The Economic Naturalist, part II

Why do women’s clothes always button from the left, while men’s clothes always button from the right?

…This is an example in which history really seems to matter.  When buttons first appeared in the seventeenth century, they were seen only on garments of the wealthy.  At that time it was the custom for men to dress themselves and for women to be dressed by servants.  Having women’s shirts button from the left thus made things easier for the mostly right-handed servants who dressed them…

Might there be a continuing rational reason for this difference, namely that the women’s approach looks better (does it?) but is harder, thus scaring off the men?  This sounds like a question for Fashion-Incubator.

In any case that excerpt is from Robert Frank’s new The Economic Naturalist.  Here is Craig Newmark’s review of the book.  Here is Brad DeLong on the book.  Here is my previous post on the book.

Comments

So that shirt of mine that buttons the wrong way is actually a blouse? How embarrassing.

I was told a different story: men's clothes button from the right so that the guard cannot get caught when the man draws a sword. Presumably, women want to make it clear that they don't use swords, so they use clothes that button from the left.

I'd also heard a story similar to Arthur's. I can't find a good link to it right now off Google (though I find a few bad links to it), but I'd heard that when men finished fencing they held the sword in their right hand and wanted to unbutton their jackets with their left hands.

Does anyone have experience buttoning and unbuttoning both types of shirts? Is it really easier to button a man's shirt?

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