Don't tell my boyfriend, but I like to buy clothes. Big clothes, small clothes, plain clothes, clothes far too flamboyant for me (usually this includes anything close to color and definitely all print but pinstripe), cheap clothes, "aspirational" clothes. And often, sewn into seams or pinned on the label, are spare buttons.
I first noticed the accumulation of these buttons early in my $255-a-month apartment days -- when the cheap rent offset my vice; I think I spent a few seconds planning some self-reflexive art/craft project built around buttons.
But I suppose it became just part of life to snip the teeny ziplock bags or envelopes of spare buttons out of clothes and toss them in a drawer -- I hadn't thought about it again until I pulled a jersey blazer out of the closet and decided I'd like it much more if I replaced the horrible bright yellow plastic "gold" buttons with a crafty-chic array of spare buttons.
So I started pulling them from the sewing box, then from the office supply box, then the pencil box, the bathroom drawers, the nightstand, the jewelry box -- everywhere, buttons! For a few minutes, I was Crazy Button Lady, next-door neighbor to Crazy Cat Lady.
Then it was time to inspect my unintentional collection. Big buttons, small buttons, mostly browns and whites and blacks, blacks, blacks. I poured them over the table methodically till I pulled one from an envelope with a tag reading $79.99, and I thought, "I spent $80 on something, and I don't even recognize the button." A little pearl, two giant mottled brown ones, a hot pink one, were also unfamiliar.
But there were some I knew, a wooden shank button from a Brooks Brothers sweater, a fabric-covered button from a grey jacket I visited twice in the store before buying, a tiny gold button from a Levi's sweater that looked pretty great on, a Marc Jacobs button I felt compelled to leave in the labeled envelope.
I spread them over the table, organized them by size then color, to select 11 to sew into my jacket sleeves and placket. The collection was a tiny history of my college and post-college wardrobe, punctuation marks from the past 6 years. It could represent consumerism or identity-formation, marketing gimmicks, or the steadfastness of my insecurity (so sure was I that I'd lose all my original buttons). But I sewed my buttons, and I felt safely between these places -- not quite college insecure anymore, not quite Crazy Button Lady yet.