15 In Anatomy of an Outfit/ Styling Tips

Changing buttons and wearing gingham on gingham

Gingham print
Mixing gingham with gingham

I’d had the black and white gingham jacket for a week or so. Funny story about how I bought it. I was minding the store (SAX Consignment) while my daughter was running to the nearby grocery store to get ice cream to go with the organic strawberries I’d just purchased at the Farmer’s Market in San Anselmo.

summer treats
Too many fresh strawberries?

While she was gone a customer brought in this black and white gingham jacket to consign. I’m not authorized to make decisions about what gets accepted into the store or not, so we waited for the boss to return.

The customer looked familiar to me. I thought she’d been in the antique book business. I was right. We’d met over thirty years ago at a party in Woodacre. “Oh, I remember you,” she said. At that time, the boss we were waiting for must have been three or four years old. My how life happens!

gingham jacket
Who would wear this consignment gingham jacket? Me!

About her jacket, she said, “I’m just not the one to wear bold checks like this. I don’t know what got into me. Maybe someone else will like it.” I knew exactly who would wear it: ME!

She left, I tried it on, I bought it.

Changing the buttons on my gingham jacket

changing buttons
Buttons before

I knew right away that I wanted to change the buttons. Changing buttons is something I always consider with a store-bought item. Manufacturers can— and do—save money by using inexpensive buttons. If you’ve ever been to Britex Fabrics in San Francisco and been in the button section, you know exactly how expensive interesting buttons can be.

changing buttons
Button stash

I wasn’t going to make it to Britex to buy buttons. I thought I’d go to my button bin and pull out some of the antique buttons I still had from my days of making one-of-a-kind button bracelets.

Quick button makeover

I hadn’t gotten around to checking through my stash. I would do it someday. But I awoke on Monday morning thinking I wanted to wear my gingham top with ruffled sleeves…and, wait a minute!? How would that top look under the gingham jacket?

Okay, now I was on a creative high because the idea of wearing two gingham pieces at once delighted me. And the fact that they were the same scale gingham made them look like they were part of a matched suit or something. The top is cotton and the jacket is rumpled cotton. The fact that they didn’t have exactly the same surface texture spurred me on to change those buttons, change them NOW!

buttons on gingham jacket
Button makeover

I went to my button stash and started looking. I started out thinking I’d use five different buttons. I laid them on the jacket but thought it looked too crafty for the direction I wanted to go in. Then I saw my bag of glass buttons. Ooh, that could be fun and unexpected!

I got out my needle and thread and changed buttons over breakfast.

Anatomy of my double gingham outfit

Once I changed those buttons to the glass ones, the jacket had a little bit more elegance. Not a lot, but more than it had before. Mission accomplished!

gingham layers
Accessorizing my gingham

The etching around the edges of the buttons is so subtle but it will catch the light. Taking that as my inspiration, I added my Mickey Mouse watch pendant pearl necklace for some additional shine.

gingham sleeves
Showcasing gingham ruffled sleeves

The thing that delights me so much is pulling the ruffled sleeve out on the blouse so you can see that detail. Wonderful for me, the jacket has 3/4 length sleeves so the ruffles stayed out all day. Cool.

I put on my self-frayed white jeans (fraying lesson here) and decided to go more dainty with the shoes. I’d thought of wearing my white sneakers but I wanted to dress this casual look up.

gingham sleeve detail
I think I’ll walk around with my elbow bent all day.

More fun for me was adding my MZ Wallace black quilted bag. Checks, diagonal quilting…does it get more fun than this? The combo put more bounce in my steps as it made me so happy to be in this total outfit.

MZ Wallace bag
Quilted pattern on bag plays with gingham checks.

So there you have it, my friends! There’s nothing like creative ideas being pressed on by the element of time to make things happen. That floating “when I have time, I’ll do it” task gets a deadline. I wanted to wear those gingham prints together—that morning—so the button redo got done in just the right time.

