womens/mens shirts

My company just gave out new shirts, and the buttons are backwards (womens style). Being a male, this is a bit disconcerting. Why do womens’ shirts button backwards?

But I didn’t find it.

Anyway, Cecil covered this in “Return of the Straight Dope.” It’s officially inconclusive. He presented *two stories of why they’re different, and did not ascribe a lot of credibility to either.

*1) Women were dressed by a handmaiden, and
2) It made breastfeeding easier.

I found it: Why do men’s and women’s shirts button on different sides?

Unca Cecil is skeptical, with good reason I think, since all the “explanations” are far-fetched. “[W]omen always breastfed with the left breast”? On which planet?

This seems to be one of the great unanswerables, but it’s definitely ingrained: I’ve seen sewing directions for an infant’s snowsuit that remind you to mount the snaps so it overlaps the “right” way, depending on whether you’re sewing for a boy or a girl :rolleyes:

I did a search on “buttons” before opening the thread, but nothing came up, unless I missed it.

According to everything I’ve heard, it is because of the Handmaiden thing.

Or it could be that women were all assumed to be left-handed because they’re the Instruments of Satan. :wink:

I agree with Blessedwolf; women’s blouses were designed to be un/buttoned by another person, presumably right-handed.

Maybe buttoned by your handmaiden and unbuttoned by your husband. But what do you do if your husband is left-handed? Wear men’s shirts?

I’ve always thought one of the sexiest things a woman can wear is a plain white men’s dress shirt.


Feldman, in his Imponderables books reaches the same non-conclusions.

However, one wag pointed out that the difference peaking into each other’s shirts when the man is driving and the woman is a passenger. 8^)

I’ve read Imponderables and Unca Cecil’s answer.

Breastfeeding theory doesn’t work for me for a couple
reasons. Many women used wet nurses. Thus, that button placementy would signify that you were a lower class woman and worked as a wet nurse. Secondly, my sister has a 3 month old daughter. The doctor and our mother both advised alternating breasts when feeding. A shirt that gives ready access to only one breast would not help with this.

Sure rich women were dressed by servants. So were rich men. Louis the fourteenth had servants do nearly every thing for him. So this explanation doesn't hold up.

 I have no evidence for my theory, but here it is: men's and women's clothing bitton differently so that we don't accidentally wear clothes designed for the opposite sex. Again look at the aristocracy, clothes were gilded, jeweled and covered in lace and ruffles whether made for men or women. Imagine some comment that the king seemed dressed in his wife's clothes. He is upset bu this, but doesn't want to give up his style of dress. So, he orders all his clothes to button on the right and his wife's to button on the left. The change in the royal wardrobe sets a fashion that continues today.

   No evidence, but fewer holes than other theories

I have heard that it has to do with men carying swords. I have no idea how that would make a difference though.

As long as that’s ALL they’re wearing;). Otherwise, it might just look goofy :eek:.

Yeah, seriously. Whoever came up with that has obviously never been around a nursing mother. Right and left always have to alternate.

There’s a Fulani proverb: "To bingel musini tollitai, endu bûtan" – “If a baby sucks from only one breast, the other will swell (painfully).”

That’s what I read in an old Peanuts book about collecting stuff. The reason was stated that because most people are right handed you can draw your sword with the right hand and unbutton your jacket with the left so you can remove it. I don’t think I have this book anymore though. it has to come from the 70s at least though since I had it as a kid.

The absolute Straight Dope and Last Word on Buttons and Buttoning Conventions

I started out trying to quote some of it, but realized that I’d have to quote the whole thing, which is a no-no.

Neat stuff.

women’s shirts button backwards because they had servants to dress them - the idea was that women were either too delicate or too stupid to know how to button a shirt (nevermind that the buttons were backwards for a lady’s shirt in the first place, which could screw you up) while men’s shirts button correctly because they’re apparently capable of dressing themselves…
this whole which-side-are-the-buttons-on deal never changed for the same reason the loop on the back of on a pair of overalls has never been done away with (the loop where carpenters would hang their wrench or hammer?) - why bother changing it now?