Reverse engineering standard work pt.9

As I left off in previously (list of related entries at close), here’s the explanation for designing the button placement. I should also mention that the terms button stand and button extension mean the same thing.

1. In pattern books, one is usually instructed to add 1″ to the (usually) center front to allow for the button stand but that’s an instruction given to simplify matters. The amount you add for a button stand is actually whatever the size of your button is. For example, if you’re using a 1/2″ button, you’d add 1/2″ and so on. This is one reason why a pattern maker (a decent one anyway) cannot make your pattern if you haven’t specified the button size or provided one as a sample. I’ll never forget a designer I once worked with -albeit briefly- who practically accused me of spying on her because I wanted to know what buttons she intended to use.

The rule of thumb of button size matching the width of the button stand is not carved in granite because you may potentially want a wider stand as a design effect. In such cases, you’d need to make your wishes clear as it is non-standard.

2. Now, about where to start and end buttons on a stand. Again, a rule of thumb is to have the first buttonhole lay no less than 1/2″ from the top finished edge. Any less than that and your button may be hanging off the top edge but worse, it’ll be destabilizing. By destabilizing I mean that the section in which the first (and last) button is placed will take a lot of stress and it needs enough fabric underneath it to anchor it to the extent that the edge of the garment won’t become misshapen. If you’re making a garment in which the buttons extend to the hem, your lowest button should be placed no less than 1/2″ from the finished edge. Ditto on the stress thing.

3. If you’re placing a button on the collar stand of a tailored shirt, the button should lie in the horizontal center of the collar stand, relative to position (the collar stand often narrows between the center back neck and the center front neck).

4. If you’re placing a button on a cuff, this should also lie in the horizontal center of the cuff. If you’re using more than one vertical button, these should lie spaced evenly in the horizontal center being mindful of rule #2 above.

5. About button spacing. Usually this isn’t a problem because most designers aren’t using the quantity of buttons as a design effect so the buttons are spaced by inches. However, sometimes a designer is using a lot of buttons spaced closely together or in sets as a design feature and that’s okay but it depends on the function. In these cases, you have to consider and weigh ease of use by the wearer and the value of the design effect. For example, having tons of covered buttons -one practically on top of the other- on the back of a beautiful wedding gown is absolutely accepted and I won’t try to talk you out of that. The woman will have help getting dressed but you wouldn’t do that on the average coat. Still, you may want sets of three buttons or two buttons going down a center front for a design effect. In those cases, spacing matters. Those buttons -within each set- must be spaced sufficiently distant to facilitate ease of use by the wearer. Most of you would agree that makes sense. You want to make sure you can see at least 1/2″ of fabric between each button. Personally, I’d vote for more, say 3/4″ but it depends on who’s using your product. You need space between the buttons to work it open and closed and if you have big hands, are elderly or are a child, the ability to work it open and closed will be problematic. Even on children’s clothes I’d suggest that buttons and closures are scaled relative to adults since they will often be dressing the child. Children will also be able to manage buttons easier too if they’re not spaced too closely together.

When I said “You want to make sure you can see at least 1/2″ of fabric between each button”, I meant exactly that. The spacing on a button guide will not equal 1/2″ because this distance will vary according to button size. If your buttons were 1″ wide, the guide would be marked with punches 1-1/2″ apart. Maybe a good rule of thumb is button size + 1/2″= spacing distance.

Some designers find they need more buttons to keep something closed than competing products do. More buttons isn’t the solution. The problem is that your buttonholes are too large. If buttons keep sliding easily out of holes, the buttonhole is too big for the button. I’m always amazed at how many people have this problem. You see it in RTW all the time.

Entries in the reverse engineering standard work series (how to copy industrial sewing methods)
Shirt making tips
Standard Work (sounds boring, read it anyway)
Reverse engineering standard work pt.1
Reverse engineering standard work pt.2
Reverse engineering standard work pt.3
Reverse engineering standard work pt.4
Reverse engineering standard work pt.5
Reverse engineering standard work pt.6
Reverse engineering standard work pt.7
Reverse engineering standard work pt.8
Reverse engineering standard work pt.9

Spin off of Reverse engineering standard work pt.5:
A failed experiment
A failed experiment pt.2
A failed experiment pt.3
Reverse engineering standard work pt.5.1

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  1. Esther says:

    I learned one thing in design school about button placement and gaping of a blouse that has stuck with me. That is to put a button where you least want gaping, namely the chest area. I am not sure if this principle works in practice. I could see it possibly working, but I also wonder if there is a pattern issue. For example, if someone were larger than a B-cup and they were wearing something that was designed for a B-cup, then the button placement is not the actual problem.

  2. Kathleen says:

    but I also wonder if there is a pattern issue
    I meant barring a pattern or fitting problem. The latter is the most obvious issue. I referred to less obvious problems.

  3. jinjer says:

    Putting a button between the boobtips definitely works to prevent gaping. And Kathleen mentioned groupings of buttons: big boobs might need more than one button between the boobtips to prevent gaping, so that can be a design element that is also functional…

    Kathleen, you say the button should not be closer than 1/2″ from the edge, but how far away can it be and still hold the top edge of the garment closed?? Is there a rule of thumb, or is this something that has to be tested for each fabric/button combo?

  4. Kathleen says:

    Kathleen, you say the button should not be closer than 1/2″ from the edge, but how far away can it be and still hold the top edge of the garment closed?? Is there a rule of thumb, or is this something that has to be tested for each fabric/button combo?

    Again, 1/2″ seems to be standard (see #2). Obviously there are variations because (for example) you wouldn’t want a sportcoat to close at the top edge so it also depends on styling. Iterate. Usually you’ll get it in only one cycle. If not, you have other problems going on (poor fit, failing to interface, inappropriate button size for the job etc).

  5. taylor moore says:

    I agree. I have to wear a fitted blouse for work every day, and being that im a 36GG i find the button around my bust either gaping severly or unfastened completely! Im forever fidgeting with them, making sure they are not gaping and are still fastened. i have started to wear clasp fastening blouses now as i have given up on finding a blouse with buttons that dont have the “sneak a peak” gaping.

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