Button history

23/10/2021

A button is a small element used to fasten or adjust clothing, especially shirts, jackets and blazers among others. Buttons are usually round and flat, although they come in different shapes and sizes. They have from one to four holes through which to pass the needle with the thread to be able to sew it on the garment. They are usually made of metal, wood, mother-of-pearl, bone, ceramic, resin, or more recently plastic. The button is fastened by passing it through a buttonhole that is, on the other side of the garment, just in front of the button, the size is just the width of the button.

At first, the buttons were nothing more than decorative discs that were sewn to the garments and did not have the function of fastening them. The first buttons as such were shells of various mollusks, carved and perforated. They date back to 2000 BC. and they were found in the valley of the Indus river (Afghanistan, Pakistan and India). The Greeks and Romans also used decorative buttons made from shells or wood. Carved bone and ivory buttons covered with gold or encrusted with gems have been found in European sites. In none of these cases were they used to fasten the garments. 

A curiosity that still persists is the arrangement of the buttons on men's and women's garments. Men's clothing has buttons on the right and women's clothing on the left. There are two theories about the reason for this fact. One is that in the old days women were dressed by maids and, to make it easier for them to fasten the buttons, they were put on the opposite side than usual. The other theory can be roughly summarized in that women's clothing began to be fastened in reverse than men's simply to differentiate it, since it coincides chronologically with the fight for equal rights and one of the first battlefields was clothing. Women wanted to wear comfortable clothing similar to men's, but it would be morally frowned upon to wear men's clothing, so the way of fastening the garment would serve to distinguish one from the other. 

There are countless different types of buttons, which can be classified according to their material. There are metal buttons, pearl buttons, silver buttons, gold buttons, and fabric covered buttons, usually the same color as the garment. Natural buttons can be made from natural materials such as wood or coconut. Bone and horn were also popular natural choices in the past. But as the ethical design movement grows they have been discontinued, enamel buttons are made by applying an enamel or epoxy resin to coat the button surface (epoxy tends to be a bit more durable) AND plastic buttons They can be made of acrylic, resin, ABS plastic, nylon, or a combination of these materials. They all have slightly different characteristics. But generally you can expect a plastic button to be light and strong.

 The Amish, out of conviction, do not wear buttons on their garments.

The buttons are a collector's item, look in your sewing box you may find a real jewel.

The Mirta Palandri Button Museum has just turned one year old. It is located on Cristal de Bohemia street, within the Cooperativa de El Chocón neighborhood (Argentina). Mirta Palandri collected them for 25 years and decided to share them with the public. Its museum has 26 thousand buttons from all over the world. There are glass, embroidered fabric, metal, wood, mother-of-pearl and even chocolate.

 Button Museum of Santarcangelo de Romagna, the collection, is composed of 14,000 buttons, and is distributed in three areas, the first is composed of 9,000 buttons corresponding to the political, social and cultural history of 20th century Italy, with some reflections of world history. The second, composed of 3,500 buttons corresponds to the different types of materials, (more than 50). The third consists of 1,500 buttons from the 18th and 19th centuries, authentic works of art, with refined finishes and made with noble materials.