Buttonholes are holes in fabric that are paired with functional buttons (as opposed to decorative buttons) that serve as fasteners. Buttonholes may be either made by hand sewing or automated by a sewing machine. A buttonhole may be replaced by a loop of cloth or rope, such as in a Mandarin button.

The etymology of the term buttonhole came from buttonhold (originally a loop of string that held a button down).


Buttonholes for fastening or closing clothing with buttons appeared first in Germany in the 13th century. [Lynn White: "The Act of Invention: Causes, Contexts, Continuities and Consequences", "Technology and Culture", Vol. 3, No. 4 (Autumn, 1962), pp. 486-500 (497f. & 500)] They soon became widespread with the rise of snug-fitting garments in 13th- and 14th-century Europe.

Aspects of buttonholes

Buttonholes often have a bar at either end. This is a row of perpendicular hand or machine stitching to reinforce the ends of a buttonhole.

Traditionally, men's clothing buttonholes are on the left side, and women's clothing buttonholes are on the right.

Types of buttonholes

Hand stitching

*A plain buttonhole, by far the most common type. In plain buttonholes, the raw (cut) edges of the textile are finished with thread in very closely spaced stitches (if made by hand, often the buttonhole stitch). When stitched by hand, a slit is made in the fabric first and the result is called a worked buttonhole.

Machined stitching

Sewing machines offer various levels of automation to creating plain buttonholes. When made by machine, the slit between the sides of the buttonhole is opened after the stiching is completed.

*A machine-made buttonhole is usually sewn with two parallel rows of machine sewing in a narrow zig-zag stitch, with the ends finished in a broader zig-zag stitch. (One of the first automatic buttonhole machines was invented by Henry Alonzo House in 1862.)

*A bound buttonhole, which has its raw edges encased by pieces of fabric or trim instead of stitches.

*A keyhole buttonhole is a special case of a thread-finished buttonhole that is normally machine-made due to the difficulty of achieving it by hand working. It is characterized by a round hole at the end of the slit to accommodate the button's shank without distorting the fabric.

Keyhole buttonholes are most often found on tailored coats and jackets.


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • buttonhole — [but′ nhōl΄] n. a slit or loop through which a button can be fastened vt. buttonholed, buttonholing 1. to make buttonholes in 2. to make with a buttonhole stitch 3. to make (a person) listen to one, as if by grasping his or her coat by a… …   English World dictionary

  • Buttonhole — But ton*hole , v. t. To hold at the button or buttonhole; to detain in conversation to weariness; to bore; as, he buttonholed me a quarter of an hour. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • buttonhole — ► NOUN 1) a slit made in a garment to receive a button for fastening. 2) Brit. a flower or spray worn in a lapel buttonhole. ► VERB informal ▪ accost and detain (someone) in conversation …   English terms dictionary

  • Buttonhole — But ton*hole , n. The hole or loop in which a button is caught. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • buttonhole — (n.) 1560s, from BUTTON (Cf. button) + HOLE (Cf. hole). The verb meaning to detain (someone) in conversation against his will (1862) was earlier button hold (1834), from button holder (1806, in this sense). The image is of holding someone by the… …   Etymology dictionary

  • buttonhole — I UK [ˈbʌt(ə)nˌhəʊl] / US [ˈbʌt(ə)nˌhoʊl] noun [countable] Word forms buttonhole : singular buttonhole plural buttonholes 1) a small hole in a piece of clothing through which you push a button to fasten it 2) British a flower that you wear on… …   English dictionary

  • buttonhole — buttonholer, n. /but n hohl /, n., v., buttonholed, buttonholing. n. 1. the hole, slit, or loop through which a button is passed and by which it is secured. 2. Chiefly Brit. a boutonniere. 3. Surg. a short, straight incision through the wall of a …   Universalium

  • buttonhole — [[t]bʌ̱t(ə)nhoʊl[/t]] buttonholes, buttonholing, buttonholed 1) N COUNT A buttonhole is a hole that you push a button through in order to fasten a shirt, coat, or other piece of clothing. 2) N COUNT A buttonhole is a flower that you wear on your… …   English dictionary

  • buttonhole — /ˈbʌtnhoʊl / (say butnhohl) noun 1. the hole, slit, or loop through which a button is passed. 2. a small flower or nosegay worn in the buttonhole in the lapel of a jacket. –verb (t) (buttonholed, buttonholing) 3. to sew with buttonhole stitch. 4 …   Australian English dictionary

  • buttonhole — n. & v. n. 1 a slit made in a garment to receive a button for fastening. 2 a flower or spray worn in a lapel buttonhole. v.tr. 1 colloq. accost and detain (a reluctant listener). 2 make buttonholes in. Phrases and idioms: buttonhole stitch a… …   Useful english dictionary

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