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Garter Buttons

During the roaring twenties girls were enjoying new freedoms, and one part of the body that was really enjoying finally getting it's time in the sun was knees!

Not something we give much thought to these days, but with hemlines rising and new styles of dancing knees were all the rage. Rolled down stockings were a flappers trademark. Rolled just above the knee for the slightly less daring, just under the knee for those feeling more bold, and maybe add a frilly garter and cheeky button for those who really wanted to let their legs do the talking!

If you enjoy ribbon work you've probably run into these buttons. Sultry eyed cartoon faces were printed onto long ribbons then cut and formed into decorative buttons. yet another innovation by the ribbon companies to spice up a ladies boudoir arsenal.

They would mingle with ribbon work and laces,they sometimes sported racy phrases like "Got yours yet?" or "You'd be surpised". Garter buttons were fun, and for anyone interested in adding a little flapper flare to their clothing and fancy work projects, these cheeky faces might be just the ticket!

It's still possible to pick up the odd vintage garter button or two from places like ebay and etsy, but if you're looking for something to add to your craft projects, why not go all the way and craft your own? Just a few simple supplies and you can create fun little faces to express your inner flapper too...

Supply List:

  • Button Cover Kit
  • Watercolor Pencils
  • Pencil Sharpener
  • Matte Fixative
  • Habotai silk (of light cotton batiste)
  • Chalk pastel or Blush
  • Q-Tip

I actually found water color pencils could best recreate that 20's printed look, so that's what I'm using in this tutorial, though good old paint can work wonders too.

Downloadable face template--->>>
1. If you are tracing a template face, gently sketch in the outlines onto the face. (If you are free styling the face I recommend leaving the silk blank till the button is assembled)
2. Line up the silk face and any headdress over the button cover
3. gently press the mold over your silk and cover set up
.4. Check through the translucent mold to see if your design is lining up well.
5. Trim the excess silk and push the back onto the cover. You should get something that looks like this.
6. Keeping the pencil points sharp color in any details and black in the outlines. To add blush I like to use a chalk pastel, but your regular cosmetic blush can work too! Either one rub onto the button with a Q-tip.

7. Add a light coat of fixative to hold the design and glue on any embellishments. Your little flapper face is ready to go on any of your favorite garters or boudoir accessories!

Naturally the one I make for the tutorial is one of the least successful buttons, but here are some of the other garter buttons I've made so far...

Inspiration from the past...

Flapper faces were the most common, but there were also stern police men "Stop! Go no Further" and even rare examples of animals like stylized rabbits. So go nuts!

Further Reading:

National Button Society Article

Button Museum's 20s Collection

Quaintrelle Life Blog


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