Friday, April 27, 2012

Sewn Through and Backed

Tailors and very particular people won't like this.  For people who quietly stand in the suits or jackets, this post is not for you.  For those of you who travel often, frequently wear a jacket, or just get worked up about life on a regular basis, I intend this advice for you.

Tailors and manufacturers dislike sewing buttons through on jackets.  It is considered a detail of elegance to affix the buttons to the front layer only, leaving no stitches visible on the underside.  I have decided that this feature is (for me) not only unnecessary, but nearly harmful to the clothing.

 A pin-stripe suit with the center button backed.

Purists can kiss my transom.  I even go so far as to put a small backing-button under the middle (on a 3-button) or top button (on a 2-button) to keep them safe.  They wont pop-off ever, and they won't strain the suit either.  How often do people inspect your jacket anyway?

A cashmere great-coat for winter. Backed buttons.

A few tailors ignore the custom and sew the buttons through, but off-the-rack jackets I buy always get the buttons reset with heavy-duty thread at a minimum.  I tend to be active in jackets and suits (within reason) and have been known to gesticulate wildly during rants or lectures, and squirming around in jackets won't cause the buttons to pop like daisy-heads.  Even normal things like carrying groceries, lifting suitcases, or hanging on a subway strap can work a button loose.

On the jacket below, the top button (of 2) has been sewn through, while the bottom button (which never sees service) is left as it came from the factory.  The stitch lump is visible, but it doesn't hurt my feelings.

To be even further inelegant, I have the double-button sets under the waist (intended for wearing braces/suspenders) sewn through, so the stitch-dot can be seen from the outside.  Since I rarely/occasionally trot around in braces with no jacket, I don't concern myself with the roughness of the detail.

A tiny thread "X" should not offend anyone, and I prefer the detail because regardless of what it implies about me being slightly over-active in suits and jackets, I never look like a fool chasing a button across the floor or sidewalk.  Granted, I look like a fool in plenty of other ways, but I never lose buttons.

Turning the stitch yourself is a good task for quiet evenings, early mornings, or days when you are confined to bed from the shrimp cocktail that was served at a party.  It tasted just fine at the time, but it gave me plenty of opportunity read and sew buttons the following day.


  1. I thought the whole "drape" idea was to leave the canvas free-floating, or does the sewn-through durability simply trump this tiny effect?


  2. If you're going to try this just be really sure you have the top and bottom cloth exactly aligned or it will indeed throw off the drape and make it impossible to press the jacket correctly. Otherwise, why not? You own the jacket, it shouldn't own you.

  3. Now at a time when we once again hold hand craftsmanship in the highest esteem (witness the culturally-powerful new artisan class of Brooklyn, or the stacks of ex-investment bankers who gave it up to start organic farms in the Hudson Valley), there are certain gestures of high craft that nevertheless get on my nerves: the hidden jacket button stitching that tears right out over time. The wine glass so thin it shatters when you wash it. The hardwood dining room table that perfectly preserved every drip or glass ring that ever sat on it. These things are all harder to make than the simple version of the same, but craftsmanship isn't just about technique: it's about tailoring the thing to the use it will be given. Hiding button stitching might never be noticed, but a button that tears out halfway through an even will be a damned nuisance for the other half. The tailor I want is the one who doesn't want me standing around looking like an ass more than he wants to make sure he doesn't look like one.


Let's keep it clean... but if you DO have to get foul, at least give it a bit of wit. Also, advertising disguised as comments will be deleted, unless it is clever.