March 6, 2014

a vintage button tale

Today, I thought I'd share this little gem with you: In 1952, Libelle magazine would occasionally publish articles about the normally unseen sides of fashion. In this case, about a button factory.

What makes this article so great, is that this is not just any button factory. It was located in Spakenburg.
Spakenburg used to be a fishing village on the shore of the Zuiderzee. After the building of the Afsluitdijk in 1932, this sea arm became a lake, the IJsselmeer and fishing villages like Spakenburg were cut off from the sea.
Apperently, this button factory was built to provide an alternative source of income for the villagers.
And many women of the village were still wearing the traditional costume for daily wear back in 1952 (I think you'd find very few doing so today…)

Theirs is a rather eye-catching costume, using different coloured prints in one outfit and creating a unique silhouette with the starched shoulder pieces (well, unique compared to 'normal' clothing. It is a feature which is present in traditional costume from a few places in the Netherlands).

Here, the ladies are sorting buckles. You can get a good look of the individual designs of their crocheted hats. Also note the hairstyle with the high quiff-like structure at the front.

The women in this picture are sewing buttons onto sample cards. Many of them look fairly young, so clearly, Spakenburg costume wasn't slowly dying out back then (if you were familiar with this particular costume, you should be able to tell the married women from the unmarried ones, based on costume details)

This last picture is a bit of fun. The Spakenburg women's costume doesn't include any visible buttons. This obviously makes it a bit ironic to see all these women working with buttons. Costume like this is bound by rules so it evolves slowly but you can't just decide to add buttons where there never were any.
These two girls are playfully considering the effect of a single large button on their outfits.

I hope you've enjoyed this look into the past. I quite like stumbling across bits of social history like this (that's another reason why I collect and read vintage magazines) but I know it won't be to everyone's taste.


  1. I definitely enjoyed this. I find it to much fun to look back at sewing history!

  2. Wow, fascinating. Thank you for sharing this and explaining about the costumes.

  3. What an interesting post! Thank you!

  4. Thank you for the history. I am always intrigued by the small details.

  5. Loved this little peek into the past!

  6. Wow, fascinating! How amazing that these costumes were worn in 1952, I wonder when and how they went out of vogue, definitely I am interested in such posts!

  7. Yes, I enjoy posts like these.

    The Fowler Museum of Cultural History in Los Angeles collected one of the largest textile collections in the world. In order to study women in societies that control women's movements/social contacts severely, the anthropologists would use a cover story that they were interested in purchasing textiles directly from the makers.

    Over the decades, their collections have grown so much that textile scholars trek there to study. The textiles and their makers are well documented and put in context.

    The V&A in London has more machine-made textiles. But the Fowler has the most hand-made textiles. It's really worth spending time there on your next visit to LA.

    Here's are some samples of special exhibits.