Unbuttoning fashion


Buttons: © les Arts Décoratifs, Jean Tholance. Photo Shocking Elsa Schiaparelli © RR

Even more precious and innovative buttons are at Première Vision Accessories, to complement the exhibit at the Musée des Arts décoratifs in Paris.


“With its exhibitors’ rich history and innovative developments, Première Vision Accessories is proposing a selecti on of vintage or innovative pieces in the special event area in Hall 4, aisle H.” 
Céline Bertrand, Show Manager of Première Vision Accessories

“Première Vision Paris is sponsoring the Déboutonner la mode exhibition, because the richness of our heritage is one of the bases for innovation at today’s weavers, manufact urers, tanners, spinners and other fashion sectors.”
Philippe Pasquet, CEO Première Vision



It stepped casually into the history of clothing, and into our memories. It is amazing to think that our clothing still has buttons, this somewhat archaic and annoying fastening system. Yet for the longest time, artists and designers have been captivated by them. “The buttons are often what remain when the garment is gone. It is the only hard item, the backbone of the dress or the coat,” says Véronique Belloir, curator in charge of the Déboutonner la mode exhibition, which presents a unique collection of over 3,000 buttons and some 100 items from leading designers. Long exclusive to menswear, the button owes its conquest of women’s apparel to the arrival of the redingote at the end of the 18th century. But it was not until 1950 that one dared to mention the idea, in the press, that a woman ever “unbuttoned.” During the Enlightenment, oversized buttons became a means of communication. They presented the views of Buffon and the fight against slavery, via tiny tableaux where passementiers, embroiderers, glassmakers, goldsmiths and ceramicists worked their ingenuity. Ever since Poiret, the button has played on contrasts and curves, highlighting a hip or neckline. Balenciaga, Chanel and Dior all used buttons to emphasize clothing lines, to find a perfect balance or to communicate the spirit of the house. In the end, buttons are rarely used to actually fasten a dress. Their real role is to catch the eye and show off a special cut, while remaining discreet, often tone-on-tone. Significantly, Yves Saint Laurent positioned them on the couture toile itself, and Christian Dior devoted pages to them in his collection notebooks. By contrast, they are rarely seen in eveningwear, to avoid competing with a woman’s jewellery. “This exhibition highlights the quiet artists who dedicated themselves to buttons, such as Henri Hamm, a 1920s glassmaker famous for his perfume bottles, or Lucien Wengott,” says Véronique Belloir. The latter, in his kitchen, collected seeds and little bits of nothing and inset them in resin, for small and modest works of art that can be found on a two-piece brown woollen outfit by Balenciaga. Like him, many painters, decorators and sculptors, from Sonia Delaunay to Giacometti, expressed their art in the simple little button. 

Exhibition Déboutonner la mode. From 10 February to 9 July . Musée des Arts Décoratifs , 107 rue de Rivoli , Paris 75001.


There are our grandmothers’ button boxes. The buttons we buttoned up wrong… And, a rule that doesn’t mean much in an age of zips and Velcro®: buttons on the right side for men and on the left for women. And only peacoats can be buttoned either on the left or right, because it depends … on the winds of change. Sometimes buttons are identifying signs. Some like to let others know their shirt is custom-made by leaving the last sleeve-button open. In Japan, at graduation time, boys have taken to giving the second button of their uniform jacket (the one nearest the heart) to a girl.

Première vision 
sponsor of the exhibit