Horizontal or vertical buttonholes?

horizontal buttonholes

I’m in the process of making a second version of the 1940s shirt dress I made in May, and I’ve been prompted into wondering (ie arguing with Mr Ooobop!) whether it is usual to make horizontal or vertical buttonholes on a garment. I couldn’t bear the quandary any longer!

So I did a little research and came up with the following…

  • Horizontal ones allow for a little more expansion. The button can slide along the opening without distorting the buttonhole as much as a vertical one.
  • It’s easier to sew buttons in position, following a column of vertical buttonholes as there is a little  more room for manoeuvre, but you have to sew them on more accurately to meet the positions of the end points of horizontal buttonholes.
  • Horizontal buttonholes generally can’t be placed on a shirt placket band as there is not enough room for them to sit comfortably and so vertical ones are used.
  • Exceptions include the collar and cuffs where there is more stress, then you will find a horizontal one. And in the case of more expensive shirts, the bottommost button too!
  • Horizontal buttonholes take a bit longer to create as the foot needs to be repositioned and position measured each time, whereas its easier to shift the position down each time for vertical ones. I’m thinking this is a reason for mass produced garments having vertical ones.
  • Horizontal buttonholes stay buttoned more securely. Any stress across the garment opening, pulls the button into the the end of the buttonhole, where the button stops.
  • It is a little less-fiddly to button up with vertical buttonholes.
  • Most vintage patterns are marked for the buttonholes to be created horizontally.

So there you have it… fascinating, hey?! It doesn’t prove much except that you can seemingly create them however you like… so long as it works for you and your choice of garment!

I’m going with horizontal ones and now feel much happier about doing so. Apart from the fact that it makes me feel a bit rebellious, (and that I won the argument) I like that it’s a little bit of authenticity for this little 40s number.

Which way round do you sew your buttonholes? Any reason different from the above?

I’m hoping to have said dress all finished and blogged by the weekend so bring on the sunshine so Mr Ooobop! can take some sunny shots!

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19 thoughts on “Horizontal or vertical buttonholes?

  1. Usually my top and last buttonholes on blouses or shirts are horizontal, because they are stronger, and the remainder are vertical. On Jackets and coats they are always horizontal. Your vintage make is looking interesting.

  2. WOW! I have to say that this is something that never even occurred to me! Now I’m wondering if my machine would be better with the horizontal! LOL It fights me on the vertical. 😉
    Thanks for the info!!!

  3. I am just about to do some buttonholes myself on my Simplicity 1880 shirt dress sewalong project! And was wondering the exact same thing myself.
    I’m going horizontal – however vertical does appeal to me visually!

  4. Heh, this was something I was wondering about and you read my mind! I go for horizontal same as you – more ‘authentic’ and in my case prevents things popping open across the full bust!

  5. I must admit that this is something I’ve wondered about a few times as well. (Usually just as I’m about to start sewing some buttonholes, funnily enough.) Thanks for doing the research on it!

    I always use horizontal in anything that may have some stretch – vertical ones just don’t stay done up nearly as well, even with interfacing. But yeah, that placement issue can be a pain when sewing on the buttons…..

  6. Awesome post. I don’t think I’ve ever really thought about this before, just followed the instructions, but I’ll be certainly be looking more closely at the effect I need before putting in any more buttonholes. Thanks!

  7. I tend to more often than not do horizontal buttonholes. The other big question with closures of course is should it be right over left or left over right. Right over left is for womenswear ie the buttonholes on the right hand side (left side facing) and the buttonholes on the left for menswear (right side facing).

  8. On tight-fitting garments, I use horizontal holes. On looser, blousier styles, vertical ones — they just look better, somehow. When I am trying to make my garments look rtw, I copy whatever rtw is doing at the time of the vintage of the garment.

  9. I’m ashamed to say, I’ve never once thought about the direction of buttonholes LOL. Now I can’t STOP thinking about it!! HAHAHAHA!!! Honestly, it’s probably because I haven’t made anything with buttons yet – but now that you bring this up – and also because there’s a shirt dress in my near future – I have been considering the pros and cons of both.

    I think I will probably opt for the horizontal as well, because my shirt dress pattern is vintage and I like the idea of keeping it authentic – thanks so much for teaching me something!! 😀

  10. Thanks so much for this post. I’ve recently sewn some horizontal buttonholes on a blouse i’m making but haven’t cut them yet. I was pondering whether to unpick them all and go for vertical instead, as I realised all my bought blouses have vertical ones. Your information has settled my mind – i’m sticking with horizontal and will finish off my shirt tonight! 🙂

  11. I’ve just finished making a shirt (mens’ for myself) and the pattern shows horizontal, however, Singer (sewing machine) recommend following the grain or nap of the material so that the long threads are not cut. Agree that horizontal holds better though, my shop-bought shirts with vertical buttonholes tend to spread a bit (or maybe that’s me!)

    • Thank you for popping by, Peter. I think there are good reasons for both. But you are absolutely right with vertical they do spread more due to the tension on the edge rather than an end point of a horizontal one. 🙂

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