Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Placement of Brace Buttons

Buttons should be aligned with the pleats,
marked by the red dots
Now that we've covered off that braces should be worn with buttons (see previous post), where should the buttons be placed?

Placement of buttons is critically important to wearing braces. It determines where the brace straps lie and the line of the pants. In fact, you can probably notice a man wearing braces with a suit even when he has his jacket on, by the way the pant line cuts down the middle (when worn with pleated pants).  Buttons that are too close to the mid-section are uncomfortable and get in the way; too far apart, and the buttons do not adequately support the pleat and pant lines. This is true for both the front and back of the pants.

Alan Fusser correctly notes that there should be four buttons in the front: one over each of the main pleats, the other two just forward of the side seam. Depending on the brace connection, I find that 3.5-4 inches from pleat to side seam is comfortable and provides superior support. In the back, there should be two buttons (for Y-back and X-back style), equidistant from the center of the fork of the braces, so it falls naturally. Here it depends on the style of braces you plan to wear – Y-back braces require buttons closer together (about 2 inches on each side of the middle seam) while buttons for X-back braces should be spaced a little farther apart. I’ve found that 3-4 inches on each side of middle seam is comfortable. There is also a variety that has 4 buttons in the back for X-back braces:


Button placement and clip placement on the front
The placement of the buttons in the front of the pants is critical to supporting the line of the pants. To illustrate Alan Fusser's advice above, here are 2 pictures:
The one on the left has the buttons too close to the center and does pulls from the middle. The one on the right has the buttons placed too far to the side, supporting the side seam, but the main seam will sag. Therefore, there is a balance that should be achieved. The main seam is most visible and should be supported first, followed by the side seam. Depending on the size of the pants and size of the leather brace loop, you may be able to support both the main and side seam with the braces, such as in this photo:
What if you are wearing clip-on suspenders - where do you place the clip? This is precisely the problem with clip-on suspenders - they do not adequately support the pants. You must compromise and place the clips either on the main seam or the the middle between the main seam and side seam. Try a number of locations and see what feels most comfortable for you.

Button placement and clip placement on the back
Just as the placement of the buttons on the front is important, it is even more important on the back. This is generally the place where newbie suspender-wearers get confused, as they will likely be wearing X-back style, and attach the clips either too close together or too far apart on the waistline:
1. If the buttons are too close together, you can get a wedgie.
2. If the buttons are too far along the pant waist, the pants will not be supported properly and will be uncomfortable when rotating.

Also, if the clips are too far apart, you may cause the waistline to bulge outward, ruining the flat line.

Therefore, it is critical that you determine the right balance for the rear buttons along the waistline. They should be equidistant from the center of the rear seam, but not too far that they create a bulge out. This exact distance depends on the size of the individual, the position of the back junction, and length of the back straps, so this will vary by suspenders and braces. Here is an example of appropriate distance of the straps at the rear:


Buttons inside or outside?
The buttons may be sewn inside or outside the waistband, depending upon personal preference. Historically, when vests were worn and concealed the braces, the buttons were sewn on the outside. When people started shedding vests, the buttons migrated to the inside. I personally don’t notice a difference when wearing braces on the outside or inside, but you may. As for fashion, I think it can be very stylish to display the brace buttons on the outside of your pants or skirt. However, it can be distracting if the pants also have belt loops.

Wearing belts and braces at the same time - biggest newbie blunder
Pants / skirts to be worn with braces should not be worn in with a belt. You don’t need both a belt and braces to perform the same function of holding up your pants / skirt. There is redundancy here, in addition to looking bad. Therefore, the wearer must decide how to wear the pants – with braces or with a belt.


Belt Loops
Therefore, pants to be worn with braces should not accommodate a belt and so should have no belt loops (or be removed). Pants to be worn with braces should be a little larger at the waist so that they are actually "suspended" from the shoulders. 


The skirt on the right is too large
around the waist; on the left is
perfect size.

The front side of the skirt from the left picture displays
the correct waist size, button placement and suspension
(unfortunately the brace material is deteriorating)
I understand that the majority of suit pants and skirts are made ready to wear, and the majority of society does not wear braces. As such, the majority of pants and skirts come with belt loops, and so people leave them on when wearing braces (even with buttons). However, if you are to be functionally correct, the belt loops should be removed. Think of it like wearing a cuff-link shirt with no cuff-links – you know something’s missing. 

