1. Welcome to the new Styleforum!

    We hope you’re as excited as we are to hang out in the new place. There are more new features that we’ll announce in the near future, but for now we hope you’ll enjoy the new site.

    We are currently fine-tuning the forum for your browsing pleasure, so bear with any lingering dust as we work to make Styleforum even more awesome than it was.

    Oh, and don’t forget to head over to the Styleforum Journal, because we’re giving away two pairs of Carmina shoes to celebrate our move!

    Please address any questions about using the new forum to support@styleforum.net

    Cheers,

    The Styleforum Team

    Dismiss Notice

Nonfunctional Lapel Buttonhole?

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by color_reporter, Nov 24, 2004.

  1. color_reporter

    color_reporter Active Member

    Messages:
    42
    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2004
    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.
     
  2. tiger02

    tiger02 Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    3,799
    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2004
    Location:
    NYC
    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
     
  3. j

    j Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    14,914
    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2002
    Location:
    Seattle, WA
    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.
     
  4. johnw86

    johnw86 Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    462
    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2004
    Location:
    Ohio
    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.
     
  5. FIHTies

    FIHTies Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    2,959
    Joined:
    Apr 28, 2004
    Location:
    Back and Better Than Before
    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
     
  6. marc237

    marc237 Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    2,381
    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2004
    Hopefully, a boutonniere.
     
  7. color_reporter

    color_reporter Active Member

    Messages:
    42
    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2004
    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... [​IMG]
     
  8. Manton

    Manton Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    41,568
    Joined:
    Apr 20, 2002
    Location:
    In Hiding
    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.
     
  9. j

    j Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    14,914
    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2002
    Location:
    Seattle, WA
    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.
     
  10. Manton

    Manton Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    41,568
    Joined:
    Apr 20, 2002
    Location:
    In Hiding
    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.

    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.
     
  11. j

    j Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    14,914
    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2002
    Location:
    Seattle, WA
    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: [​IMG] Front of lapel buttonhole: [​IMG] Rear of lapel buttonhole, obviously made by machine: [​IMG] Buttonhole pulled open, showing it was cut after sewing (and not by me): [​IMG] 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
     
  12. Manton

    Manton Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    41,568
    Joined:
    Apr 20, 2002
    Location:
    In Hiding
    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.
     
  13. j

    j Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    14,914
    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2002
    Location:
    Seattle, WA
    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.
     
  14. Manton

    Manton Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    41,568
    Joined:
    Apr 20, 2002
    Location:
    In Hiding
    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.
     
  15. j

    j Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    14,914
    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2002
    Location:
    Seattle, WA
    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: [​IMG]
     
  16. j

    j Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    14,914
    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2002
    Location:
    Seattle, WA
    Sorry, I reread this and I missed your point before. IME when one cuts between the stitching there is very little or no visible cloth inside the hole. If there is, one can turn the hole out and with a very sharp pair of scissors carefully trim right up to the stitching. In most cases, there is a defined valley between the rows of stitching, and not enough cloth within it to show once cut. I just pinched myself, and confirmed that yes, indeed I am debating/discussing lapel buttonholes. I will now shut down the browser and leave the house.
     
  17. Manton

    Manton Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    41,568
    Joined:
    Apr 20, 2002
    Location:
    In Hiding
    That canvas should be trimmed away with small scissors before the buttonhole is made. And then the buttonhole twist should be threaded around the edge, covering all the cloth and canvas. That's the way a good handmade buttonhole is made.
     
  18. Manton

    Manton Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    41,568
    Joined:
    Apr 20, 2002
    Location:
    In Hiding
    Face it, we're all loons here. At least those of us with post counts in the three digits.
     

Share This Page

Styleforum is proudly sponsored by