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Readers,

If you love buttons as I do, what’s it like to go to a place like M & J Trimming, which has thousands of choices? Dazzling and overwhelming!

Choices galore at M & J Trimming, even before you step into the store.

Choices galore at M & J Trimming, even before you step into the store. (Photo: Cynthia DeGrand)

On previous visits to M & J I would stop in just to have the proverbial look around, spend half an hour in a trance contemplating the infinite possibilities, and end up buying not a single button.

I didn’t have a plan. I didn’t want to limit myself, you know?

Vogue 7711, from 1952. Next version will be in a wool-silk for fall.

Vogue 7711, from 1952. Next version will be in a wool-silk for fall.

On this visit to Manhattan’s Garment District, I set myself the challenge of a creative limit: working with a plan. I packed only a few swatches, to look for coordinates for specific projects.

This didn’t rule out browsing, of course. It just focused my attention.

For my visit to M & J I wanted buttons to go with this brown and putty wool and silk tweed to make a cool-weather version of my big-pocketed waistcoat, Vogue 7711 from 1952. Surprisingly, my stash didn’t have the right size, color and number (6) of buttons needed.

I've sewn this fabric into a coat, pants, and skirt, too.

I’ve sewn this fabric into a coat, pants, and skirt, too.

Looking for buttons for a specific project turned out not to be limiting but freeing. Holding up my swatch against dozens of candidates, I examined widths, thicknesses, colors and color variations, shapes, plastics and woods, and styles quoting from different periods. Knowing what garment the buttons were for, what activities and occasions the garment was for, and how the garment would coordinate with other styles and colors in my wardrobe helped me choose.

Thousands of choices--but I managed, with a plan. (Photo: Cynthia DeGrand)

Thousands of choices–but I managed, with a plan. (Photo: Cynthia DeGrand)

I did not get overwhelmed, and I did make up my mind. I walked out of M & J with a purchase to complete a project.

A subtle wood-grain distinguishes this traditional button design.

A subtle wood-grain effect distinguishes this traditional button design.

My choice turned out to be about as traditional as they come, but it worked best with my fabric, garment and wardrobe.

Such a handy little giveaway: a button size chart.

Such a handy little giveaway: a button size chart.

At the cash register I picked up a nifty button size chart. What a nice bonus! Thanks, M & J!

(Thanks to Cynthia DeGrand for New York photos.)