Don't follow his example. Not only does he have belt loops, he also has poor button placement - they are not aligned with the pleats and are too close to the center.


Types of buttons
While we are discussing button placement, we should also discuss buttons for braces. Brace buttons should:
  • have 4 holes (rather than 2) to anchor the button to the pants. This provides proper support.
  • be cone-shaped on the side facing the brace strap. If a straight button is used, the button threads will start to dig into the leather brace strap when tension is applied and cut it from the button hole on the brace strap. Eventually, or with enough force, the button hole will break open and the braces will lose tension. The button may still be attached, but the brace strap is unusable as the button hole is ripped open. To avoid this situation, cone-shaped buttons should be used. 
  • match the inside lining of the pants if they are on the inside. If the buttons are on the outside, feel free to sew on decorative buttons or ones that match the pattern.

A word on buttons popping off
One of the chief advantages put forth by the proponents of clip-on suspenders is that there is no buttons popping off – once a clip snaps off you can easily reattach it. While this is true, it misses the point of using buttons for braces and the style benefits of buttons. 

Significant stress is usually needed to
pop-off buttons
Balance is needed when determining the strength of the button threads to anchor braces – too strong and the brace strap will break from pressure resulting in the braces not being usable, too weak and the button threads will be constantly failing and buttons popping-off, resulting in the need to sew on the buttons. Contrary to belief, buttons popping off is not poor design. In fact, braces are attached with buttons to allow them to pop off under significant stress to save the brace loop button holes and ultimately the braces. I would rather have a popped button than a broken button hole on the brace loop, resulting in the braces being unusable. Therefore, use the right thread weight and strength when sewing on the buttons. I’ve generally found that about 3 threads through each button hole is sufficient.


The brace buttons that generally pop off are the back ones. This is because they experience the most strain in tension. Consider this turn of events from a Stan Laurel movie in 1924:

The man has lost both his back suspender buttons and is unable to use his braces to hold up his pants. However, the brace loop button holes are intact, so all he needs is new buttons to be sewn on to use his braces again. Also notice the durability of the left button - only popping off after significant pressure. So unless someone has the braces in their firm grip and pulling them, they generally do not pop-off. Clip-on suspenders snap off and would need to be constantly attached, which is annoying - your pants are not held up when your suspender clips keep snapping off! The fact is, clip-on suspenders would have snapped off a lot sooner than the buttons popped off. Therefore, use buttons whenever possible.

Here's a cute poem:


Roll-over
When sewing on buttons on the inside, the braces will pull-up the pants (doing their assigned task), and you may get the dreaded roll-over
To avoid this, make sure the button threads are sewn almost completely through the pants and get the majority of the pant lining. It may also help to put the button on the upper portion of the pant lining. You may also consider sewing completely through the pants using the same color thread as the pant material. Or, simply sew the buttons on the outside...

Gary Cooper displays excellent button placement and style.
If there is one area that separates newbie brace wearers from seasoned veterans, it is in button placement. An expert brace wearer can tell the moment they see someone wearing braces if they are worn correct or not. So take note of these important details for  the next time you sew on buttons or wear braces.

Discussion time:
  • Where do you find button placement to be most comfortable?
  • Do you prefer buttons on the inside or outside?
  • Do you find your buttons are popping off?
  • Have any humorous stories of buttons popping off?

Note: all photos are used solely for non-commercial use and to illustrate braces in fashion. No plagiarism is intended.

35 comments:

  1. This is thoroughly useful information.

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  2. Glad to be of service! Please spread the news to people that wear braces.

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  3. I find that my pants are most comfortable with the buttons placed on the inside of the waist band.As to the placement of the buttons I prefer them to be towards the middle as opposed to the extreme side or too close to the front.The idea of the buttons being placed away from the main seam is that when you have your suit coat open then nobody can tell that you are wearing braces. I find this to be foolish, when you come think about this then the fact is when people see that you are not wearing a belt then you must be wearing braces.

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  4. My husband recently inherited a bunch of pants and I need braces buttons. Where do I find them?

