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!

The Plaza Theatre – Paddington Antique Centre – Buttons @ Paddington

There are now 496 (& counting!) of you fabulous folk who ‘Like’ Buttons at Paddington on Facebook. I’d like to take this opportunity to say hi and hello to all of you who have joined us in the past few weeks. Buttons @ Paddington’s blog is a space where we talk buttons. Button ideas, craft, sewing or just tell some stories about what happens in our lovely little button shop. With so many of you new to our bit of online space, I got to thinking about how many of you have actually been to Buttons @ Paddington, or indeed how many of you even live in Brisbane. And so, I thought I would take you on a little tour of our real space, our home in the Paddington Antique Centre. A bit of a tale which includes glamour, stars and even a ghost.

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The Latrobe Terrace exterior of the Paddintgon Antique Centre.

Buttons @ Paddington lives in the top cosy corner of the Paddington Antique Centre. The Centre is home to 50 dealers in our one amazing location. Each dealer has a space in which they sell their antiques, vintage and pre-loved wares. The variety of quality stock is enormous and includes furniture, collectable costume and estate jewellery, vintage and retro clothing and accessories, lighting, Australian pottery, clocks and watches, china, glass, silver, linen, military, art deco and lots, lots more including buttons, of course, and the delicious treats of the Plaza Theatre Cafe, named after the building.

The Plaza Theatre

The Plaza Theatre tile work on the floor in the foyer of the centre.

The Paddington Antique Centre is inside the old heritage listed Plaza Theatre. The Plaza theatre commenced construction in 1929 and opened for business in September 1930.

Plaza Theatre newspaper ad

Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #110851

The grand opening advertisement declared the The Paddigton “Plaza” was “Queensland’s Only Atmospheric Theatre”. At the time it was, but there went on to be seven in Australia, and the Plaza is now one of only two remaining. The ‘Atmospheric’ style interior of the theatre means that it was decorated in an exotic manner to create an outdoor atmosphere, a style that became popular in the 1920s & 30s. The Plaza theatre was theamed and appropriated from Spanish and middle eastern architecture to create illusion. The vaulted ceiling, which remains painted dark blue unique to the Australian ‘Atmospherics’ style, featured suspended, wooden, cut-out clouds which were originally back-lighted to simulate the moon behind the clouds. Together with lights imitating the stars, this enabled the patrons to imagine they were seated out of doors.

Paddington Antique Centre interior

View of inside the Paddington Antique Centre from the button shop.

The theatre was open seven days a week, with serials shown on Monday and Tuesday nights, and feature films and newsreels on other nights. A matinee was also shown on Sunday afternoons. The theatre had a capacity of 1500 who were seated in double canvas chairs on one large sloping level. The tram would wait across the road (Trammie’s corner) until the movies had finished to transport patrons home after their film and a visit to the milk bar which was part of the original shops along the Latrobe Terrace frontage. There was also a special soundproofed glass room was also built, called the ‘cry room’ which was provided for young mothers and their babies.

Visit us today and you will see remains of the theatre’s features including the enormous bright blue plaster ceiling.  The large Spanish style proscenium arch heavily decorated with mission tiles and plaster scroll-work and includes the original textile valance embossed with the theatre’s name. still remains. Flanking the wide proscenium are ornamental balconies topped by large, arched columns under which used to stand classical style statues and below the balconies are niches with twisted Roman columns all interspersed with scroll-work and other ornamentation.

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In such a big space with such obvious history, it is easy to let your imagination run wild and believe it may be haunted. I was told by a colleague the other day, that the centre does have a ghost. The story goes that a young woman was stabbed in the foyer one evening, by a jealous lover, or something like that. It isn’t hard to think the urban myth to be true, I think the centre, especially now carrying  antique wares, has 1000s of stories to tell!

The theatre continued to operate with relative success until television arrived in the late 1950s and diminishing patronage brought about its closure in 1962. After its closure, a level floor was installed, making it suitable for use as a basketball court and basketball matches were played until the building was sold in 1977. The antique centre was established here in 1985.

And that is The Plaza Theatre, the Paddington Antique Centre; home to Buttons @ Paddington! Come in and visit us sometime, it is totally worth it.