I know—because many of you responded to my Facebook post earlier this week about this button makeover—that many of you change buttons on ready-made garments.

Tell us more. Do you go button shopping for each garment? Do you have a stash as well? Are you new to the idea of changing buttons? The floor is open! Let’s hear about your button or gingham experiences!


P.S. Did you know that gingham is a cotton fabric made from a dyed color and white yarn woven in checks? Checks can be in any fabric but when it’s cotton and white with another color, it’s called gingham…to the best of my knowledge. Does someone know more about this? Please share!

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  • Reply
    Kathy H
    July 24, 2019 at 7:21 pm

    Love your two ginghams together and the new buttons. I do change buttons on old jackets. The oldest jacket in my closet is from 1989. It has had new buttons twice!

    Your button stash is wonderful. It made me think of playing with all the buttons my grandma had saved in Mason jars. I surely wish I had those today. I do have her sewing box and thimble though.

    I am drawn to gingham too. Perhaps it makes me feel like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. I always loved that pinafore she wore. Have fun, Brenda. This gives me an idea for a jacket I already own. Thanks for the checkered past – I mean post!

  • Reply
    Kathie Adams
    July 25, 2019 at 4:14 am

    I have a button jar that is filled with buttons from my and my husband’s grandmas and aunts. I am the only one who sews in the whole family, so when a house gets cleaned out, the sewing stash comes to me! I, too, change buttons on store bought jackets & shirts. Didn’t know anyone else did that!

  • Reply
    July 25, 2019 at 4:23 am

    After reading this, I now know I need to get into the habit of changing out the buttons and make garments more interesting.
    It was also nice to see you wearing a quilted bag in summer. I was told that type of purse is a fall/winter item.

  • Reply
    July 25, 2019 at 5:39 am

    I love buttons! I also have a button stash and change them out. I don’t have any button bracelets but I do have a necklace I got at a quilting store! Where did you get the Mickey necklace? So fun!

  • Reply
    July 25, 2019 at 5:46 am

    Brenda, I enjoy your ideas! The glass buttons are a nice addition to your new jacket! Your email was very timely as buttons have been on my mind this week since I bought a cute red and white check jacket from Nordstrom. The jacket has large white buttons and I was thinking of changing them. You have inspired me to do it! Now to find the buttons…….

  • Reply
    July 25, 2019 at 6:15 am

    Have never changed a button, but this is in my future! Very cute outfit.

  • Reply
    Linda B
    July 25, 2019 at 6:41 am

    Buttons can really be an artistic element! I have quite a collection myself. My fascination with buttons started when I was 6 years old and asked my mother to teach me to sew; she had me “hem” a triangle of cloth and sew buttons onto it. Later, when my grandmother passed away, I was the only one of her grandchildren who was interested in certain things and so I received her button collection (and her knitting needles, crochet hooks, and pattern collection.) I made a grey wool hat (when I lived in MN) that I decided to embellish with a random selection of the tiny white buttons from Grandma. In fact, I try to use the most interesting buttons I can on my handknits–I love vintage and handmade ones, if possible, to put on cardigans. Where I live in Tucson, there is an amazing fabric store that is owned by a family whose oldest generation ran a garment business in NYC decades ago; the matriarch, now in her 90’s and still working, brought her amazing collection of buttons to the desert when she and her husband came west in the 1970’s–so the shop is my go to place to shop! People know I love fabulous buttons, so I have had gifts of them from family and friends. Once my son even hand painted a set of purple and green buttons for me at a paint-yourself-ceramics place, as a gift. Recently, I bought a gorgeous set of new handmade glass buttons at a fiber festival (the Black Sheep Gathering in Albany, OR.) Those golden yellow buttons cost a pretty penny, but how amazing are they going to be on the golden/mustard cardigan I will make from the yarn I bought at the festival?

    Brenda, I love the creative process you went through in creating this ensemble; and I especially love the buttons (of course!) and those fabulous sleeves.