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  5. Hi Roxie,

    Glad to hear your husband will be wearing braces with his pants! The buttons will depend on the type of pants. You can use metal rivets for jeans, and there's a variety of casual or fancy buttons for dress pants. You can order rivets online at hanksclothing.com or buttons at wardrobesupplies.com or sewtrue.com. Any local sewing store should also have them available. Just remember to get buttons with 4 holes, cone-shaped, and similar color to the pant lining.

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  6. I made the mistake of trying to use metal rivets for my hiking pants suspenders. Bad idea! My backpack's hip belt grabs the edges of the rivets and digs them into my skin. No fun at all.

    My question now is: what kind/weight/spec. thread should I use to sew suspender buttons where the old rivets used to go?

    Thanks In Advance!

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  7. Yes, metal rivets wreak havoc on pants and are generally not recommended. Try to get a high thread count (150+). Aside from that, it comes down to how the button is sewn into the pants and the amount of stress put on it that will keep it attached.

    Remember, just because a button pops off doesn't mean it's not serving its purpose - it saved the pant lining from being ripped from the undue stress.

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  8. This tells me more about button placement than I care to know; but thanks for excellent information.

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  9. Having worn suspender buttons for more than 30 years to hold up my pants, I find it increasingly difficult to find sources that can teach me how to attach them on the inside of my pants without the thread going all the way through the pants. How is this done? I learn better through pictures, so describing it helps but a picture or two would be great.

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    1. @Traveling to France: Having worn braces for over 30 years, you've probably seen your fair share of suspender buttons. You are right that the thread should not be visible on the waistband material. However, if the thread is not sewn through the lining in the waistline, you will get the button pulling away from the pants causing the "roll-over" effect. The seamstress will need to find the right depth of sewing the threads as close as possible to the exterior material, but not so close as to go through it.
      I hope to do a post shortly that describes how to sew buttons onto pants, so stay tuned!

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  10. Concerning "BRACES" (or SUSPENDERS),as the americans call them,I remember visiting the Eifel Tower in Paris Last year,and on each pillar (4 alltogether),you've got shops selling souvenirs,and amongst them there were lovely large and thick black leather clip on pant suspenders with buckles and huge metalic clips,in front they are strait,and behind they have the shape of the eifel tower with even more huge metalic clips,and since I've being wearing them with my black jeans everybody dig's them,and asked me where I got them,anyway I feel great in them,and more thet go for women just as for men,such a great feeling when you've got them on!

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  11. Hello, I was wondering if there was a name for those kinds of buttons, and what size should I look for? Thank you! Love your blog.

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    1. @Zack: There's no specific name for these kinds of buttons other than "suspender buttons". Tailors, even at high-end stores, don't seem to know the details of suspender buttons - their cone-shaped back to allow the brace tab to pull the button rather than cause the thread to cut into the tab, or that 4 holes in the button is better than 2. Many tailors suggest that any button is suitable, and while it is true, it won't serve you well when the pressure is on to keep your pants up!

      Suspender buttons should be between 1/2" and 5/8" in size to fit in the brace tab. They should be stylish but functional.

      Thanks for the encouragement on the blog - share it with others!

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    2. Thank you! I happened to find some at JoAnn's by LaMode thanks to a member from Ask Andy. They are simply called (yes, you guessed it) suspender buttons! $1.75 for six or you can buy bulk on amazon for around $10 (144 buttons). I never sewed before and it's SUPER easy to add these buttons I must say. Looks muuuch cooler than clip ons!

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    3. @Zack: Glad your hunt was a success! 144 buttons is a lot of pants (24 to be precise). Buttons look so much better and classy than clip-ons. I recommend them for all your pants. Enjoy wearing braces!

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  12. Hi

    Is it a terrible thing to have belt loops and braces? I mean I cant find any trousers without belt loops

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    1. @Anonymous: Wearing braces with belt loops is not the end of the world, and currently is very difficult to find. I sometimes wear trousers with braces that have empty belt loops. The key is to remember to not wear a belt with braces.

      The empty-belt-loop look may seem like a small detail, but its in the details that braces-wearers are known for. They enjoy the satisfaction of having their trousers held in place throughout the day, with the strategic button placement that clip-on suspenders does not provide.

      Finding trousers without belt loops is likely a losing cause, but you can ask for it on suit pants.

