have more tech shirts for guys and more geek subculture stuff for women? Take a look around a bit, I’ll wait. Back? OK. So I think what happens is that there are some women who see a design, like it, then get to the “aww, men’s sizes only? Fine, I guess I’ll get it even though it’ll fit funny” part. At least, I do that. I’m sure I’m not alone.

My new policy:
I will not buy geeky shirts which are only available in men’s sizes. If I really want it, a “I would have bought FOO, but it was only available in men’s sizes. Oh well. Maybe you’ll get my business some other time” email is in order.

Why? Well, I figure when I give in and buy a men’s t-shirt just because a women’s one isn’t available it sends the message that it’s perfectly ok to ignore women. Think about it. If you ran a business selling men’s stuff and women’s stuff, but you didn’t really need to offer much to the women (just enough to say “what? we have women’s stuff, in that little box in the back!”) to keep their business because they were willing to sacrifice and get the men’s version instead, why on Earth would you spend the money to keep women’s stuff in stock? Unless demand is made for a women’s version of a certain item, why bother, right? I think this is why ThinkGeek has so few techy women’s shirts. We’ll let our boobs be uncomfortably squished if it lets us show off our geek cred. They see no demand for techy women’s shirts but plenty for techy men’s because all of us women who give in and buy the men’s version when we want the women’s version are artificially inflating the men’s version’s sales!

So, that policy up there? That’s my 2010 New Year’s Resolution. Who’s with me? If everyone* who cared about making the option for a women’s shirt available boycotted shirts that only came in men’s sizes and informed the companies involved of why they lost a sale, think something could change? Let’s find out.

* “everyone” can include both women-who-prefer-men’s-style and men, if they agree that the choice should be there.

51 thoughts on “New Year’s Resolution: Ladies’ T-shirts

  1. maevele

    and to me, i just don’t understand why those are “men’s” tshirts. to me, the standard
    “mens'” t shirt is neutral.

    1. Mackenzie

      I think they’re often labeled “unisex,” but they’re not really. Women in general have wider hips than men. We also have quite a bit more piled onto our chests. So those “unisex” shirts that assume flat chests and narrow hips? Not so unisex after all.

      They do fit some women better than explicitly women’s shirts fit them, but I think in a lot of cases this is more a function of “ugh, the only women’s sizes offered are XS, S, and M babydoll!” which is also a problem. For a lot of us, though, a “unisex” shirt will be either tight in the chest and hips and sacklike in the waist, or we can go up a size so it’s loose enough in chest and hips and…er…tentlike in the waist.

      Usual disclaimers…we come in many shapes and sizes. Smaller-chested or larger-waisted women may not notice a problem, but for well-endowed or curvy women, the square cut of “unisex” shirts can be uncomfortable or at least quite ugly.

      1. maevele

        I realised after I posted it that maybe most women don’t prefer their shirts big and shapeless, just because I do.

        1. Mackenzie

          :) I used to only wear mine big and shapeless and black, explicitly so that I would blend into shadows and if for some reason someone noticed me I would be unattractive to them (trying to hide my figure) and well…sort of disguise myself as one of the guys. At some point I learned that it’s ok for me to wear what I think I look good in and then just flip the bird to anyone that cat-calls ;-) Mmm yay confidence issue resolution?

    2. Skud

      If you’re relatively slim and not too curvy, then the men’s tshirts work OK. I, on the other hand, have a 48″ bust. To get a man’s shirt that can encompass that, I go for an XL, which then has shoulder seams halfway down my arms and looks like I’m wearing a tent. Being able to wear men’s tshirts and have them more or less look OK is something that only thinner/less curvy women can get away with.

      Another pet peeve of mine is that women’s tshirt styles, even if they exist, usually max out around 42″ bust *if you’re lucky*. IIRC, it’s Thinkgeek whose *largest* women’s shirt is 36″, which matches the *smallest* men’s size available, while their largest men’s shirt is 52″ or so. FYI, the 36″ women’s tshirt is described as “XXL” on their size chart, and matches about a size 8 according to mainstream US clothing size charts. That’s XXL now? Fuck that.

