Diana Epstein and How She Bought a Shop Full of Buttons

Hello I am Alix from Bigbluebed. Pleased to meet you. This is my first Button Floozie post.

‘Hmm, what shall I write?’ I pondered. And then I remembered a little book that I recently bought at a Second Hand Book Shop in Chichester. It is this book ‘Buttons’ by Diana Epstein, published in London by Studio Vista in 1968.

Now I like buttons. I think you know what I mean – filled with glee when finding a pot of buttons in a charity shop, gasps of delight when finding antique buttons, having fun sorting plain plastic buttons into colour.

So finding this book was wonderful.

Do you do that thing – put a wonderful new purchase away for a bit as you are too excited and too busy to devote the time to spend on it now? I do and so it was only recently that I took time to read the book. And I still haven’t really. I have just dipped into it with great pleasure.

In the book buttons are looked at chronologically, so it covers early buttons through, 18th century, and 19th century up to modern buttons (well modernish since this was published in 1968). There are lots of photographs of buttons, and also (and really exciting for me) illustrations which show old button making machines.

Second-hand copies of the book are available on places like Amazon.

I then began to wonder about Diana Epstein who wrote the book. She died in 1998 and I urge you to read her obituary here, as it tells of how her ‘need to replace some plastic (ugh!) buttons on a stylish new jacket led her down a rabbit hole of miniature wonder into an enchanted world awash in buttons’. She was looking for new buttons for her coat and ended up buying a button shop!

Diana Epstein and her partner Millicent Safro at first knew nothing about the history of their hundred of thousand buttons but they soon set about finding out. They became experts.

I like this bit in the obituary where is says ' to their eventual dismay, both had become so hopelessly hooked on buttons that selling a treasured set would make them cry.'

This shop Tender Buttons is, I believe, still open today. I love its website full of information and gorgeous photos of buttons. Pop over and have a look here.


purplestevie said…

Ive got to buy that book i shall pop over to amazon and have a look for it.
Are you in a buttons Society?
Tina Mammoser said…
Wow, I love stories of people who found a new passion and it became their life! And I know nothing about buttons but imagine that book shows they're like miniature social histories. :)
Anonymous said…
its a good thing I don't have more money or I'd end up buying a button shop too. I saw a fantastic little one right in the most unexpected place, the centre of the city in an arcade filled with modern pulp - you know what I mean, junk food, coffee, mobile phone accessories, hair salons that are too expensive.... and there it was... paradise!
LuLu Kellogg said…
The button on the front of that book is AMAZING! What a great find...thank you for sharing!

oh that was a wonderful post Alix - what a fantastic obituary too :)
{i fear mine would read crazy lady dies under mountain of buttons :D}
Ann said…
What a wonderful post, Alix. Thanks for linking that very special obituary. I look forward to your future posts.
Mosaic Magpie said…
For the love of buttons, she found a whole new life in that button shop. I can picture a tear running down her cheek as a patron leaves the shop.
Kathy said…
Great story and great links - thanks for sharing!
Laurie said…
Wow, I have to put this store on my list of places to visit!