Have you every tried on a jacket or shirt and found that buttoning it seemed backwards? Chances are, if you are a woman, you were trying on a man’s garment and visa versa. This odd fact is something most of us never notice: men’s shirts , sweaters, and jackets button from a different direction than do women’s blouses, sweaters, and coats.
In the past, both men and women tended to wear many more clothes than people do today. In fact, many of the clothes worn in previous eras are no longer worn or made. For example, on a daily basis men used to wear waistcoats, pantaloons, gaiters and wool jackets. Women’s fashions were much more complex and may have included a dozen or more garments including petticoats, bloomers, gowns, corsets, and bustles, making getting dressed a challenge. In addition, women often changed clothes multiple times each day. In Victorian times, men of middle- and sometimes upper-class society generally dressed themselves. Only the very wealthy were attended to by valets. Women of these classes, however were most often attended to by lady’s maids who assisted with every need, including dressing.
By reversing the buttons on ‘s clothes, tailors realized that they could make the dressing ritual easier and quicker, especially for lady’s maids. Because so few men were dressed by valets, however, there was no need to reverse the buttons on men’s garments. Hence a custom was created. Today this tradition carries on, mostly because it’s rarely noticed, something we are accustomed to, and nobody seems to mind.
Men’s or women’s, at Flair if a button is missing or damaged we’ll match it and replace it at no charge.
Barry Ridge says
After watching Downton Abby, I will watch closer for the buttoning ritual.