      1. Mary

        My participation in the boycott would be very token, since I don’t buy t-shirts of any sort, but this is a big issue to me also. Taller and/or fuller figured women do not exist in geek shirt sizing even when it prides itself on being super woman-shape friendly. (Nor do, I’m told, particularly short or slender men, but it seems to me that men’s shirts on offer are a good fit a larger proportion of men’s bodies than are women’s shirts on women’s bodies: perhaps 80% of men can get a reasonable fit versus 30–40% of women, or something like that.)

      2. Mel

        Dang, 34″ is my ribcage (my body fat is mostly in my hip and but region, not around my ribs), and I only wear an A-cup! I’m also less than 5’3″.

  2. Cyberspice

    There’s another issue. When a supplier does have women’s fit they never seem to have them big enough. There seems to be an assumption that male geeks are large and female geeks are petite. I’d quite like large women’s fit t-shirts please. I have to buy unisex because I’m tall and large breasted. Women’s shirts don’t fit across the bust and aren’t long enough. However I hate the shapelessness of the unisex shirts. So I’m going to attempt to modify one of my older shirts as a test using this idea.

  3. Feylamia

    I agree. When I lost enough weight to be comfortable wearing women’s shirts I found that it’s so much harder to find nice shirts.
    On the bright side, Jinx has an awesome selection of shirts for female gamers and geeks. :)

  4. jadelennox

    I’ve had this rule defacto for a while, for t-shirts at least, ever since I realised I look better in women’s t-shirts.

    But that’s not why I loathe ThinkGeek — though I still shop from them, dammit. It’s because of the Gifts for Him and Gifts for Her sections. Take a look out those.

    He wants a Utilitool, a wooden catapult, “The Ladies of Star Wars Playing Cards”, a red swingline stapler, a whole slew of gadgets and toys, caffeinated root beer, and 4 t-shirts, two of which are the ones with dynamically printed imaged (eg the wi-fi detector).

    She wants three plush toys, 11 t-shirts, one tank top, one pair of HTTPanties, 11 pieces of jewelry, a USB Aromatherapy Oil Burner, 4 kitchen tools, an a slew of USB or battery powered pretty or nice smelling things. Almost no gadgetery.

    1. Emily

      jadelennox, your comment reminds me of another issue with ThinkGeek – their catalogs. My household gets the paper catalog in the mail, and when I was flipping through the last one that came in, I noticed that out of all the photographs of people, there was only one adult woman. Furthermore, while all the men were smiling, the woman was looking sad and hugging the heartbeat pillow. Uncool.

  5. Kim

    As someone male-bodied but genderqueer I don’t mind joining this – maybe other male readers could not buy shirts if there isn’t a female version too?

  6. Steph

    Shopping for nerdy shirts that fit me almost always leaves me with the same feeling I get trying to find footwear I like in a size suitable for my gargantuan feet. That is, like a freak of nature. Which I’m okay with, but it doesn’t change the fact that I need shirts and shoes.

    I’ve thought about just buying the men’s cut on a few occasions, but I keep reminding myself of the fun prints on Hanes men’s heavyweight t-shirts I’ve purchased before — I never wear them because they don’t fit well. If I’m going to buy a new shirt (and pay for shipping), I want it to fit well enough that it won’t become laundry day apparel.

    I’ve tried solving the shirt problem with my spreadshirt store (though I really wish the interface allowed for all shirt cuts to be grouped under one item page, so visitors don’t have to go through pages of the same design). I’m definitely concerned about sizing and fit, so if anyone has any criticism on how things are offered here, please let me know (thank you in advance!).

    That aside, anyone happen to have a source they love for women’s shoes that are available up to size 13?

  7. Ergo

    I’m a fan of having shirts that physically fit everyone (so if the men’s shirts available aren’t small enough to fit you well, OP, that’s a problem), but I also have a problem with the fact that “women’s” shirts are often explicitly fitted. Apparently it’s ok for dudes to wear shapeless shirts, but women have to wear shirts that cling to the contours of their body because women are there to be hawt. So, for that reason, I generally buy men’s or unisex shirts because they don’t involve that kind of pressure. And, for that reason, I think the way this boycott is phrased is counterproductive.

    1. thistleingrey

      Yes, this. Between the tight cling and the necklines, at least at the smaller end of the sizing range, I’m not a fan of the “women’s” sizing. I think it’s great that t-shirts with contours exist because they do fit better when they’re cut reasonably, but the ones that Thinkgeek, CafePress, and so on “permit” us to buy are not what I want to wear anyway: too much contour.

