The Legacy of the Button Box

Phyllis Inspiration 9 Comments

From the time of my earliest recollection, my mom had a button box. It was filled with every conceivable button that was made at the time. Buttons were never discarded and were reused on new garments when needed.


When my sister and I had a sick day from school—which meant we were close to death—we could play with Momma’s button box. I would sort them by colors and sizes or just look through them time after time. What is it about button boxes that intrigue us? I recognized many of the buttons from dresses that had been worn out and shirts that my brother had worn until they were threadbare, but the buttons would live on in the box until needed again. The button box contains history.

My button box today contains beautiful buttons that I have collected. I actually have two: one for utilitarian purposes that contains all the spare buttons that come with ready-made garments and one for my collectible buttons. The collectible buttons are from my grandmother’s box, or they are special finds.


The pair of pearl buttons with the rhinestone centers dates back to the 1700s and are from an officer’s uniform. I found these several years ago at a wonderful little shop in New Orleans, Zula Frick’s button shop. I don’t think her shop is there anymore, much to my sadness.

The other one is a single button with an intricate design that I just love. I found this at an antique store and just had to have it. Can you even imagine the garment that sported this?

AntiqueButtons_6--too blurry but copy talks about it I think

Friends have given buttons to me, and I treasure them. One of my special button gifts was a delightful ring box made from an antique salt cellar. The lid is made of four buttons that are glued in a stack. Notice the bottom button fits inside the glass cellar while the others are artistically stacked creating the handle. The top button is a shank rhinestone button that crowns it.

You could make these so easily as presents for special friends, especially if you have button treasures that you would like to share. Salt cellars are available at antique shops. I love this and have it on display in my office. What a great birthday gift or Christmas present to make for a special friend.

Do you have button box memories?

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Comments 9

  1. recently I was going through my button collection inherited from a dear friend and my grandmother.I am the only sewing member of my three sisters. The public library is soon to have a class in button art. I plan to make my daughters wedding bouquet composed of the buttons and some antique jewels.

  2. Since I’m the person on either side of our families who sews, I inherited all the buttons from various women’s button collections. LOVE THEM!

  3. I once had a tin filled with buttons that belonged to my Grandmother .
    My then young daughters enjoyed sorting those buttons in the “play area” . When the unfinished basement was made into a new family room , those buttons mysteriously disappeared , never to be found again .
    Still today after 25 years I regret not taking better care of that tin of buttons .
    I save/collect old and new buttons in a “different tin” , but it will never replace my Grandmother Lena’s
    beauties .

  4. Angela G
    I too have my grandmother’s button box. It is in a piece of furniture that I inherited from her. Every time I open the drawer to the old buffet, the button box is still there where she kept it.

  5. My grandmother had a button box…very simple…an old cigar box…nothing fancy by any stretch of the imagination. I spent many summer afternoons sitting on her front porch going through that box. Finding pearl buttons was like finding treasure to me. Maybe that explains my fascination, infatuation, and obsession of lovely pearl buttons today. Thanks for sharing to bring back wonderful memories for me.
    Sherry Myers

  6. I used to go through my mother’s buttons when home sick too. She had a small gray metal chest with drawers to store them in. I even remember my favorite button- it was clear lucite with tiny silver stars suspended in it, from a pretty blue satin bed jacket my mother had. I thought I was the only one who loved playing with buttons as a child!

  7. I used to go through my Great Grandmother’s button collection too. I’m thinking that starting my own vintage button collection sounds like a really good idea 🙂 Thanks for the reminder.

  8. What a great idea! I have fancy buttons in a button box, and I have a crystal holder that used to house a propane lighter. Soon, I too will have a crystal box with a fancy lid!
    Love your blog and that you shared this.

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