The micro-trend that’s pushing some very big buttons


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In fashion, we often talk of micro-trends. And sometimes, they involve very big things.

The 1980s had shoulder pads, the 1990s had logos, and this season, the button has copped the super-size treatment.

Pushing all the right buttons … Model and blogger Alexandra Lapp in a vintage Chanel sweater and Self Portrait skirt. Photo: Christian Vierig

With fashion in the grip of an oversized moment, which seems to be lasting several seasons, it was only a matter of time before our accoutrement went XL.

Last year, the humble zipper was the hero. After designers spent decades perfecting the invisible zip, it was back in all its exposed glory, on everything from jumpers to evening dresses.

Who could resist the gleam of a massive exposed pull tab – did you know that’s the industry term for the thing that makes the zip go up and down? Neither did I – on the back of a $2000 Alex Perry dress?

It was a win for consumers, who had spent countless dollars repairing invisible zips when those delicate monsters became slightly less invisible.

Cute as a button ... Lea Michele in Michael Kors.

Cute as a button … Lea Michele in Michael Kors. Photo: PG/Bauer-Griffin

But that’s all 2016’s story. This season, the button is having its moment.

And like the zipper trend, many of the buttons we are seeing this season serve absolutely no practical purpose – except to look good.

Sara Donaldson, of The Undone and author of the Harper and Harley blog, believes buttons make the perfect embellishment for a minimalist wardrobe.

“Button embellishments become the hero on a streamlined silhouette and minimal colour palette. Keep it to one clean line of buttons for isolated impact,” she says.

A model in the Christopher Esber show at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Australia.

A model in the Christopher Esber show at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Australia. Photo: Getty Images

Think about it. A single line of buttons down a skirt hem creates intrigue. On a shoulder, it draws the eye to the neck, one of the most sensual parts of the body.

Donaldson says locally, Christopher Esber has built a solid following for his resin button detailing, while Kym Ellery has also “dabbled” in tortoise shell, pearl and gold finishing in her button detailing.

“We’ve also seen high street brands pick up this trend with a Mango white dress with dark contrasting buttons going viral over the northern hemisphere summer,” Donaldson says.

Whereas Esber’s summer 2016 collection had buttons in marine blue and tortoiseshell, this winter he played with monochrome pieces, the simple white buttons popping against architectural pieces in a heavy stretch fabric.

Bright as a button ... Olivia Palermo in a Banana Republic dress at the CFDA Fashion Awards.

Bright as a button … Olivia Palermo in a Banana Republic dress at the CFDA Fashion Awards. Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris

In his forthcoming resort collection shown in Sydney in May and hitting stores in August, Esber has taken a more subtle approach, using clear buttons on a neutral “trench skirt” with deep pockets that plays several trends in perfect harmony.

On the spring/summer 2017 catwalks overseas, buttons were a key feature in collections from Louis Vuitton and Altuzarra, the latter showing an asymmetric military-style skirt that is spawning a thousand imitations. One of the best mid-priced versions is by Self Portrait (available soon in Australia at David Jones), which built its reputation on its edgy lace pieces but has a button-through skirt with a diagonal split that is way more versatile.  Wear it with a white T-shirt and you’re set.

Another stylish way to wear an exaggerated button that can take you from day to night is in the classic black and gold combination, which we’ve seen recently from Michael Kors (and worn by Glee star Lea Michele), and locally from Feathers, which is celebrating 45 years in the business with its On Command collection.

“We knew there was a whole military vibe coming through, but we wanted to take it to the next level. We wanted added sophistication – our signature Milano fabric and the gold buttons gives it that extra finesse,” says the brand’s founder, Margaret Porritt.

Roger that.

Six of the best

Self Portrait at, $390 (approx).

Self Portrait at, $390 (approx).

Christopher Esber at The Undone, $483.

Christopher Esber at The Undone, $483.

Forever New, $100.

Forever New, $100.

Country Road, $80.

Country Road, $80.

Marni at, $789 (approx).

Marni at, $789 (approx). 

Givenchy at, $3091.

Givenchy at, $1235.

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