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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Why male and female’s shirt buttons are on different sides

If you wear a shirt every day, chances are you’ve never wondered why men and women’s shirts buttons are placed on different sides.

Maybe you’ve never even thought about it, but if you’re wearing a shirt made for women, the buttons are fastened from right to left; and if you’re wearing men’s clothing, they button up from left to right.

There isn’t a straight-forward, obvious answer for this one, as it’s one of those things that “just is”. It’s been a part of men and women’s tailoring for centuries, and has gone down in the fashion history books.

It would make sense if all women were left-handed, and all men right-handed, right? But we know that simply isn’t true.

So what’s the deal?

Raymond Lam, a fashion expert from Vendula London, says that there are a few historical theories as to why women’s shirts button up on a different side than mens.

“When buttons were first introduced in clothing, they were only for the wealthy,” Lam explains.

“Wealthy women would often not dress themselves, relying on servants instead. Based on the assumption that most people are right-handed, the buttons on women’s clothes were attached with someone else fastening them in mind and making it easier for them to do so. This practice eventually became the norm when clothing became mass produced.”

Lam says another theory is that, because most women are right-handed, they would carry infants in their left arm and use their right hand to unbutton their shirt when they needed to breastfeed.

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Another theory unfortunately dates back to the outdated notion that women are inferior to men.

In 1894’s Man and Woman: A Study of Secondary and Tertiary Sexual Characters, Havelock Ellis writes that women are inferior to men in “strength and in rapidity and precision of movement,” which dictates which side they button up their shirts.

Lam says it wasn’t until the 1800s that women in Europe began to wear shirts, when the Garibaldi shirt was popularised by France’s Empress Eugénie who was the wife of Napoleon.

“This was a red shirt that was originally worn by freedom fighters under Giuseppe Garibaldi,” Lam explains. “However, they arguably did not become mainstream until the 1920s when designers like Coco Chanel introduced their relaxed ideas of womenswear, including white shirts.”

He adds that shirts for women became more mainstream in the 1940s when worn by the likes of Katharine Hepburn and Marlene Dietrich, and Audrey Hepburn’s outfit in Roman Holiday.

“Despite initially starting as a menswear staple, the shirt began to be more associated with femininity, often seen brought in with a belt at the waist, not buttoned all the way up and styled with a skirt and silk scarf,” he adds.

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Of course, there’s no real reason why fashion brands continue to create shirts with buttons on opposite sides these days. It’s something they’ve always done, and continue to do.

Chances are you may not even notice, but it’s a fun sartorial quirk from the past that we continue to live with on a daily basis.

Story source: Yahoo

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