3.16.2012

buttons, buttons, who's got the vintage buttons?

vintage vegetable-ivory buttons

One thrifting tip others have talked about before is refreshing secondhand clothing with new, or better yet, old buttons. I don't always do this, but sometimes it's necessary, as with this cream wool, Gap kimono cardigan found at the Burnside Goodwill for $7 a while back. (Yes, I cut off the made-in-China tags with a seam ripper.)


Gap wool cardigan, thrifted, tags removed, buttons replaced

The original buttons were a cheap, bright-white plastic. So I switched them out with some vintage tagua-nut buttons purchased in a lot of 200+ a few years ago on eBay for more (about $22 with shipping) than I would be willing to pay now. But they are lovely. They're actually carved and dyed palm nuts, aka corozo, also called palm or vegetable ivory, a formerly popular material left decades ago in the dust of plastic's race to synthetically substitute everything, even women.

I didn't have four identical buttons, so I selected for similar color and size. The top reddish one did bleed a little during hand-washing, but it's not that noticeable, even up close. The only real problem with the sweater now is fitting my winged arms into a winter coat.

However, avoiding button-dye bleeding during hand-washing is important—unless you're one of those people who's asking why someone would spend so much time and mental energy on something as minimally important to life as buttons, in which case I would retort, "Did you not see those buttons spilled artfully on the table above?" I actually ruined the handknit neck warmer below and its buttons by soaking it with the vintage leather buttons on. (What was I thinking, washing leather?) But I'm also not about to be cutting off and sewing buttons back on every time I need to hand-wash something, so maybe that's also when the dry cleaner should be called.


dye-bled neck warmer with vintage leather buttons

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