Clothing Closeners / Fastners

Figure 1.--Buttoning conventions became fixed in the later half of the 19th Century. One indicator that a child in a dress was a boy was elaborate front buttons.

The origin of buttons is seemingly lost in the fog of the middle ages. We do know that they first appeared as buttons before they were used as fastners. The most important clothening fastener is certainly the humble button. Other important closeners are more recent in origin. Some basic information on these devices and conventions associated with them are as follows. Unfortunately this is one topic that HBC has not yet been able to address in detail. We would be very interested in reader comments and contributions.


I'm not sure when buttons were invented, but they are visible in European paintings by at least the 13th Century. I will pursue the topic and collect some data on different types of buttons over time. The convention of men and women's clothes buttoning on opposite sides appears to have been established in the mid-19th century. Opinions vary as to the reason. Some writers suggest that it appears to have been in part because it made it easier for ladies' maids to dress help dress their employers. This would also probably explains the back buttoning blouses worn by women and children. Some authorities, however, are skeptical of this theory.


Snap Fastners

We notice snap fastners before World War II. We are not sure when the first appeared, but ir was probably the 1930s. The first example we have archived is an ad for Gripper Fastners in 1940. They were used in sleepwear and underwear.


Velcro has been commercially available for only a few decades. It has proven of special use in clothing for younger children. Little hands off have trouble with laces and buttons. Velcro vlosures thus are a great help to young children learing to dress themselves.


The zipper was developed in the late 19th century, at first for shoes. It was subsequently popularized by the B.F. Gooodyear company. Jackets were one of the main uses. Closings on men and boys pants and trousers were prinarily buttons. Zippers began to beused in pants during the 1920s, but it was some years before they were routienly accepted.


Several other types of fastners have been invented, including ressfasteners, pushbuttons, and snapfasteners. HBC at this time does not have any information on these fastners, inventor, time of invention, and so on.


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Created: February 15, 1999
Last updated: 7:25 PM 9/14/2008