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Fashions In Buttons

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Buttons have been used in many other strange ways. Yet when one searches for remarkable employments and bizarre purposes, it is hard to find any greater absurdities than those dictated by Dame Fashion. The tyranny of style led gallants of the eighteenth-century French court to become walking picture galleries. They rivaled each other in the number of buttons worn, and in the audacity of the subject matter, going so far as to wear sets depicting the Loves of Aretino, accurately drawn to the last licentious detail. Ladies dared not look!

A similar impulse not to be outdone led others of more sedate taste to spend fortunes for buttons set with diamonds and other precious gems. At the Traphagen School of Fashion in New York City, you may see buttons "fit for a king." The king for whom they were made was Ludwig II, known to history as the Mad King of Bavaria. His passion for imitating Louis XIV is reflected in his court dress, made of cloth of gold, velvet, lace, and seed pearls. It has nearly a hundred buttons, eighty-one of them large enough to hold an incrustation of eighty seed pearls.

But button excesses have not been confined to the great and near-great. Time was, a little less than a hundred years ago, when Godey's Lady's Book recommended to its readers an Andalusian jacket trimmed with several hundred buttons. Perusal of fashion magazines will provide plenty of other examples.

Nor have button eccentricities vanished into a half-forgotten past. Quite recently a leading manufacturer distributed a booklet showing novel uses for his creations, as bracelets, earrings, and pendants made from buttons; rain hoods, leggings and scarfs fastened with them; earmuffs and umbrellas trimmed with them. There seems no more end to button uses than to button types.