Last week, I met a woman I'm getting to know in Montréal, Diane, for coffee. She works in the design field, and has a style I'd call edge-of-edgy: not exactly avant-garde, but on the hip side of on-the-go style.
She was in a luminous sapphire-blue J. Crew velvet jacket, a cool black skirt and her signature aluminum-frame glasses. I'm not sure she's as "out" about her age as I am, so let's just say she is indeed appropriately in the Passage.
I especially liked how she wore her jacket that day–without a shirt or tee, which gave an uncluttered, clean line; nothing competed with the luxurious velvet.
But the detail I want to show is the button. Diane said the jacket came with sporty brown ones, and she found she just wasn't wearing it. She changed the buttons to silver gryphons and it now works with nearly everything she has.
Changing buttons is an overlooked strategy for upgrading, too. A dress looks much better with good buttons; a decent LBD can be nudged up to alluring by swapping, for example, a pedestrian plastic to an elegant silk knot.
Quality buttons can lift a cardi to heights plastic ones only dream of; glowing Czech glass buttons (set of six) from Ruby Lane seller Juvel-Vintage are $5.
Diane's buttons came from a Montréal shop, Boutique Rix Rax, but if you live nowhere near a good notions store, you can find great buttons on eBay or Etsy. The NYC-based Tender Buttons is a mecca which I'll visit when there next month; if you have a particular request, like woven leather buttons for a coat, they can help by mail.
Rare or antique buttons can approach the price of the original garment, but if you love the piece, you'll have years of buttoned-up bliss–and you can always keep the buttons when the garment wears out. (I'm still sorry that I passed up a set of barrel-shaped real amber buttons some years ago.)
I'm generally not into 'cute' buttons except for kids' clothes, but bend when the material is organic rather than plastic: ceramic, wood, mother of pearl. Why not cheek up the sober blazer whose buttons you can't even remember? Stockwell Ceramics offer an almost overwhelming selection of Union Jacks to jack up your jacket.
Lone buttons live on as pendants, especially when they're as exquisite as a ca. 1870 French one made into a necklace by veryDonna; price, $102 on Etsy. One hundred and forty years ago, weren't buttons astonishing?
Do you have something that would look sharper with fresh or better buttons? (That's not an insult; even designer clothes often chintz on them.) If you spring for a new set, as Diane did, it's a simple, smart tweak.