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Steve54r
527861.  Wed Mar 25, 2009 6:57 pm Reply with quote

Is there a reason why male garments have their buttons fixed on the right and female garments have their buttons fixed on the left, as in mans shirts and womens blouses

 
bobwilson
527882.  Wed Mar 25, 2009 7:14 pm Reply with quote

I really hate it when someone posts a sensible question ;)

 
Neotenic
527885.  Wed Mar 25, 2009 7:18 pm Reply with quote

In the event that a chap has cause to unbutton a womens blouse whilst facing her, is it to prevent him from getting confused?

 
Posital
527886.  Wed Mar 25, 2009 7:18 pm Reply with quote

Don't zippers also work on this principle?

 
suze
527899.  Wed Mar 25, 2009 7:35 pm Reply with quote

What a great question - and I don't think it's one that these forums have ever considered before.

Here are three answers which I've found on the Interweb - I certainly don't claim that any of them is correct.

1. In the olden days, women were dressed by their maids or nannies, while men dressed themselves. Because most people are right handed, the men's way of arranging shirt buttons is easier for most people - and hence the women's way is easier when you're buttoning someone else's shirt facing her.

2. Women riding horseback traditionally rode side saddle facing left (the Queen still does it, though very few others any more). If her shirt were buttoned the men's way, if it become unbuttoned in the wind then her bust would be on display to following riders. Buttoned the women's way, only riders coming in the opposite direction would be in the line of sight - and a woman rider would in any case check herself for decency if she saw riders approaching from the opposite direction.

3. It was deliberately arranged so by men to make it harder for women to do up their buttons, thus enforcing male superiority.

All three are probably utter balls ...

 
JumpingJack
527900.  Wed Mar 25, 2009 7:37 pm Reply with quote

Hi Steve

Welcome to QI.

A quick Google produces this fairly convincing answer:

Quote:
The placement of men's and women's shirt buttons, left or right goes back to where the buttons were originally placed on the garment, front or back. Men's clothing always buttoned in the front and the buttons were set up to give a right handed man the easiest way to button his shirt. Women's buttons were originally placed in the back. They therefore had to have someone button their buttons for them. In order to make it easier for the person buttoning up the woman, the buttons had to be placed on the left instead of the right. By the time women's buttons were place in the front of the garment, women's clothing makers were already accustomed to placing the buttons on the left hand side.


http://www.stupidquestionsanswered.com/answered/buttons.htm

 
JumpingJack
527904.  Wed Mar 25, 2009 7:44 pm Reply with quote

There's also this from Straight Dope:

Quote:
Buttoning left over right--the man's way--is supposedly easiest for right-handed people. According to legend, women button right over left because in medieval times they were dressed by their right-handed maids. Don't buy it? Can't say as I blame you, but the alternative explanation is no improvement: men had to keep their right hand tucked into their coats so as to be ready for cold-weather swordplay, whereas women always breastfed with the left breast (hey, that's what it says here) and protected their babies by covering them with the right side of the dress or coat.


The telling detail I like from the previous answer is that the reason the buttons are reversed is because women's buttons were generally on the back of the garment, which is why someone else (not necessarily a maid) had to help. Don't know if this is true, but the fact that I still have to zip up Mrs Jumping's dress for her suggests that it might well be.

http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/635/why-do-mens-and-
womens-shirts-button-on-different-sides

 
JumpingJack
527905.  Wed Mar 25, 2009 7:45 pm Reply with quote

True or not, I agree with suze - really interesting question.

 
bobwilson
527907.  Wed Mar 25, 2009 7:46 pm Reply with quote

None of that seems entirely satisfactory.

suze's first

Quote:
1. In the olden days, women were dressed by their maids or nannies


Reminds me of Ulrike Meinhof's retort to an article by the Shah of Iran's wife which had stated "in my country most people like to go to the beach". Only a comparatively very few women would have maids or nannies to dress them.

Quote:
2. Women riding horseback traditionally rode side saddle facing left (the Queen still does it, though very few others any more). If her shirt were buttoned the men's way, if it become unbuttoned in the wind then her bust would be on display to following riders. Buttoned the women's way, only riders coming in the opposite direction would be in the line of sight - and a woman rider would in any case check herself for decency if she saw riders approaching from the opposite direction.


How would a breast be visible to a following rider? And if a woman would "in any case check herself for decency" it's meaningless.

I'm going to ignore suggestion 3.

As for JJ's suggestion. That also doesn't make sense. If you completely redesign a garment so that the fastenings are on the front instead of the back it seems unlikely that you'd retain an arbitrary relationship of position.

As a man, it feels wrong when I try to put on a shirt with the buttons placed incorrectly - surely it must feel wrong to women as well?

 
suze
527911.  Wed Mar 25, 2009 7:55 pm Reply with quote

3. is well worth ignoring, I think!

The point with 2. is that a woman riding horseback has eyes forward, so can't necessarily see if there's anyone behind her. But if someone is coming the other way, she does see him and automatically checks that she is decent. And I can see the point being suggested - if I were riding side saddle and the right half of my shirt blew open, then a man riding behind me would see my right breast. If it were the left side that blew open, he would see nothing.

On 1, you make a fair point - for sure, most people wouldn't have had maids or nannies. But they who made the rules of etiquette did, and those are the people who decided that women's shirts ought to have the buttons on the other side.

Jack's first suggestion is comparable, and seems fair to me - I don't wear that kind of dress very often, but if I do then for sure I have to get husband to do it up for me.

 
nitwit02
527913.  Wed Mar 25, 2009 7:56 pm Reply with quote

Clear discrimination towards left-handed guys.

 
Sadurian Mike
527914.  Wed Mar 25, 2009 7:59 pm Reply with quote

On a related note; corsets that laced at the front were originally associated with common folk because it indicated that they had no maid to help them dress.

 
bobwilson
527915.  Wed Mar 25, 2009 8:00 pm Reply with quote

Quote:
On 1, you make a fair point - for sure, most people wouldn't have had maids or nannies. But they who made the rules of etiquette did, and those are the people who decided that women's shirts ought to have the buttons on the other side.


But that doesn't explain the persistence. Those who made the rules of etiquette also dictated many other things that have disappeared.

I bet this Steve54r is a newcomer isn't he. The newcomers always stir up trouble. ;)

 
suze
527921.  Wed Mar 25, 2009 8:07 pm Reply with quote

Sadurian Mike wrote:
On a related note; corsets that laced at the front were originally associated with common folk because it indicated that they had no maid to help them dress.


That makes a certain amount of sense.

I know a few women who put their bra on back to front, fasten it, and then swivel it around their body. It's always seemed a slightly odd way of doing it to me, but clearly there are many who find it difficult to fasten a bra behind their back.

 
JumpingJack
527923.  Wed Mar 25, 2009 8:11 pm Reply with quote

This was indeed Steve's first post.

And given the level of comment it has generated, it deserves an upgrade to Interestrings...

 

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