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    2. A seamstress/taylor that can sew on brace buttons can usually remove the loops - if you so desire. It's a matter of pulling the stitch and then resewing it. It does take some time, and there are a large number of them, so you decide how "attentive to detail" vs thrifty you want to be.

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  13. And did I mention how friggin awesome this blog is? Much appreciated for a wealth of into regarding this! Im 26 years old and intend on bringing the old school braces back in trend ;-)

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  14. Appreciate the support! Enjoy wearing braces - I'm holding out for the trend to stay.

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  15. "Alan Fusser correctly notes that there should be four buttons in the front: one over each of the main pleats, the other two just forward of the side seam. Depending on the brace connection, I find that 3.5-4 inches from pleat to side seam is comfortable and provides superior support."

    For those of us of a larger build for whom front pleats are a no-no, what would be your suggestion for button placement. I've seen references to the fold line then 2-3" further outward for the second and this is they way I currently have them but they just don't quite feel right. With 6" between the fold line and the side seam should I go for something around a 4" spread?

    Thanks from a recent braces convert.

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    1. @David: Yes, you are correct that those of a larger build need a larger spread between the brace buttons on the front and on the rear. As outlined above,the first step (and most critical for the lie of the trousers) is to align the brace button nearest the center seam to be directly in line with the main seam. Some trousers (namely Flat front trousers) do not have seams but there will still be a line that provides a line down the trouser leg. This is where the first brace button should be located. The next button should be as far along the waistline as comfortable - smaller framed people find that 3-4" is sufficient, larger framed people should use 4-5" from the first brace button.
      The placement of the second button along the waist seam is also a function of the brace tabs. Some braces have larger loops to accommodate larger frames. I would recommend purchasing these braces.

      At the rear, the button placement will be equal distance from the center seam. Depending on the type of braces (X-back or Y-back), the buttons may need to be closer or farther apart. X-back braces allow the buttons to be positioned farther apart than Y-back braces, and thus are preferable for larger framed people. X-back braces provide a broader span across the rear waistline to support the trousers, reducing the trousers from sloping down on the sides and periodic wedgie.

      Trust this helps as you determine where to put brace buttons in your trousers. Thanks for asking!

      Glad to hear you are a recent braces convert! Wear them with pride.

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  16. I'm having trouble with the material to which the button is attached tearing away. The button is intact it is the fabric that has failed. I attach the buttons to the top of the waistband. The pants are cotton or hemp denim. The waistband construction is simple folded material. I sew the buttons through both layers using the topstitching holes to hide the button thread. I use a needle threader and have four strands of cotton three times.

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    1. @Ilona: Thanks for your question - I'm here to help!

      If the brace buttons are causing the fabric to pull away from the waistband, I have 2 suggestions:
      1. consider sewing the brace buttons on the outside of the pants, rather than the inside. Then you can attach a second button directly opposite the outside button but on the inside. This allows the outside button to be enforced by the inside button and have less pull on the fabric.
      2. consider sewing more strands of thread to attach the button onto the waistband. Rather than 3 strands, try 6-8.
      If these don't work, ask a tailor.

      You mention that the pant material is cotton/hemp denim, so the material should be dense enough to withstand the pull of the buttons.

      Hope this helps! Keep me updated.

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  17. I really enjoyed the information about braces on your page, but the place that talks about how the button holes are in tack was distracting, for they are intact instead.

    In tack is instead used when referring to horses and the equipment that they wear.

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  18. Hi Everyone,
    I have been wearing braces on and off for over 40 years more on than off recently (aged 56 ) I have tried all kinds over the years, clip ons and button. I would say that button on is more or less more comfortable although I had a pair of clip ons purchased in 1983 ( H back ) which were supremely comfortable probably because they were stretched and worn in.
    Unfortunately I discarded these for a new pair which were nowhere near as comfy, I now have various pairs of which button on are the most comfy but as trousers generally don't come with buttons any more I have to wear clip ons sometimes. I have to ask my wife or her sis. to sew the buttons on for me and it's not always possible to get the correct buttons as you describe in you website. ( I will look for them on the web )
    The upshot is that braces are the best and most comfortable way of holding up your trousers, but one word of advice wear an extra long shirt or t shirt otherwise it will ride up and out of your trousers or jeans.
    Happy braces wearing boys and girls.

