Buttons are small, sometimes decorative items used to secure two sides of an article of clothing. Buttons are usually attached to one side of the garment and slip through a slit or buttonhole on the opposite side. Historically, buttons were the purview of men. Highly elaborate sets of buttons were created using precious metals and gemstones or other contemporary materials. These sets could be quite valuable and were not exclusive to one item of clothing, being moved as the mood suited.

Contemporary buttons are generally made from mother-of-pearl, plastic, wood, brass or other materials and are sewn onto a garment with thread. While contemporary buttons can be changed or substituted on a garment, they are generally designed to stay with the garment permanently.


Set of Tudor Rose Buttons c.1910.
© Trustees of the British Museum.