    2. Naphtali

      Agreed. Can haz scoop-neck tees pleez? Y’know, the one’s that are barely if at all fitted, save for a bit of extra room in the front?

  8. Terri

    I stopped buying “men’s” shirts ages ago, not out of protest so much as I just didn’t want to wear them anymore. They just don’t suit my body type. The problem for me is what to do with the men’s shirts I’m given (e.g. conference shirts, giveaways, the odd present from a friend who hasn’t noticed my clothing preferences). I have a really adorable one I got for helping out with a science camp, but I’m never going to wear it if I don’t find some sort of decent t-shirt surgery to try!

  9. lauredhel

    Ergo: I like what’s labelled “women’s shirts” not because they’re tight, but because they’re shaped like me. I just wish that more of them were sized like me.

    While not all women nip in at the waist and out at the hips, I sure do – and I’m really uncomfortable in a straight-up-and-down shirt that presses on my throat, binds my breasts, catches up under my armpits, bags out at my waist, and clings to my hip area like a sausage casing.

    Maybe it would make more sense to label them “parallel” and “hourglass”, or something.

    1. Mackenzie

      Ugh yeah, the Qt t-shirts we were given at UDS in May had really high tight collars. I need to add a keyhole neckline or something.

    2. Skud

      Yup. I like wearing women’s cut tshirts though I don’t wear them extremely tight. To use the technical term I like to wear them with zero “ease”, which is to say, the circumference of the tshirt is the same as my own circumference. Generally when people talk about “tight tshirt” they’re talking about negative ease; zero ease comes across as fitted but not tight, and positive ease tends to look loose. The problem with the “unisex” shirts, for me, is that if I go for zero ease in the bust/hips, I get many inches of ease in the waist; if I go for something that fits more closely in the waist, I have negative ease in the bust/hips. And in my experience, also, the “unisex” shirts are not made of a very stretchy fabric. On some occasions I’ve found “unisex” ones that are more stretchy (ringer styles, for instance) and those fit me OK but it’s far from universal.

      Actually, this is something I would suggest to people printing tshirts: if you feel you must go for “unisex”/men’s shirts, choose a stretchier fabric/style.

  10. Laurie

    And to add to this, I’m not buying if the ‘womens’ shirts go up to Large but no larger; I am not buying a Men’s 2X because there are no Women’s 2X shirts. Because fat women are nerds too, thanks.

  11. melinda

    I get this at work, too. It happens like this:

    I get an email that says “reply with your T-shirt size for this work event!”
    I reply with “Women’s large”.
    I get a response that says “Sorry, we don’t have women’s shirts.” Sometimes, they include the excuse that women’s shirts are more expensive or something.

    I then either get a shirt that fits my husband, or no shirt.

    Later, at the work event, someone invariably asks me why I’m not wearing the special shirt.


    1. Skud


      The worst is when I’m going to be speaking/presenting/whatever and I have the choice of wearing the company tshirt, or not looking like I’m wearing a pillowcase. Any time a woman puts herself on stage she is likely to get negative comments about her appearance. My way of dealing with this is to present myself as well as I can, and say “fuck ’em, it’s none of their business” if people are then rude about it. But if I stand up there wearing something that I *know* is ugly and unflattering, the inevitable barbs will hit home much more easily.

      A while ago, I organised an event and arranged to have tshirts printed in any men’s or women’s size. I ordered a women’s 2XL for myself. Now, our office manager organised the printing and stuff, and the tshirts were delivered to him, and were due to arrive on the Friday for a Saturday event. So on the Friday I was running round getting things sorted out for the event, and went to see where the tshirts had got to (and extract mine from the pile and ensure that it fit). The office manager wasn’t at his desk and the marketing manager who sat next to him was kind of evasive and secretive, eg. “don’t look! you won’t find it… it’s a secret!”

      So I said to him, very firmly, TELL ME WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON, and he caved and told me. Turns out that the tshirt printing company had screwed up and not sent my women’s 2XL. So the office manager called them and tried to get them to fix it, but there were no W2XL shirts left in the appropriate colour (the tshirts were printed in white on $colour). So the office manager, trying to be helpful I guess, asked them to print one specially for me in $colour on white. They’d done so and the reason the office mgr wasn’t at his desk was that he was driving across town to get me my “special” tshirt so I could have it on the day.