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    1. @Anonymous: Thanks for the comments from a life-long wearer of braces. I'm glad to hear that you find button-on braces far more comfortable than the clip-on suspenders. I make this argument in a previous post on Clip-ons versus buttons. Button-on braces have more anchor points to the pants than clip-on suspenders - 6 to 8 versus 3 to 4. The more anchors to the pants, the less pull on any specific one of them.

      Additionally, the design of brace loops help shift the pull of the straps. When you wear braces with inverted-U loops (compared to inverted-V loops), the brace strap glides along the loop to accommodate your body's movement. This makes for a very comfortable experience that you soon forget you are wearing braces!

      That said, it is sometimes very difficult to find a pair of very comfortable braces. People that wear braces, and find a great pair, seem to keep them for life!

      Thanks for your tip on the long shirt. There is another option in shirt stays. Have you tried them before? What brands do you find work best?

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    2. I discovered a terribly unfashionable system in America, which attaches braces to the belt! But it worked well and I recently saw it on sale in the UK at Amazing Braces on the Internet.
      Solves the problem of loosening clips and the need to add buttons. And it keeps my trousers up.

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    3. Yes, I've come across a similar design made by Perry Suspenders. I agree that it occupies the belt loops and avoids the hassles of snapped clips or popped buttons. But it doesn't look very fashionable or stylish. It looks like the wearer is trying to hold everything together, rather than holding up your pants in a decent fashion. I would steer clear of them.

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  19. Hi Back to braces

    I too can recommend the long shirt tip. Never got on with shirt stays, but an easier method is to tuck your shirt into your underpants, since as you are wearing braces, they will not show above your waistband. My Grandad gave me this tip, which comes from when underpants did not have elastic waists, and so needed the support of braces to keep them up via brace tapes. I use this method more in winter, since it does keep you warmer.

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    1. Thanks for the tips. If this worked back in the day, then it must work now!

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  20. I have 2 questions. 1 - If I leave the belt lipids on, can I still put the buttons on the outside? And 2 - If I have them on the outside, can the buttons be lighter than the pants? My pants are black and the buttons that came with my suspenders are beige.

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    1. Belt loops, not lipids. Sorry for that typo.

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    2. Good questions - thanks for asking.

      While this may seem like a minor point, it's not. It is important to understand why belt loops and suspender buttons conflict. Pants are designed differently for those worn with a belt than those worn with braces. Pants worn with a belt sit on the hips and are rest lower on the body (what's called a "low rise" - the distance from the crotch to the top of the pants). Pants to be worn with braces sit at the waist (at or above the navel). These pants have a higher rise. In addition, pants worn with braces are looser at the waist to allow the braces to suspend the pants. Whereas pants worn with a belt are clinched at the waist and generally tight-fitting.

      Because of these differences in the design of pants, its almost impossible to switch from wearing a belt to braces (or vice versa) without looking silly. Low rise pants with braces looks terrible. I applaud you for wanting to sew suspender buttons onto your pants, but the first question is to ensure you have the right style of pants for braces. Once you confirm you have the design, the pants may have belt loops as most retailers today think people wear belts, not braces. This was not always the case.

      To answer your questions, once you have the correct design of pants for braces you can sew buttons either on the outside or inside. If the buttons go on the outside, the belt loops may interfere with the placement of the buttons, and generally looks conflicting. It is frowned upon but not forbidden. I would recommend sewing them on the inside of the pants. If one goes through the effort to sew on suspender buttons, why not spend the extra time or money to remove the belt loops? It will improve the overall look of the outfit.

      As for the color of buttons, it is recommended, but not essential, to have a color similar to the pants color. This allows the buttons on the outside to blend in to the pants. However, if you are wishing to highlight the buttons, go with the different color.

      Ultimately the placement and color, and numerous other considerations to wearing braces, comes down to your personal style and taste. Be content and show your personality!

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  21. Hi there. I'm a leather worker and just got my first pair of trousers made for braces - Y back with buttons in the right places. I managed to find a pair of Y back button braces at a charity shop but they are mostly elastic. Do you have any tips or patterns on how to make a good leather pair?

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