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Nonfunctional Lapel Buttonhole?

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
I bought a jacket recently and I didn't notice at the time of purchase but I just saw the buttonhold on the lapel is closed. It's not just sewn so it can be easily opened but there are only rectangular stitches in the shape of a buttonhole and the area surrounded is just a continuation of the jacket fabric. I've heard of nonfunctional sleeve buttonholes but I didn't expect a lapel buttonhole would be nonfunctional. Is it a common feature of low-end jackets? If I pierce through it anyway would it harm the jacket and look messy? Thanks.
post #2 of 18
I've had to have buttonholes opened on a couple of cheaper (ie pre-styleforum) jackets and suits. Do the stitches form the shape of a buttonhole, with two parallel "raised" rows separated by a "valley?" I apologize for not knowing terms better. If so, you, or if you don't trust yourself then a tailor, can cut the buttonhole open with a razor blade. Tom
post #3 of 18
I've never bought a jacket with a buttonhole that wasn't designed to be opened, but I have bought a few with them still closed. I have seen some with weird stitching that wasn't "raised" like the usual buttonholes are. This may be the rectangular stitching you're describing. If it is a regular buttonhole that just hasn't been opened, cutting it with a razor knife (the snap-off type work well) is quick and painless. If you're not sure, just leave it. Chances are you won't use it anyway and if it wasn't meant to be opened it could damage the suit in a very visible place.
post #4 of 18
Some lower-cost suits don't have "open" lapel buttonholes, but the Oxxford I'm wearing today is also closed. I don't think I'll try to open it, though--the stitching is very tight and I'd be afraid of damaging it.
post #5 of 18
If you do decide to open it up please post a picture of 1)what the lapel looks like post-Op and 2) What you intend to button to that lapel. Thanks. JJF
post #6 of 18
Hopefully, a boutonniere.
post #7 of 18
Thread Starter 
Hopefully, a boutonniere.
Yes, I was thinking of putting a boutonniere. I know appropriateness of wearing a boutonniere has been already discussed, but I think it can be pulled off even by a younger person. Like the model (his name is Eric Van Nostrand by the way) for Dior Homme is wearing.. I'm still mulling over whether I should put a razor through the closed buttonhole...
post #8 of 18
Buttonholes are made for a specfic reason. If you just cut a hole in the wool, it will unravel at the edges and eventually become much bigger, causing serious harm to the garment. On finished buttonholes, tight loops of silk thread are sewn around the edges of the hole, to protect them and prevent unraveling. Some manufacturers will loosely close a finished buttonhole with a piece of basting thread. This can and should be opened. However, on some suits, "faux" buttonholes are made, Essentially, stitching is stitched into the lapel in a shape that looks like a buttonhole, but no actual hole is cut. If you cut the suit cloth with a razor, the edges will not be protected by loops of thread as on a real, finished buttonhole. Therefore, fraying and other problems are likely to occur. If you want a functioning buttonhole there, take the suit to a tailor.
post #9 of 18
Manton, have you ever seen such fraying occur? Granted, I have never used any of my self-opened buttonholes, but I have not seen any reason why they would fray any more than tailor-opened or factory-opened holes. After all, most buttonholes are sewn, then cut open. The thread still goes through the fabric around the edges of the hole. It's just not exposed until the fabric is cut. Perhaps if it were sewn only through the top layer and then cut, I could see the problem occurring; however, all the lapels I've seen (or paid attention to) have the stitching all the way through.
post #10 of 18
Manton, have you ever seen such fraying occur?
Yes.  Way back when I first started getting custom clothes, I got an odd jacket from an old English tailor.  He made the sleeve buttonholes the old English way: first two functioning, second two phony.  When I noticed this, it ticked me off, so I cut them open myself.  Big mistake.  I had to take the jacket back to him, he sent it to a re-weaver, and then re-did the buttonholes.  They still look a little sloppy.  The tailor thought I was crazy.  Since then I have always insisted that all four buttons work.
After all, most buttonholes are sewn, then cut open.
We must be talking about different things.  On a handmade buttonhole, the hole is cut in the cloth, and then the stitching is done, using silk finishing thread.  First, a blanket stitch is done around the buttonhole to lock in the fraying threads.  Then a thick cord-like thread (called "gimp") is anchored at the end of the hole (i.e., the opposite end from where the button will go) so that the gimp lies exaclty alongside the edge.  Then you take silk "buttonhole twist," wax it, and press the wax into the thread.  Then you use the buttonhole twist to make a series of small knots around the gimp and the buttonhole's edge, all the way around.  Those knots are the embroidery you see on the top side of a finished buttonhole.  If you want to see that nice look on both sides, you have to repeat the entire procedure (minus the initial blanket stitch) on the underside.  In any event, you cannot do this properly unless the hole is cut first. Some tailors, after finishing the buttonholes, then close them with basting thread, using a whip stitch.  The hole is cut, but the whip stitch keeps it closed.  You can cut that stitch with no problems.  In fact, it is meant to be cut before the jacket is worn. What I was talking about was truly fake buttonholes.  No hole has ever been cut in the cloth.  Buttonhole twist has been stitched directly into the cloth to make it look like a buttonhole is there, but there is no hole.  The buttonhole twist is therefore not protecting the edges of the hole, because there are no edges, because there is no hole.
post #11 of 18
I don't mean most handmade buttonholes, I mean most buttonholes in general. On shirts and factory made jackets, and everything else for that matter that's not made by hand, almost all buttonholes are sewn, then cut, AFAIK. Your fake buttonholes were probably sewn into only the top fabric layer, like most fake buttonholes I've seen on sleeves. In fact, when I recently found a Dunhill sport jacket (older, made in Italy)with "buttonholes" sewn on the sleeves, I had your same idea to cut them open until further inspection revealed that they were only on the top layer and would not protect the inner layers of fabric and interlining if I were to cut them open. However when a buttonhole stitch is sewn through all layers of the fabric before it is cut, it does sufficiently protect the hole after it is cut, for light use. In my experience it is the more common way of doing them in the factory made garments. I realize I may be less than clear, so here are some pics of that jacket: Fake sleeve buttonholes: Front of lapel buttonhole: Rear of lapel buttonhole, obviously made by machine: Buttonhole pulled open, showing it was cut after sewing (and not by me): In the last picture (sorry for the blurriness) you see where the fabric is cut less than all the way to the end of the machine stitched hole, showing that it was sewn then cut. Edit: argh image probs
post #12 of 18
That lapel buttonhole looks handmade to me. And you say it doesn't fray? Well, if it works for you, go for it. I had a bad experience, and got lectured by my tailor. I was sufficiently chastened that I never did it again.
post #13 of 18
I hope a tailor can weigh in, because I don't want to keep opening these if they aren't meant to be opened. But from what I've read if the stitch goes all the way through the fabric (as it does on all lapels I've seen), it is safe to cut between the stitching. Where the stitching does not go through all layers, such as the decorative sleeve "buttonholes" shown in the picture, cutting would be very unwise as there is nothing to bind the edges together once cut.
post #14 of 18
I think I see what you mean. The buttonhole twist does not go around the edge of the buttonhole, but it goes through the cloth so close to the edge that it prevents dramatic fraying. I suppose in that case there is not likely to be dramatic fraying. But you can still clearly see the cloth edge inside the buttonhole, which looks odd to me.
post #15 of 18
It does look odd, but if you look at any suit you will most likely see the fabric inside the buttonhole. In fact, since I still have the camera handy, here is an Oxxford buttonhole, pinched together to show the visible canvas between the gimp/stitching layers:
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