Generation Gap: Buttons

Is is possible to live without buttons? Well, if you were born after 2000, it may be. Recently one of my students in a beginning design course turned in a collection that puzzled me. The garments she designed didn't seem to show her assignment: design a line influenced by a decade from the 20th century. When I asked her how her decade had influenced the designs, she responded: "Buttons, the decade used buttons, so that is my influence". I had to pause and think about that because usually these projects reflect the silhouette and style lines from the decade, and not a trim.

Then it hit me: a girl born after 1990 has grown up in the era of "American Apparel" Ts and "Forever 21" easy knit tops. Is it possible that today's college student hasn't owned a garment with buttons? Are buttons really a vintage trim? Has she worn only knits and zippers?

Taking a look at buttons with this point of view can be a new way to find inspiration. Here we have a few fashion illustrations from the early 1960's when Jackie O was wearing large scale buttons that popped down her suit jackets. Sometimes these were bold colors, other times the buttons were covered to match the suit fabric.

And where would the shirt waist dress be without its row of buttons, clever colored accents in a wide variety of styles. So, maybe it's time to remember buttons when we design or sew.

This dress has a great 70's style, a design for Vogue by Balmain that has couture style lines and a neat row up buttons down the center front.

Looking at more 70's style, this sexy blouse can be worn tied or buttoned, and looks terrific over fit and flared 70's wide leg pants. This was designed for Vogue by Anne Klein.

Whether you find them in thrift stores, estate sales or at the local fabric store, buttons are coming back into style. Many front closures on the new safari shirts and blouses sport unique buttons that create visual interest.

So, maybe the time has come to grow up and wear buttons!

Vintage Sewing patterns:
Vogue 1062, Anne Klein, 1970's button shirt
Vogue 2827, Balmain, 1970's dress

New Sewing pattern:
McCall's 5052, Safari shirt

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