Fasteners Depicted on Buttons: Buckles, Bows, and Knots
I have a fascination for knots, buckles, and bows, which all were means
of fastening clothing and also can be found depicted on buttons.
Published: March 13, 2013
Knots in a variety of materials: bone, celluloid, metal
Garments of ancient times were loose, unfitted robes and enveloping mantles, so strings and girdles were used to fasten clothing. A thong or other string-like cords were tied in a knot to close these early garments. Thorns and wooden or bone pegs were also used.
Although the knot has been around for a very long time and in many varieties, it is still popular and is shown on many buttons. Macramé, the art of tying knots, is believed to have been developed by the Arabs during the long camel rides. The edges of their camel robes were frayed and to occupy time, the riders would knot the edges into delicate patterns. The earliest form of the square knot is said to have originated in Arabia during the 13th century. The Spanish learned macramé from the Moors and spread the craft to southern Europe as early as the fourteenth century.
Sailors perfected more knots for practical use on board boats and ships. They had time at sea to practice their skill of making knots. Buttons can be found with many types of knots depicted. Sometimes the material is knotted and that then becomes the button, as with some fabric buttons.
Some knots that are shown on buttons are the figure-of-eight knot, square knot, half hitch, the Celtic knot, the Josephine knot, and one sometimes called a love knot that is continuous with no ends showing.
Modern buckles similar to the Roman pin and tong buckle
Slide buckles on metal and black glass
The earliest form of a buckle was found on primitive belts dating from the Bronze Age and shows one end fashioned as a hook that catches into an opening in the opposite end of the belt. A slightly later version was similar to the modern clasp which consists of two parts generally symmetrical. These belts are generally found on women’s dresses.
Another buckle consisted of a ring or hoop and pin. Sometimes the ring was open and the pin, after being passed through the fabric, was turned down slightly, caught over the edge of the ring, and thus secured it. This is called the "ring and pin" device and is the forerunner of the modern buckle. Another type of buckle is the "tong and slot". This buckle was used by the ancient Romans.
Throughout the long period of the Middle Ages, buckles were known as brooches, and were in common use as dress and mantle fastenings. They varied in size from the tiny buckle to one of eight or ten inches in length. By the late 14th century, many of the soft moccasins were buckled at the instep. Garters, a fashionable accessory of the time, were frequently fastened with ornamental buckles. Buckles were also useful for fastening the various parts of armor. Men's hats of the early 1600's had a large buckle in the front. Buckles were also worn in men's wigs of the 1670's. About 1870 buckles appeared again as a fashion item, mainly for shoes. This trend soon faded and was revived again during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. This may account for the variety of buckles depicted on buttons made of black glass.
The fascination with buckles as depicted on buttons can be seen in the wide variety of buckle buttons. All styles and types of buckles are shown on buttons, from the very plain to the very fancy ones shown on an elegant background. The variety of materials used to make buttons that depict buckles range from celluloid, black glass, rubber, metal and plastic. Some are painted with a coating used mainly on black glass buttons that gives them a gold, silver, red, or green luster. Some metal buttons also have a colored finish.
Delicate realistic bows include Mexican silver, glass, brass, and metalized plastic
Bows on a brass button and a realistic green celluloid
A safety pin, hook and eye, and zipper on buttons
Lacing, a typical closing in women’s clothing, on brass button
Bows, sometimes called a bowknot, were very popular during the 1600's for both men and women. Decorative bows were used to pull up the hem of a dress or skirt to reveal the petticoat beneath. Bows also appeared on men’s jackets, usually at the point where the jacket flared, either at the hip or slightly higher. They were also a frequent accessory for men’s wigs.
The extravagances and extremes of the clothes worn during the reign of Charles II were a natural continuation of the dress of his father' reign. Ribbons, knots, frills, laces, multitudes of buttons, bows and ornaments all in excesses and absurdities marked the English court and copied in the Governor's court at Jamestown and among the modish planters. Bows have come in and out of style over the centuries, but continue to capture the romantic flair of garments.
Bows on buttons have been stylized and represent different periods as is reflected in the many varieties of bows. Some have streamer ends and others are only the bow itself. Presently the goofy bows are popular for children clothing and come in many colors of plastic. Buttons with bow can be found in many materials such as clear glass, colored glass, black glass, pewter, other metals, plastic cord, and plastic-coated with a metal.
As described above, many different types of fasteners can be found depicted on buttons manufactured in many materials.
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