Cheongsam Fabric Styles and Techniques: Flower Buttons
Flower buttons are the decorative buttons and loops which are stitched to fasten the collar and lapel of the cheongsam. The designs and compositions vary from plain to intricate. Traditional designs include floral, animal and insect motifs, and auspicious symbols such as the gourd and the Chinese charater shou, which symbolise fertility and longevity respectively. The flower buttons on the collar and the front flap are more intricately designed while those are the side of the slit are usually of a simpler pattern such as a knot. Most of the flower buttons found on cheongsam were designed to complement the pattern of the fabric and sometimes were similar to the floral motifs found on the fabric.
The fabric used to make these buttons is usually the same as the cheongsam fabric, cut on the bias (diagonally across the stitch of the cloth). It is then stiffened with starch made from flour and water or with a fine wire inserted in between the fabric before it is twisted and swen together into the desired pattern. For more complicated designes, the buttons are stuffed with cotton to achieve the desired motif. Shanghaiese tailors, especially those from Fuzhou, were known for their skills in making flower buttons by hand. Flowers buttons were in integral part of the cheongsam design, especially in the 1930s and from the 1960s to the 1980s. Cheongsam with complex flower buttons were more expensive as they were all handmade. The declining popularity of cheongsam together with the retirement of Shanghaiese tailors by the 1980s meant the tailors and fashion designers now had to source these custom-made buttons from China.X