Metal buttons are easy to find in an old button box. We found extraordinary variety in our box. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, metal buttons adorned men’s attire, but they were usually ornamental in nature and reserved for the wealthy. Think about British officer uniforms from the Revolutionary War. They had beautiful metal buttons going down the sides of the outer scarlet jacket, often on an accent fabric with gold trim. Only the vest buttons fastened. While men’s clothing was adorned with ornamental buttons, women’s clothing tended to close with laces. If you were of high birth, the bodice was laced up, if of lower birth, the bodice was laced down. (I learned this on a trip to Sterling Castle in Scotland). If women’s buttons existed, it was for outer garments like cloaks. Since people normally didn’t wear underwear, it wasn’t until later that buttons were used to hold up undies.
Many metal buttons were intended to be worn on clothing that was not be washed, such as wool. In the old days, an airing out was standard. Metal buttons have been around a long time, but many did not survive due to rust. In fact, rust is a problem in most old containers of buttons. Again, a very good reason to get air to your buttons. Some metal buttons are worth taking the time to clean and some must be discarded because they are too far gone. I will leave the cleaning topic to Liz who is our expert.
In our box, we found many types of metal buttons. Over the next weeks, we will show you what we found including uniform, buttons of high quality, twinkles (we will show you why this category has such a name), coat of arms buttons, copper, work buttons, and both ordinary and interesting.
Next week, we will start with Uniform Buttons, one of my favorites because of the intricate designs.