Top Brass

Like everything else in fashion, prominent gold or brass toned buttons adorning blazers, sweaters, and coats are amongst those things that constantly swing in and out of favor. Not so long ago- in the “more is more” 80’s shiny, statement making buttons (a la Chanel) were not only highly desirable, but were the mark of a well- dressed woman. Ah- but then came the minimalist 90?s, exemplified by “less is more” subtlety, and instantly, anything that screamed bourgeois luxury, such as gold buttons, quickly looked dated, old hat, old fashioned, and well, completely out of place. The design proponents of “the look” (Calvin Klein, Helmut Lang, Yohji Yamamoto, etc.) and everyone else it seems, used subtle, unobvious horn buttons, covered fabric buttons, wood buttons, zippers, or nothing at all, to trim their frocks.

Well…that was then, and this is now. After looking back at the 2005 spring collections, one of the most notable and welcome resurrections is the return of the structured jacket, and more specifically, the traditional navy blazer, complete with shiny gold or brass buttons. It’s a popular item that has long been the backbone of every well-dressed man’s wardrobe, and one that has been sorely missing from many women’s closets.

One of the most influential designers in the world, Nicolas Guesquiere, left his odd tricks behind and embraced a very chic, tailored, classic, and wearable tone with his highly acclaimed military/nautically themed spring collection for Balenciaga in Paris. Using an easy-on-the-eye and timeless palette of white, navy, black, and gray in addition to lots of gold accents which came from gold buttons and zippers, it oozed a refined and youthful spirit. It was symbolized by great coats, beautifully cut narrow trousers, knee length skirts that were narrow yet had movement, AND one of the best takes on that natty navy blazer around. Guesquiere’s rendition was fitted yet slightly slouchy, elongated, double-breasted, and closed with prominent shiny gold buttons. Worn over a very feminine bare white tank and artfully cut above-the-knee skirt, this could easily be the uniform for many chic, well dressed, and plugged in women for the coming season (if not forever).

And when I visited the newly renovated, just opened, Chanel boutique at 15 east 57th street, 212 355 5050, (thanks to the genius of Peter Marino) what did they select for the window? Not one of their signature tweeds from fall (which are still FAB but so copied, knocked off, and referenced they are almost a cliche) but a dark navy crested blazer trimmed with gold buttons, which is from Karl’s resort collection. Mark my words, this will be the new must have! When I inquired about the price, they said resort has not been priced yet and asked me to call back next week for more information.

The good news is that if you want to get the same look by giving your favorite blazer a “face-lift”, all you have to do is head over to the legendary store, Tender Buttons, 143 East 62nd street, 212 758 7004, which has been a purveyor of buttons for over 30 years. The owner, Millicent Safro, has every manner of button you can possibly imagine, at every price range, and always stocks her chic heavy gold, gold and pearl, gold and navy buttons which are produced in the very same factory in France that makes Chanel’s signature buttons (they range in price from about $7 to $12). Of course, she also carries buttons that would be considered highly rare collector’s items and range in price from $2,000 and up. In this category are such rarities as the 18th century paintings in ivory under glass and a small collection of commemorative copper buttons made in honor of George Washington.

By the way, Tender Buttons also sells distinctive blazer crests for $40. And for that favorite white shirt which would be the perfect compliment for your navy blazer, she also sells collectible antique, period and Victorian cufflinks. Appropriate for men and women alike, you and your ‘significant other’ can both share and enjoy!

Posted by Marilyn Kirschner

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

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