I have always had a passion for buttons. Lots of them! So when in 1978, when I saw Jacqueline Bisset in the movie, “Who’s Killing the Great Chefs of Europe” wearing a jean jacket covered with buttons, I knew that I NEEDED one. However, her’s was totally covered with buttons, and at the time, I was just starting my acquisitions, so I decided to make my own.
I began with a navy corduroy jacket, that I outgrew, and so transferred what I had sewn on that one to a more sturdy jean jacket. That one wore out, and so I transferred the buttons and pins over to the new one. I can’t remember if the jacket in this photo is the 3rd or 4th version of my wearable collection, but it is indeed the current one that is hanging in my studio.
Besides buttons and pins, my brother gave me his lieutenant’s bars from the Army to grace the shoulders. There are some other treasures that you’ll see in the following photos, such as patch from the cruise ship, the QE2. However, most of the items seen on the jacket are metal buttons as they seem to hold up the best.
Here in this photo of the top of the jacket, I’ve used black arrows to point out some of the details that mean a lot to me. The upper arrow on the left of the photo points to a pin of a pair of deers whose heads are touching lovingly. Walt Disney’s movie “Bambi” was a favorite of mine, and I got that pin for Christmas in the 2nd grade, as I also has a dress with deer on it. The black under that one on the left is of a “hep cat” pin, that was a remnant of the Beatnik era from the 50s when I was little. Not quite sure why I kept those pins, but they stayed in the bottom of my jewelry box for years until they came to live on this jacket.
The black arrow on the right is an insignia that I bought from a Russian soldier in Hungary. The Russian army had pulled out and the soldiers were forced to pay their own way back home. Many were selling pieces of their uniforms to buy a train ticket, and so I felt sorry for the young man who had been abandoned by his country. His red star in the middle of a half wreath of silver leaves may have been a war decoration for all I know.
In this photo I wanted to show you that I added buttons up the bottom of each sleeve as far up as I could reach inside to sew them on. Apparently, many military uniforms had buttons on the sleeves so that the soldiers wouldn’t wipe their noses on them. While I have never been tempted to do that, the buttons do make me very much aware of where the ends of the sleeves are, as because their edges project, they easily get tangled on things.
Here in the States, there is a long tradition of button peddlers who wore their wares on their jackets. As they went from town to town, the seller would cut off the buttons that were needed for purchasers in each town they came to. In England, a 19th century street sweeper collected money for those even worse off than he was. He decorated his clothes with buttons to call attention to himself and to aid in his charity drives. That tradition has been carried down into the present by “Pearlies” in London. They have a ball and an official web site. Their suits and dresses are totally covered in white pearl buttons sewn in patterns. What I want to know is how they sew the buttons all the way up their sleeves?
Buttons are a big part of my life and I’m constantly looking for ways to display and wear them. In a past blog, I wrote about my button bracelets (scroll halfway down the page to see them.) While I’m not sure that you can have too many, buttons, wearing as many as are on the jacket can be heavy. I’m just glad that I never fell into a pool while wearing this jacket, as I’m not sure I could get it off fast enough before sinking.
How do you show your passion for your art? Have you figured out a way to wear any elements of your media?
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