Alternate History

Clothing fasteners (Caroline Era)

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One of the major fashion trends of the Caroline Era, along with the reduction in gender differences between garments, is the change in types of fasteners used and the development of new fasteners.

Plain White Movement

(Main article: Plain White Movement)

In the late New Elizabethan Era, most of the fasteners were in common use, including buttons, press studs, zips, laces and velcro, though silent velcro had yet to be invented. By contrast, the Plain White trend was partly characterised by a complete absence of any kind of fastening. Clothes were almost totally unadorned and part of this, rather like the Amish trend, was that at first they were the likes of simple tunics or white T-shirts with elasticated trousers and slip-on shoes, which was intended to be a fashion statement about the simplicity of John Lennon's nutopian messge. While this trend is now long gone, two of its legacies were the erosion of gendered clothing and the disappearance of buttons.


These were small objects sewn onto garments and intended to slip through a slit or loop on another edge of fabric in order to hold them together. They appeared in the West in the thirteenth century and continued for many hundreds of years before they finally disappeared from mainstream clothing in the mid-'80s. They had the advantage of being easily replaced if one was to fall off, which was probably a factor in their demise as it meant that clothing was less disposable and therefore less profitable to manufacturers. There was a convention that women's buttons were on the left hand side of garments and men's on the right. Also, women's clothing usually lacked buttons entirely until Georgian times.

Buttons are no longer popular. They are found on dress uniforms and are sometimes found on clothing worn by members of conservative Christian churches, and in re-enactment settings or period drama, but carry an aura of quaintness similar to that of dresses. Their image is somewhat similar to that of kipper ties and flares, though clearly the fact they were worn for longer also gives them a sort of venerable image. The gender difference was a further factor in their demise.

Anyone born since about 1985 has probably never worn anything with buttons and most people attempting to fasten them nowadays find them fiddly and difficult to use.


Although it is associated with the "space age', velcro was in fact invented before Sputnik and is of early New Elizabethan vintage. However, it was first prominently used by the first astronauts as a fastening for space suits. It replaced laces and buckles on footwear and is also fairly commonly used in long strips as up to full-length closures for larger garments such as shirts.

There is also a silent variety with similar purposes, consisting of hooverene strips honeycombed with hexagonal pits on one side and slightly mushroom-shaped bumps on the other. These stick together readily and are stronger than traditional velcro. They are also slightly harder to undo but are now more popular than the original.

Velcro is the second most popular fastener.

Hooks and Eyes

These are used at the top of closures where buttons would have been used previously and they also replace buttons on some clothing such as formal shirts. They are more common on inner than outerwear.

Press Studs

These were for a while almost as unpopular as buttons due to their similar physical appearance. They have now reappeared in a modified form - they are square or rectangular. Round press studs are still used at present.

Zip Fasteners

The "new buttons". Although they were invented in late Victorian times, zips were not widely used for several decades. They were promoted as a way of helping children dress themselves and took a while to catch on because they were considered too risque for women. Late Elizabethan clothes frequently featured zips and since about 1992 they have been the most popular fastener. Clothing which would previously have been button-up is now generally zip-up, and this even applies to formal wear.

A feature taken from the Mars Suit is the "upside down" zip fastener, which closes as the slider is moved downwards rather than upwards. Even some high-neck zips are like this. Another influence of the Mars suit is the airtight zip, which is sheathed in plastic and somewhat rigid. This has been addressed by contouring the course of the zip to the line of the body along which it runs, a feature which has become fashionable.

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