Types of Buttons used in Sewing (12 varieties)

“Moms are like buttons – they hold everything together”, says a quote. So true about buttons. The jury is still out on some moms!

A button is the most popular of all fasteners (a zipper may disagree). It is usually a small round disc, that secures an opening in garments, accessories and home decor. It is typically made of plastic but other materials are not uncommon. Other than functionality buttons are great as embellishment as well.

Button history

People in the Indus valley civilization used buttons on their clothing and you know how old they are (think 3300 BC). Since then, all through history, the rich wore clothes with buttons but the poor could not afford them – buttons were made of bronze, horn, shell, and other costly materials. Now rich and poor fasten their clothes with the same plastic and other easily available, very inexpensive buttons. Hail mass production.

Related posts : Different types of sewing fasteners; How to sew a Button. 

Different types of buttons

1. Plastic Buttons

plastic buttons

These are small plastic discs with four holes, made of Polyamide or Polyacrylonitrile.

Shirt Buttons – On most button-up shirts there will be 8 such plastic buttons, out of which one is fastened on the back of the packet as a spare. For button-down shirts, there will be two smaller buttons fastening the collar edges down.

Coat Buttons are plastic buttons which are bigger in size than the shirt buttons 

buttons with 4 holes

2. Metal Buttons

metal buttons

These are the sturdy buttons used on jeans and on leather garments. Jeans buttons and cuff links are metal buttons which are widely used. Check out this post on sewing a jeans button.

3. Shank buttons

different shank buttons

These buttons have a projection on the back of the button instead of the front holes in normal buttons.

4. Wooden Buttons

wooden buttons 

Buttons made of wood – not quite often used but they have a charm of their own. They are mostly decorative.

5. Fabric Buttons

fabric buttons

Buttons made with cloth or yarn. These are easy to make and are used as a decoration as well as a fastener. You can check out the posts on making the fabric buttons here and the Chinese frog fasteners 

Chinese Frog Fastener

Cloth Covered Buttons made with kits

cloth covered buttons

Imagine you want buttons in the same cloth as the dress you are making. Cloth button covering kits to your rescue. Just pass the buttons through the kit along with your fabric and you have neatly tucked fabric covered buttons. 

6. Toggle button

different types of toggle buttons

7. Press Buttons / Snap Buttons

different kinds of press stud buttons

Press buttons or press studs or snap buttons are very easy to use button fasteners and are usually used on kids’ clothes and bibs and back of adult garments. No fumbling with buttons to pry them out of the buttonholes.

These are sew-on-buttons but when you want to attach it to thick fabric or leather or vinyl you may need to buy a special tool for a no-sew option – you can search for snap setter hand plier on Amazon to buy these setting tools. These snaps are used on outdoor garments and furniture made of vinyl /plastic-like raincoats, lawn furniture, and pool covers.

They are made of brass and are nickel-plated or plastic which is painted. These snap studs come usually in a silver colour. But you also get them in all other colours which are usually painted. The buttons consist of two parts – a female part and a male part, which come together to snap and form your fastener.

You need to ensure that the buttons snap on securely. But when they are very secure and too tight it may be a problem as well, as it will be difficult to get it open. Well, you can’t win everything. More on attaching snap buttons here.

8. Decorative buttons

different types of decorative buttons

These include buttons made with special materials like beads, crystals, Pearls, lac, coconut shells, sea shells, wax, horns of different animals(Ivory) or buttons with interesting shapes. They may be functional but they sure are decorative

9. Shell Buttons

You can buy iridescent real shell buttons (from mother of pearl and abalone). They are very rare. These buttons are made of shells of shellfish which are handcarved or laser cut and painted and hand grilled for the holes.

10. Bead buttons

how to sew bead buttons

You can use beads as your buttons but you will have to prepare them a little for this functional use. Check out this tutorial to convert a bead to a button.

beaded buttons

This tutorial tells you how to make beaded buttons.

11. Novelty Buttons

novelty buttons

These are buttons in curious shapes and sizes. They are usually not functional. 

12. Screw on Buttons

screw on kurta buttons

These buttons have a small hole in the back and have screws with which to attach them to holes made on fabric. It can be used on materials that are difficult to sew – like leather, leather, etc. 

Related post : Different types of beads.

Different sized and holed buttons

Ligne is the standard measure for buttons. One ligne is equal to 0.635 mm or 0.025 inch and it indicates the diameter of a button. Buttons vary greatly according to the ligne. Professionals refer to buttons as 12L (Ligne) 14L etc. On shirts usually a 16 Ligne or higher button is used, On sleeves a 15 Ligne button and for button down shirts 12 ligne button on the collars. On pants the button is 24L.

Different holed buttons

This refers to the holes in the buttons. Most buttons have 4 holes but some come with 2 holes. On some these holes are on the back.

easy button sewing stitches

Related posts : 10 Different types of openings in clothes ; How to make buttonloops – 3 ways; How to sew a Button ; How to sew buttonholes with your sewing machine.

Updated on November 13, 2022 by Sarina Tariq


Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.

7 thoughts on “Types of Buttons used in Sewing (12 varieties)”

  1. would you know what the fasteners are called that went in the very old slickers? They have to prongs to go into one side of coat that wraps around a small metal piece. On the other side of coat there are open rivets, into which this black metal end goes into and turns to secure..

  2. When I was young, I remember calling shank buttons by another name but cannot recall what it was. Any suggestions?

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