Thursday, November 8, 2012

Vintage Button Collection

"Households have long followed the practice of snipping buttons from clothing headed for the ragbag. Do you remember playing with your mother’s or grandmother’s button box or jar or tin? The impulse to collect is a basic part of the human psyche, and buttons have been admired and collected for centuries." says National Button Society [formed in 1938], in its web page.   How true!  It is somehow an item too tempting to dispose away with the clothing.

Buttons are fascinating because they can have myriad varieties. There were a few buttons in a little box in the tool draw of our sewing machine and a few in possession of my aunt who knew knitting.  That box was a mixture of some new buttons as well as buttons salvaged from old clothes, with snipped pieces of thread still in tact!  Almost all of them were either shirt, trousers or coat buttons while only a few were sweater buttons which were in my aunt's box.  My mother had saved a few tiny buttons from my childhood shirts.  They can be seen here in the picture below [not in the first four colourful rows].  Notice the tiny buttons and one square button a few rows down.  

They are all '2-eyed' buttons.

Here are the 4-eyed ones:


There are a couple of aluminium buttons also in the above set.


The larger ones above are from my grandfather's coats.


For persons that love knick-knacks buttons never fail to fascinate.  Buttons have been used in traditional board games also, in the absence of finding suitable objects to play with.  Buttons are very important parts of the clothing and we all know how it will be with a missing button.  Sometimes we have noticed a fallen button or two on the streets and we have used a safety pin as a standby until a new button is stitched. When we could not find a match, we have used odd ones also.  But now with ready made shirts and garments, one or two spare buttons are provided with the dress, just in case we break or lose a button.

On closer examination of the items that were in the sewing machine's tool draw, some cuff links and other types of buttons were noticed.  It made me curious and wondered why not I start looking for more variety.  
I had an old man friend who was a renown coin collector [Numismatist], Krishnappa.  When I just mentioned of my new interest, he right away handed me a box full of beautiful old buttons which he had collected over decades.  He did not want them anymore.  Most of those are shown here.  Some sandal wood buttons, a few leather buttons, brass, other metal ones, etc.  


Close to him was another old man friend, Mr.Brown.  He too gave me a few vintage buttons with logo and patterns which are seen below.  Most of them are from some famous company uniforms of that era:


Shirt cuffs with different buttons was a great fancy.  There used to be two button holes at the cuffs for this purpose.  So different designs could be worn on the same shirt.  They were called 'Cuff links'.


This is a brass cuff link.


Netaji's  tiny picture on a cuff link.


Famous Qutub Minar [at Delhi] on a cuff link.  Two pieces snap fit - 'press button'.  The other piece also has the same picture. 



Dog design cuff links.

Some ivory and wooden cuff links given by Krishnappa. 

 These are sweater buttons. They have a metal bottom with provision to sew them to the dress. There are also a couple of cloth-coated buttons at the bottom right.


My grandfather was a founder member of Mysore Sports Club [1930s].  Picture below is also from that period.  See the sports blazer. 


Fifteen years ago, I converted that blazer which had been damaged in parts by silverfish, into a cap..... 


....... but not before removing the buttons from it. 


This one is a button from the Royal Durbar coat that was given to my great grandfather, may be around 1930.  Elite citizens who were invited by the Mysore King were to wear the Durbar Dress when they attended. 


I would like to remember the white thread buttons my mother used to make by hand and stitch them for my pajamas.  They would often survive the life of the pajamas as they were soft and withstood beating on stone by the washerwoman. They were something like this:

Web grab image

Storing buttons is easy.  It does not occupy much space. So do not throw them away.  All it asks is a little box - to start with!  You don't know what you will end up with.

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