Buttoned on Buttons

It was never a question if, but when would we write an article about buttons, right? Well wait no longer, the knowledge of buttons is soon to be yours. Pour a cup of coffee, gather up your favorite buttons, and prepare to be amazed by just how much buttons can really do!

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We begin this lesson in the Indus Valley, where the oldest button believed to exist was worn by what we can only assume was the most fashion-forward human of his or her day. This particular button is now almost 5,000 years old, proving that great fashion never truly grows old, or at least, never goes out of style. In fact, buttons were not actually functional until around the thirteenth century and were instead worn as ornamentation meant to distinguish the wealthy or honorable. Five thousand years later, buttons still act as versatile little accessories with a range from powerful to subtle effects on any and all clothing. Here are a just a few ways you, too, can be a bit more “buttoned.”

  1. Collect, collect, COLLECT. Who here hasn’t bought a shirt or a dress with an extra “replacement” button attached and thought to themselves, “I will never need this.” Well, maybe we’re right, maybe that piece won’t need it, but there are so many different uses for this button that you’ll be wishing they gave you more than just one. The good news, however, is that buttons are typically SO cheap, and often free, so finding or buying more will never be a problem. This collection may just be the most inexpensive line up you could have. Button-hunting can be a real thrill, and even better, it can really add volume to your style.

  2. Don’t be afraid to button bold. Buttoning (now a verb) can really add life to a rather basic or straightforward piece. If you have two almost identical jean jackets, maybe line one with your favorite random assortment. Do you wear business clothes, but still want to show your personality? Then, for example, find a blouse with buttons running down the back, and replace them with your favorite flowers, daisies perchance. Stick to a color and line them in fading hues, or include every color you can find. Replace outdated ones with a sleek or classic line up and turn business casual into business professional. Sew some onto a pocket or cascade them down a sleeve. Forget the rules, forget functionality, just have fun!

  3. Know when to button all the way up, and when to definitely not do so… Let’s be honest, we’ve all stood in front of the mirror buttoning and unbuttoning just the top one or two buttons over and over again, wondering what message we’re trying to send. Could one button be the difference between seeming creepy or seeming closed off? In most cases, no. One button cannot. It’s really about how you are feeling at the moment or what style you’re looking to achieve. Fully-buttoned will give a more clean or intentional look, whereas leaving one unbuttoned would pair with a flowy cardigan and boyfriend jeans, suggesting comfort and ease. The same dress could appear sweet or edgy with the transformative power of that one button. Three buttons or more undone may be questionable and would take a much longer article. Unbutton with caution.

  4. Add, don’t just replace. Collars are a great place to start just by adding some buttons at the tips. Don’t forget about the cuffs, either. They could make a typical handshake into an interesting conversation. And don’t be afraid to channel the nineties by adding three to the top center of your sweater. They are so simple to sew and can even be stitched in so many unique ways. If you haven’t learned by now, buttons are the best “add”iction to have.

  5. Know the rule, then forget it. What rule you ask? The gendered button down rule which somehow still exists today. The standard is as follows: men’s shirts have buttons running down the right, while women’s run down the left. There are several historical theories as to why, but none that really justify its existence. In ancient times, men needed to use weaponry, leaving only the left hand free to unfasten the shirt at the instance of withdrawal. For women’s shirts, the theories include: wealthy women customarily not dressing themselves, men manufacturing them opposite their own to show women’s inferiority, and most amusingly, as well as rather unlikely, Napoleon himself demanding that the buttons be put on the left in order to stop women from mocking his famous hand-in-shirt portrait as they had been doing. So, there is the rule, as well as the lack of good reasoning behind it. Today, women’s shirts are often more expensive, simply because of this rule and influence of gender-based marketing. Don’t be fooled, shop the men’s section too! And guys, don’t be afraid to pull a Michael Scott. Wear that MISSterious pant suit, because BUTTONS ARE BUTTONS.

And they are SO great!

As Ringo Starr once said; “America: It’s like Britain, only with Buttons.”

Written by: Camryn Thane
Edited by: Abby Sowder
Photo by: Claire Boston
Stylebuttoned bears