      Well, I guess it was nice of him to try, but can you imagine what would have happened when I’d shown up on Saturday morning, wearing my usual plain black bra, expecting a dark coloured tshirt, and been given a white one instead? I don’t wear white tshirts. I don’t own light-coloured underwear (well, one bra, but I don’t know where it is). I don’t feel comfortable in light colours. I no longer only wear black (as I did a decade ago), but I don’t wear anything much lighter than red or purple or turquoise or medium grey. And I’m sure I already stood out enough as one of the very few women at the event without having a “special” tshirt that “specially” showed my “special” underwear. Sigh.

      So, ick. I guess it was nice of him to try and find a workaround for me, but I wish he’d *asked*. I managed to find a spare men’s L in $colour and wore it, but kept a jacket on as much as possible during the day because of the poor fit and my discomfort with it.

      1. Mackenzie

        In that case, I think I would’ve found a cami or tank top to put over the bra but under the shirt. I have 2 bras that fit (I just got fitted recently, and it’s an odd expensive size, so I don’t have many yet) and are two different shades of “skin colour.” One that is much more pale than my skin and one that is a bit darker. So of course, if the shirt’s thin, both show.

    2. Steph

      This reminds me of this experience: I was at a conference once where a vendor giving away t-shirts actually had them in a women’s cut, but when they asked what shirt size I was and I replied medium (small if they had them), I was told “oh, here’s a large one.” I don’t know if they had run out, hadn’t had small or medium women’s shirts made, or if the person handing them out simply decided that the large would fit me better, but I do remember a general feeling of ugh while leaving their booth.

  12. Erika

    On the up side, I only ever bought men’s t-shirts from Think Geek because they were the only ones that came in my size range. Their women’s shirts only went up to size L for the longest time. I see that now they offer them in XL and XXL, which is real progress if you ask me!

    Look around – whenever you see women’s t-shirts for sale on geek sites, they NEVER come in the same size range as men’s shirts. Makes me sad.

      1. Mackenzie

        I’m not sure how much I trust number to letter matching. I used to be a size 9 juniors (which I think is a women’s 8) but I’ve never worn any larger than a medium in women’s shirts.

        1. Skud

          My matching of sizes was by comparing the chest measurement of the Thinkgeek tshirts against the size charts at The Gap and Eddie Bauer websites, two retailers who have fairly mainstream ideas of sizing (i.e. aren’t inflating or deflating them weirdly).

      2. Jessika

        I have a few ThinkGeek XL women’s shirts, and they fit my 41″ bust. It’s formfitting, not tight but not baggy, and about how other size 12 stuff fits me. So my guess would be that an XXL equates to a 14. Which isn’t much help, since sizes vary, but I’m sure it would be larger than an 8.

        1. Valerie

          Skud: actually, Gap has (along with many other retailers) deflated their sizes. I have some old jeans (12 years?) from the Gap in a size 8 that I wear for gardening, and they are a snug fit. Yet, I easily fit into a current size 4 from the Gap. That’s another rant.

          All the same, I’m already with you all on this: haven’t bought a male sized t-shirt in years. My employer (Sun) has fortunately mostly gotten on board on this years ago and we give away women’s cut shirts at conferences and I’ve gotten women’s cut shirts for booth duty as well recently.

        2. thistleingrey

          Yep. This is how Ann Taylor now offers a XXS / 00 tag, to pretend that it still serves people who shopped successfully there a few years ago.

          Eddie Bauer might be industry-standard for what’s sold now, but I am now too small to wear any of their shirts and slacks, whereas I shopped happily there ten years ago—and I’m not thinner than I was then.

        3. Skud

          Actually, it’s *worse* than I thought.

          I went to the bathroom after lunch today, took my tshirt off, and measured it. It is 24″ across, from armpit to armpit at the largest point, and is an Eddie Bauer XL, which according to their size chart, is intended to fit bust 41.5″ to 43.5″, which means they are suggesting about 4-6″ of positive ease for their tshirts. I have had exactly the same experience with Gap/Old Navy, Target, Macy’s, and other retailers — i.e. when looking at their size charts, I should find the size that matches my actual bust measurement, then drop down a size to get something that actually fits, especially for stretch materials.

