Celebrate and reinvent, the humble button

The Church denounced them as the “devil’s snare” when European ladies began wearing them on the front of their dresses. Napoleon introduced them to men’s jacket sleeves to prevent soldiers mutilating themselves when they tried to wipe their noses. They are ubiquitous, beautiful and practical and we have them en masse at Buttons @ Paddington.

I promise you, a visit to Buttons @ Paddington in the Paddington Antique Centre will reinvent you opinion of the humble, quirky, “dangerous” button. Forever.

One of the two owners of the buttons in the shop here at Buttons @ Paddington, confesses to having been a button tragic for decades. She said it started when she stumbled across a button in a museum in the UK about 25 years ago. She was stunned by the history of the beautiful little talismans of social history. Her first purchase was a set of 16 Victorian jet mourning buttons. Her passion now, she says, is for art deco buttons, but she also loves art nouveau silver buttons, satsumas and other enamelled ones, cute little plastic 1950s buttons and so it goes…

Set of 7 French Jet Buttons, $25

Set of 7 French Jet Buttons, $25

Victorian Black Glass Waistcoat Buttons. $6 each

Victorian Black Glass Waistcoat Buttons. $6 each

But buttons are not just beautiful, they also tell stories. Buttons in many ways tell the story of our civilisation. Originally used as decoration in the Bronze Age 3,000 years ago, it was many hundreds of years before their safety advantage saw them displace the pin as the fastener of choice.

An industry grew up around a growing practical demand for buttons, but it wasn’t long before the upper classes sought to reclaim them as  status symbols. Legend has it that King Francis I sported 13,600 buttons on his royal outfit for a meeting in 1520 with a similarly resplendent King Henry VIII of England.

The vanity associated with the most extravagant buttons has caused controversy over the years. Risqué buttons on ladies’ dresses in 16th Century Europe attracted the ire of the Church, which labelled them the “devil’s” snare. To this day, the Amish community does not wear buttons because they are seen as a sign of pride.

By contrast, buttons have sometimes also been associated with austerity and control. The most famous example of this is the black mourning buttons that dominated fashion for decades following the death of Queen Victoria’s beloved Prince Albert.

During the last century, there was a dramatic fall in the importance of the button due to the emergence of mass-produced clothing and unforgiving modern washing machines and dryers, which required simple, easily-replaceable buttons. But if the interest in Buttons @ Paddington is anything to go by, buttons are well and truly back in vogue.

The diversity of antique, vintage, retro and modern buttons available in our shop provide a wonderful opportunity for us to make an individual statement either on our clothes, our jewellery, accessories or our collection.

You won’t have seen so many buttons have so much fun as you will at Buttons @ Paddington!