Vintage Buttons

I’m always on the search for wonderful vintage buttons – vintage garments have often lost them or might have had them replaced by “wrong” versions over the years so where ever possible, I like to restore them with the sort of button they would have had originally. They can make a such a difference to something plain as well.

Circa has thousands – all sorted into every conceivable colour, material and type (shanked, two hole, four hole or other) and grouped in little zip lock bags. It doesn’t seem to matter how many we have though, we don’t always have the “right” one so we need button specialists as a back up.

Thankfully, there is a small and dedicated group of ladies around who cater to just this need, whilst indulging in their own fascinating hobby. We get asked a lot about who we recommend, so here are the main ones we use:

Habadash, 8 Templeton Street Castlemaine – well worth a trip to the country and this treasure trove of buttons, sewing ephemera, vintage jewellery and linens and other goodies. I can’t go into Sonia Collard’s beautiful shop without wanting to buy something so it’s lucky that she has no shortage of fabulous trinkets at reasonable prices.

Here is some of her amazing bakelite button collection – they look like lollies, don’t you think?
Habadash Bakelites

In Melbourne’s Nicholas Building (corner of Swanston and Flinders Lane) you’ll find Buttonmania – Kate Boulton has the largest range of new as well as vintage buttons and conducts workshops and regular sales (a good time to stock up). I love her set of small drawers, where many of the goodies are kept:

Buttoni drawersPhoto: Estelle Judah from The Age.

I also go to see Miranda at Chapel street Bazaar (217 Chapel Street, Prahran) – she has one of the best collections of vintage haberdashery all at market prices – as well as regular half price sales. My favourites; gorgeous french jet buttons from the 1940s.

Speaking of markets, there’s a wonderful lady at Camberwell market on Sunday mornings – especially good for large plastic buttons from the 1950s, and buttons in quantities. I think all of hers are brand new, unused old stock, like Miranda’s.

Of course eBay is a wonderful resource too – although I must admit to preferring to be able to touch them, see how they look up against my fabric and inspect them for small damages – as well as use them immediately!

You can find vintage buttons every where that old things are – my last two favourite sources are op shops, where lucky customers might pick up an old tin or jar containing an old lady’s collection going back many years, and vintage fashion fairs like The Way We Wear Fair and Sydney’s Love Vintage Fair.

Vintage buttons come in all manner of materials, many of which the modern appreciator might not be familiar with – a handy guide to testing buttons to determine their material can be found here.

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13 comments

  1. Perfect timing! I just purchased a gorgeous emerald green vintage jacket that has had its buttons harvested. I’ve been hunting Ebay and Etsy, but now I know a trip to Kate Boulton is in order. I think I must head on down to visit you all at circa next week, as I need the perfect little sweater for this winter too.
    BTW, please come on over and visit me, a vintage fashion obsessed Melbourne Mama at www. superkawaiimama.blogspot.com

  2. I have a ot of buttons that I inherited from my mother. I would like to find a home for them. Do you know what I could do with them?

    regards,

    Helen

  3. Hi Helen,
    I have a big button collection, which I use for restoring vintage – so I might be interested in buying them. Are you perhaps able to drop in to the shop sometime? If you let me know when suits, I can be sure to be there.

  4. I am Secretary of the Victorian Button Collectors Club Inc. Sonia and Kate are also members and our group and past president have been featured on the Collectors program. Our big Display Day and Sale is coming up in October and anyone is welcome. There is a small door charge, I think it is $3 this year. This covers our costs for hall rental and insurance. We are not a profit making venture. This is a wonderful day to see ‘out of this world’ buttons and to purchase your own button treasures. This year there is also a demonstration of button necklace making. No buttons will come to harm as we aim to maintain the integrity of the items being used. Nicole would you like me to forward the info to you? Sorry having read this back it sounds a bit like advertising but this isn’t my intention. We would love to see people enjoying our big day!

  5. Hi Diana,
    Yes please – there are a lot of button lovers here. If you have any images that would be particularly good and I’ll write a post about your sale and put it the calendar too. Please email me.

  6. Hi there

    My grandfather is an avid antique/vintage button collector. I have made enquiries locally with various antique shops but there doesn’t seem to be a market for them here (Mount Gambier, South Australia).

    I was just wondering whether you would be interested if I took some photographs and sent them through?

    Look forward to hearing from you.

    Sharon

  7. Hi Sharon, I’m not currently buying but you could try Habadash or Buttonmania – links are in the article above.

  8. I am looking for 8mm slightly domed, shanked red buttons. The colour is burgundy/rose red. Do you have anything suitable?

  9. Bethany, I use vintage buttons for restorations rather than selling them but if you click on the links in the post you’ll find shops that might have what you’re looking for.

  10. Hi how are you?i have lots and lots of buttons old mostly some Bakelite I have found only through their aroma after putting them in boiling water.all I need is information on where I can sell them please or people to view them . Kind regards. Jacqui

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