Fashion History Friday (On a Saturday)

-- this post is appearing on a Saturday because I was too busy with work and "moming" to make it happen yesterday ;)! --

Last night I was trying on a new dress. It has buttons on the cuffs and in order to get the cuffs over my hands I had to undo the buttons. They are standard plastic buttons, the mushroom cap shaped kind, that can be difficult to undo. My mind was on Victorian fashion, thinking about this week's fashion history post, and it occurred to me that the Victorians didn't have plastic and thus didn't have plastic buttons. So what were their buttons made out of? Something expensive like Ivory? Is that why buttons feature so highly in clothing from that era? Remember that song "silver buttons all down her back..", were buttons silver? I figured I'd better do some research and add buttons to this week's post. So, in this post I'm going to share a bit about two elements of Victorian style I love: the train and buttons. Buttons in a row, trains gliding the floor, romantic and feminine. The essence of imagination.

The subject of this post is a skirt I purchased consignment from the brand Haute Hippie. I chose it because of its obvious channeling of Victorian style mixed with a bit of bohemian chic. Together they make a combination irresistible to me. What drew me initially to the skirt was the train. It's a bit of a mermaid cut with the most fantastic train giving it it's Victorian style. In How to Read a Dress (one of my favorite fashion history books) author Lydia Edwards says about trains : "Even for daywear, a substantial train was still the expected norm." This was is the 1870s a decade smack-dab in the middle of the Victorian era.

The train on my skirt

The more I thought about it I remembered that I read somewhere that buttons were a status symbol in the past. Especially buttons that were covered in cloth. This had to be because of the time-consuming process of covering the buttons with fabric, the materials used to make the buttons, and the fabric covering them. This would explain why I come across so many pictures of 19th century dresses covered in rows of buttons. My skirt also has a row of buttons along the waist line to fasten it. The buttons are covered in the same fabric as the skirt and are the second element of the skirt that give it it's Victorian vibe. I did some internet digging and discovered that buttons in the Victorian era were usually made of steel, wood, mother of pearl, brass, and even horn. Which verified my ivory suspicion.

covered button detail on my skirt

Fashion is an expression of who we are, and in the past it played an even bigger role. A dress made of silk taffeta and ivory buttons would never be a throw -away. It was a work of art to be treasured. When you shop keep that in the back of your mind. If the piece doesn't speak to you, isn't worthy of keeping for years, or something that reflects care and workmanship in it's origin is it worth owning? The answer is "no". Sustainability begins with simply buying less, and buying better made. That's all. It's honoring clothing because of the hands who design and construct it. That's something the Victorians did very well.