Thursday, September 16, 2010
Vintage buttons and their use
So I've been collecting vintage buttons for quite a while now. I pick them up on the internet, at flea markets, antique stores, you know, the usual. They are such a wonderful source of inspiration. My vintagey girlfriends and I sit for hours going through the boxes of them, dreaming up new things to make. There's bakelite of course, but also other celluloid plastics (just as cute), carved coconut, painted metal, glass, wood, bone, galalith. Whenever I'm feeling down about what I'm doing I just take a little dive through the stash and get a ton of ideas. But I always wonder about how to use them really WELL, respecting the history and the design of not only the button, but the composition of the entire garment as a whole.
I've started to understand that among all of the dear vintage collectors, button ladies are a special breed. There are soo many ladies who collect buttons, who never intend on making clothes. Why do people collect buttons? How do they even display them? You can't even put them into a coin slot to display, do they just sit in a drawer? Regardless, until recently, these little treasures have been passed around the antique universe pretty unmolested. Now we have the concept of epoxying them onto "brooches", dooming them to a crafty purgatory of bad taste.
I am always on the lookout for ways to approach reproduction clothing from the period mindset. The patterns, as well as the original vintage clothing, have been my key resource for proper application of these buttons. But I always wonder when I see a set or a button I like-- what kind of garment were they originally attached to? I am especially interested in the 1930s, but those original garments are very hard to find.
So my quandary about how to use these buttons in a respectful and beautiful manner is kind of a challenge, but it's a fun pasttime. I've contacted several button dealers on period usage of these lovelies, but I get a dumbfounded response every time. I think many collectors collect them just for their beauty. I know there are many gals out there trying to recreate these vintage looks. Has anyone found any good resources beyond those rare 1930s pattern catalogues that cost $150? I haven't been able to find a single website that specializes in vintage buttons still ATTACHED to clothing. This may be a tall order, but I'm a dreamer.
How about those adorable novelty buttons--the scotty dogs, sombreros, pineapples, clothespins? What kind of garments were these originally attached to? I don't really believe that they were all used for children's clothing like some button ladies have suggested. Ladies casual resort wear utilized a lot of novelty themes back in the day.
I would love to hear your thoughts on button application. Is there a book or site that I should know about? This is a call to arms! I've got a 1" wide coconut scotty dog that needs an outfit! I've got sombreros out the wazoo!! 40s painted wood! Amazing deco button/buckle sets dying for a new life...I want to make sure I'm doing it right!
Oh, if you're interested in checking out some inspiring sets, see my button collection at http://www.flickr.com/photos/nudeedudee/. You can pick out the ones you like, and away we go! Or I can use yours, your choice.