Wednesday, August 22
the hopefully helpful Steampunk Your Buttons post
A reader Marjorie posted this comment to my last post:
See how the different buttons would really affect the overall flavor of the jacket?
My favorite idea: a subtly textured and muted colored jacket like that can be the perfect backdrop for a more eye-catching button, like one of these:
As the blogger at that antique site writes:
Brass picture buttons from the Victorian era are very collectible. These charming discs were stamped with images taken from everything from operas to children’s books, and animals. In fact, if you wanted to tell the world you were a fan of a work of literature, you’d sew buttons featuring scenes from the novel or story on your coat or shirt. Other picture buttons took their cues from nature (flora and fauna), the sciences (stars and moons), or mythology (cupids and fairies).
So how perfect would it be to hunt down picture buttons that represent your own steampunk character? Flora and fauna for a jungle adventuress, rabbits for an "Alice in Wonderland" mash-up, trains for the traveler. . . . Or, conversely, such picture buttons could infuse a little of your own real-world personality into your character. And with a very plain but texture-rich fabric, as that brown jacket has, you could get away with mismatched buttons easily, without them either seeming too out-of-place or too busy. Even different metals would work together, as long as there was some element (size, shape, motif) that unified them. Such a collection of buttons would together tell a story on your lapel, one of your own creation. LOVE this idea--in itself so steampunk!
And remember this jacket, which I can't decide if I like or hate, but which I could see being fabulous in some steampunk diva's wardrobe:
Again, when I look at the various elements, I kinda like all of them, and they work together overall really well, even that crazy modern print. Except those buttons--ew! Totally cheap and way too plain. And if you wanted to make this jacket steampunk, they are--in my opinion--totally unacceptable.
But imagine that jacket with these:
Still the silver tones, which compliment the color of the jacket well. But a much more playful texture, which better compliments the extravagant details on the overall piece. Once again, however, you could decide to change the feel of the jacket with radically different buttons, such as those black distressed ones, or even the elegant, softer tones of the first buttons I featured above.
Last example, also from the LOFT post:
I like these buttons just fine on this jacket. They work great for the railroad look. But they just don't do it for me if this jacket were to be part of a steampunk look--they would really detract and I can't imagine how they would go well with any other accessories. Even a plain, flat, four-hole button in whatever color the background of the jacket is (navy? grey? hard to tell) would end up working like the lavender buttons in my first example, not adding to the steampunk look but also not obviously detracting. Or a pewter button authentic to Victorian times, something modest, like what a workman would wear.
But if you wanted to get creative with this jacket. . . how about buttons like this?:
Oh, that is a fabulous button! Victorian jet and mother of pearl! I imagine buttons like this on that jacket would subtly play up the masquerade aspect of steampunk. You would not want all five buttons on the front to be the same, so I would choose these for the three in front and choose a simple, complimentary jet for the side pocket details. You just would not want to go any dressier than this style of button--that would not suit the jacket's "story."
Unless you wanted to go with something like this, to play a more feminine detail on such a "masculine" fabric:
Is it wrong that I these buttons look so fabulous partly because they are so dirty? That wear and grime is instant character.
So, those are just a few examples of what you could do with jacket buttons to downplay the vintage of your jacket and play up its steampunk potential.
Now of course there are other factors you would have to keep in mind if you wanted to put your own more steampunky buttons on any item of clothing that was going to see regular wear. Some vintage buttons cannot be machine washed--you would have to investigate a little online to find out what materials to avoid (like wood--gotta love wooden buttons, but they just can't hold up to machine washing and drying). Also, you might really need to see them in person, to evaluate their true coloration, their condition, and their size. So I would probably save the real Victorian buttons for things that will be handled with care, such as jewelry and accessories.
Reproduction buttons--with the look of antique but the durability of modern resins and metals--would be the ideal.
So if you want to add one more layer of detail and steampunk "verisimilitude" to your wardrobe, start looking at your buttons with a more critical eye. You can do online searches for images of Victorian clothing to get ideas of what kinds of buttons might traditionally go where, but overall I would just go with buttons you like and stick them where you like!
One button (this one not victorian, but oh so steampunk) I found while making this post that I very much like:
And with that, I wish you all happy button hunting!
*This link also led to a great history of the button overview with links, which I recommend.