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Shirt buttons for men and women are stitched on opposite sides. Check out the theories about it

There are several assumptions and explanations regarding buttons from contemporary design decisions to historical norms.
UPDATED JUN 14, 2024
Representative Cover Image Source: Pexels | Godisable Jacob
Representative Cover Image Source: Pexels | Godisable Jacob

From the absence of pockets in apparel for women to the differences in colors and patterns, fashion for men and women can be distinguished by several factors. But the one thing that has grabbed a lot of attention in recent years is the way that buttons are on the right for men, while for women they are on the left. Several reasons have been pointed out by researchers and while some believe that the position of buttons reflected the different functions assigned to men and women in society, others attribute it to a decision by a historical figure that hasn't been questioned. 

Representative Image Source: Pexels | 
Rebrand Cities
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Rebrand Cities

Megan Garber in her article for the Atlantic, shared that men's buttons were put to the right to help them in their fights. People are generally right-handed, and therefore most men hold their swords in the right hand. For dueling purposes they needed to take off their attire fast while keeping their sword intact, hence the buttons were kept on the right so that they could be easily undone by any gentleman's left hand. "It was more convenient and quicker to use their left hand for unbuttoning," according to The Atlantic. As opposed to men, women usually hold babies with their left arm and use their right hand to do all the tasks. Hence, as specified by Southern Living, shirts were designed to be opened or closed with the right hand to make breastfeeding easier. 

Horseriding could also be the reason for the positioning of buttons for women since they were supposed to ride horses in a side saddle position in the past. This means that both their legs were on the right side of the horse and sewing buttons on the left prevented the breeze from flying up their shirts. Elle mentioned an interesting theory related to Napolean describing how the famous dictator had a habit of sticking his hand between the buttons of his attire. Women around him would mock this tendency by striking a similar pose. To put an end to it, he ordered the buttons in the women's garments to be sewn on the left.


Another possibility is that this change had been introduced by the designers themselves to distinguish between men's and women's clothing. As women after entering the workforce the lines distinguishing attire on the basis of gender are being blurred. To create a separate inventory for each gender, designers may have put buttons on opposite sides. Melanie M. Moore, founder of women's blouse brand Elizabeth & Clarke believes that this difference was caused because of the way both the groups dressed. "Wealthy women back then did not dress themselves—their lady's maid did. Since most people were right-handed, this made it easier for someone standing across from you to button your dress," Moore explained in her interview with Today. Although one can't be sure which explanation can be accepted as correct, the thing that all these theories clearly reflect is that the positioning of buttons is not as random as it seems.

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