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The Closing Of A New York Sewing Landmark

June 29, 2020

I have been thinking for a while of sharing my newsletters on our website. I write these letters every two to three weeks to put thoughts related to our sewing community in writing. I will post these missives on the web for all to read.

I was sent to Tender Buttons by Teddy and Richard from Buttonology, a great wholesale resource in NYC. My family was visiting NYC last Christmas for a fun getaway. I had a list of fashion/store related stops to make while in New York. But, we went out of our way to visit Tender Buttons, which was on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

Tender Buttons was a throwback to the old specialty stores of decades ago. It was a small store that was very long and narrow and only 12 1/2 feet wide and was stacked floor to ceiling with nothing but buttons. You can see a video of the shop through the link below.

I will summarize from a couple of articles, but will link you back to them if you want to read the entire text. Tender Buttons was owned by partners Diana Epstein and Millicent Safro. Diana was book editor who in decided to replace the ugly plastic buttons on a new jacket, and went in search of new buttons to a place she had been before only to find the shop closed. The owner had died and Diana decided to buy out all of the stock which went back to the 1930’s and included several hundred thousand buttons. She bought all these buttons for the tidy sum of $5,000. She met Millicent Safro, an antiques restorer, not long afterwards at a party. They set up the store, and went on to write three books on buttons. The store moved to its location shown in the photo above in 1968, and it became more than a store but a true passion for both women as they collected buttons from around the world. They also sold their buttons to people throughout the world, but just to drop a few names: Candice Bergen, Bill Blass, Catherine Deneuve, Greta Garbo, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Brook Shields, Paloma Picasso, Kermit the Frog, …

Diana Epstein felt the buttons should not overpower the garment, and she wore handmade clothes of her own designs from fabrics purchased overseas. It was an amazing place I could have spent hours exploring.

These types of stores are disappearing, so go out and visit and support these fun places. I found a great site where you can find other shops of this type called the SHOPKEEPERS, unfortunately, craft shops such as sewing and knitting shops weren’t represented, but many other types of shops were. Go out and seek out these small stores. They are fun to visit and you are sure to find something unique!


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