  • Reply
    Anne W
    July 25, 2019 at 6:42 am

    Being a retired fashion designer Brenda, I have a wonderful kitty of vintage and newer buttons collected from Melbourne (Aus) and overseas. My lovely English Mum also lectured in fashion design and her trick of removing precious buttons before letting go of an old piece of clothing stuck with me. I have some beaut Chanel buttons in light blue purchased in Italy 20+ years ago(probably knockoff) still waiting for their perfect garment! I often change the buttons on a garment especially when it needs a facelift after a few years. As for gingham, you are correct in my book;)
    Wondering if your “crinkle” jacket is a seersucker gingham?

  • Reply
    July 25, 2019 at 7:11 am

    Last August my son got married and I made some ‘Welcome’ boxes for close family guests, included in the boxes where some homemade knitted slippers, grey for the gentlemen and pink for the ladies, to make them just a little more special I used buttons from a large collection of buttons I received after my dear mother in law passed away, this was my way of including her in our memories on the wonderful celebration of her Grandsons wedding.

  • Reply
    Jane R.
    July 25, 2019 at 7:12 am

    I have never thought of changing buttons on a jacket or blouse. I will have to think about this and look at my clothes a bit closer. Thanks for the great idea. I love gingham and have several checked shirts and a new pair of small navy and white checked pants that I’m enjoying.

  • Reply
    July 25, 2019 at 7:17 am

    Great find, Brenda!

    I found a huge bag of antique buttons at a thrift store years ago. In it were lots of lovely black glass buttons as well as many other very interesting buttons: ornate metal, lots of pearl ones, even carved shell. Since then I’ve added to the collection and I always have buttons to add or change. I bought a heavy Icelandic sweater in Maine years ago, and it was missing some of those silver buttons they always use, but I just added buttons in colors to match the sweater: brown, black, white shell. I like the unmatched buttons!

  • Reply
    July 25, 2019 at 7:39 am

    I don’t sew, but I save and re-use old buttons, even buy them at flea markets, sometimes still attached to otherwise worn out old clothes. I just love the luxury and uniqueness of pretty metallic, pearly or cloth-covered butttons. They can make wool look like cashmere, cotton look like silk, and the ordinary blazer or jacket so sumptuous and original. I also change my shoelaces. White on blue leather in summer, blue on blue in winter… I just jazzed up some boring black Eccos with maroon laces and laced up old maroon Vans with pink laces. So pretty and such fun!

  • Reply
    July 25, 2019 at 7:47 am

    I love buttons and especially buttons in jars. They remind me of my mom and grandma who always could fix anything with a needle and thread or around the house with a butter knife. I especially like putting my hands in a button jar and feeling them run through my fingers like shells you collected from the beach. So many possibilities. I bought a gingham short very similar to yours after you debuted it some time ago. So now I need a jacket! I’m going to have to say Brenda made me buy it when my husband gets the bill. As always a lovely post that conjure up memories and helps me feel that fashion is still achievable in my 60s. Best to you

  • Reply
    Sandra Sallin - Apart From My Art
    July 25, 2019 at 12:18 pm

    Oh, I love this post and your outfit. I would definitely keep my arm bent. I also love MZ Wallace. You have given me the idea about changing buttons. Now I have to look at my clothes to see where I can change them. I love the idea. I also relate to the idea that I can put things off until I want to wear them. Love the jeans. Still trying to figure out which pair to fray. Also going to look in my closet to see what buttons I can add. Great post. Put it on Pinterest.

  • Reply
    Elaine @ Following Augustine
    July 25, 2019 at 5:05 pm

    I’m feeling like your twin today, but only from the waist down. I’m wearing my DIY frayed white jeans and I have a pair of shoes almost exactly like yours! I haven’t worn gingham since I was a child though, but your combo looks great!

    I have a button stash. The last ones I added to it came off an old sports jacket of my Dad’s that I threw out when I cleaned out his closet on my last visit. It was so worn out that it wasn’t worth keeping, but I look forward to wearing the buttons someday.

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