July 6, 2012

2-in-1 Sew-Along: Shirt Dress Buttonhole Placement

This is a great technique for solving gaposis on a button-up shirt-like garment. It almost seems like a luxury to be able to make a garment and be able to fix things that I'm unable to fix in RTW fashions. Yay for custom made clothing!

Having your buttons in the right place counteracts gaposis, as does a good fit. If you have a great fit on a garment and you have poor button placement, you will still likely fall prey to gaposis. Instead of following the button placement that was given to us by the Simplicity 1880 pattern, we can figure out where the buttons should go for our particular bodies ourselves.

You'll need to put your dress on and at this point, you should have the dress assembled and the zipper inserted.

In front of a mirror, find your bust apex while you're in the dress. This should be at the most full point of the bust. Mark the apex of the bust line with a pin or a sticky dot or a piece of tape.

Take the dress off and with a see thru ruler, line up the apex you marked with the edge of the button placket. Mark this with a pin on the right side of the bodice. This is the middle of the apex buttonhole. Note that the buttonholes are vertical for this dress.

Simplicity 1880 calls for 3/4" buttons. Using the right button size is important because the button/buttonhole overlap was specifically drafted for this button size. If you're really hung up on using a certain button, give it a try and see what you think. I'm just giving you my knowledge of what I've found to work. Measure the button and then measure the width of the button and add that to the overall button measurement. My button is measuring 3/4" with a width of 1/8". My buttonhole is going to be 7/8". So I'm going to move my mark by half of this buttonhole measurement (so 3/8") for my first buttonhole. Move the pin based on what your machine does. My machine goes backwards first on a buttonhole, but your's might come forward first.

From here, I use a simflex to figure out where the rest of the buttonholes go. You expand or contract the simflex and as you do this, it gives you perfect proportions of where the next buttonholes go. If you don't have a simflex, no worries! Take the measurement of the button placket - from the waist to where you want the buttons to end - and divide that measurement by the number of buttons. Measure from this first buttonhole mark in both directions. As you can see, you'll need a button or two above and buttons below the apex buttonhole mark.

From here, you'll stitch the buttonholes.

After stitching, cut your buttonholes open. From there, I like to use fray check on the open buttonholes so that it helps cut back on them fraying, as they are prone to do after use and laundering.

To place the buttons, I start with the bottom buttonhole. On a flat surface, I arrange my dress and put a pin through the middle of the bottom buttonhole. This marks the position of the first button. I attach a button at this point.

To sew on a button, you'll thread a hand needle. Bring the thread about so that you have a double strand and knot off the end. Drive the needle through the exact location of where the button will be on the right side of the dress. Take another stitch or two. Now thread the button through the needle and push the needle through to the wrong side of the button placket. Stick a pin between the button and the dress so that we have long enough threads to make a shank. Now stitch the button on. Before tying off, bring your needle back through to the right side of the dress, but not through the hole of the button. Bring it up and wrap the threads about 8 or so times. Take the needle back through to the wrong side of the dress and knot off. Hide the thread by sticking the needle back through the knot, but only through the wrong side layer of the dress. Take a big stitch and bring the need back through the wrong side and cut close to the dress (being careful not to cut into the dress).

From here, close this button and buttonhole and then work your way up the dress, one button and buttonhole at a time. This will ensure accuracy and there won't be gaps from putting the button in the wrong place.

If I may suggest, this is a great activity to do while watching a Netflix.

For more 2-in-1 Sew-Along posts, click here!



  1. Wow this is such a cool tip! Thanks for posting this. And now I want a Simflex....

  2. Theresa in TucsonJune 22, 2012 at 5:24 AM

    Sunni, as someone who is less than well endowed gaposis has never been a problem but I can definitely see how your fitting method works. There is a critical measurement for the button lappage (the area from the center line to the fold) that has to do with the size of the button that you might want to elaborate on in your next post. If you move up or down in button size from what the pattern recommends, you add or subtract to the button lappage. I learned that from "Sewing Secrets From the Fashion Industry" by Rodale Press. I'm following along with interest.

  3. Ah, the age old problem of gapiosis! I've never seen one of those button gauge thingies and can't easily find them in the uk (except out of stock!) so look forward to you stocking them! In the mean time it'll be Mathis and a tape measure for me!

  4. Oh, wow, that makes so much sense! I always have this problem with shop bought shirts, and I've always just resorted to buying a size too big. I'm in the middle of making a blouse at the moment as well so I'll bear this in mind when I get to the buttonholes

  5. Now I NEED a simflex in my life! haha! So awesome! Thanks for the tip! I was a bit baffled regarding the placement! This makes so much sense!

  6. Just when I thought I have all the tools I need, you show me another one lol

  7. Whoa, that Simflex is the coolest thing I've ever seen!! I'll wait until you have it in the shop because I'd rather support you :)

  8. I only mark the button holes after the garment has been constructed. I wear it on and determine where my critical button should be and then do the math for the placement of the other buttons.

  9. That is awesome!! What a great technique!

  10. Sunni.. I have never heard of Simflex before! What an amazing contraption! So much easier than doing math! Thanks for sharing!

  11. I know! I love them so much! A very under-rated gadget.

  12. That's all well and good for regular old buttonholes, but what if you wanted bound buttonholes? Granted you can mark on a muslin first too, but I really do love this method as its very exact.

  13. What a brilliant tip! I have the gaping problem a lot so will definitely be putting it to use!!

  14. Well I just love the word gaposis!

    Great technique, thanks for posting. I'd never heard of Simflex either until now!

  15. Thanks so much for this tutorial! I love the idea of critical buttonhole. Just did buttons yesterday, and it all fits like a dream. It's nice to have one garment that I don't have to fuss with in the bust.

  16. [...] sewing started, and the button placement was helped infinitely and immensely by Sunni’s tutorial. I didn’t use a simflex, although it does look rather cool. Just found the crucial/critical [...]


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