          So in summary:

          My bust: 48″
          Actual desired tshirt size, measured from armpit to armpit: 24″ (i.e. 48″ circumference)

          If a tshirt seller shows the tshirt measured out flat on their site, as ThinkGeek does, I look for one that is 24″ across. If the seller bases tshirt sizing on “bust measurement”, then I look for a bust measurement around the 42-44″ range, assuming/hoping that the seller is aiming for a few inches of positive ease in their sizing recommendations.

          Largest size that ThinkGeek offers: 18″ across from armpit to armpit (36″ circumference)
          Sized bust this would fit with 0″ ease: 36″
          What I would look for on a Gap/EB size chart if I had a 36″ bust: around 32″
          Numeric size matching 32″ bust: approx. size 2

          Now, there’s probably logic gaps there — for instance, the suggested ease may differ at smaller sizes — but with TG the size chart doesn’t actually come into it because they show a tshirt laid out and measured. So… the 36″ tshirt at Think Geek will fit a 36″ bust with 0″ ease. If someone larger than that wears it, it will have negative ease. The more negative ease it has, the tighter it will be. If I were to wear that, it would have 12″ of negative ease, which is ludicrously tight. (In my experience, anything more than about 2-4″ of negative ease will crack the printing across the bust.)

          In conclusion: this is why I don’t wear printed (geek or otherwise) tshirts.

        4. Mackenzie

          [Nesting fail]

          I don’t believe their size charts. I have a few of TG’s size small shirts, which they claim are 13″ across thus won’t fit anything larger than a 26″ bust. I have a 34″ bust and the small fits fine, while a medium is slightly loose: <– that's a medium. It is 16" across, though their chart claims 14"

          Actually, their size chart says that XXL = US 16-18 for women

        5. Jonquil

          EXACTLY. “women’s” T-shirts flat-out don’t fit. American Apparel, one of the most popular raw T-shirt providers, has little tiny shirts for little tiny bodies. Many of my young, fit co-workers love them. Me, they don’t cover my belly.

          The geek T-shirts available to me are sized for hot small women, or for guys. Guess which ones I buy?

    1. Mackenzie

      I see so many people in the comments on that post complaining that American Apparel sizes super tiny. I’ve seen others say this too. But for me, a medium from most places is slightly loose and a small is fitted. From American Apparel a small is slightly loose and a medium is quite big. Very confusing. Maybe it’s the difference between AA’s babydoll and classic women’s cut? I haven’t tried their babydolls.

      1. Jonquil

        Their babydolls run horrifically small, but the “classic women’s” are still too small for me (like Skud, I’m busty.)

      2. koipond

        Ugh. American Apparel.

        Some of the most horribly consistantly sexist advertising out there. It’s right up there with beer commercials.

        At our place we’ve been buying shirts from Bravissimo, because they tend to take in account bustiness when making clothes.

  13. Julia

    I often get shirts in a men’s size instead of a females because so many of the fabrics used for womens shirts are of a lesser quality than the men’s versions and will fall apart in the wash much sooner.

  14. spz

    I fit into a ‘unisex’ XL well enough for my tastes (if I was equine I’d be a draft horse), but one problem noone mentioned yet is that for printed shirts (and a well-developped bust) the print has a tendency to end up in rather unfortunate locations. :-7

      1. Skud

        Ha ha, oh, that’s awful! *cringe* And what’s the bet that next time round they say, “We tried offering women’s tshirts, but nobody wanted them FOR SOME MYSTERIOUS REASON.”

  15. sapphirecat

    They’re already effectively boycotted, for me. I could never seem to find anything that wasn’t a babydoll… today I counted about 78 babydolls to five that would fit, if only they had some good designs. And hey, now that I’ve done the work to count them, I can send them an email about it…

  16. Meena

    well, this is very interesting since I’ve just started working with my friend selling his designs, we try providing a wide variety of designs and shirts styles, I like to think that our collection lives up to its name “Geek VarieTees” please do check it out and if you have any suggestions please e-mail me at I will very much like to provide what ever I can to make you girls happy ;)

    you can also join us on facebook:

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