One, two, buckle my shoe

Have you ever tried to buy a buckle? Despite the explosion of interest in dressmaking this is a product that is not easily available today. I tried a few haberdashery shops and market stalls, and came away disappointed.

If you look at buckle use on the internet you will see some lovely examples, this one by Karen, for example. She told me she had been sent the buckle as a gift! And Ooobop has used a lovely one on her turquoise dress. But most bloggers explain the buckle was in Grandma’s button box, or found in a second hand shop.

When I made a 1940s coat it needed a matching belt and I managed to buy a leather one at McCulloch and Wallis. When I made my blue SWAP skirt I needed a belt buckle for the back.

This time I bought one on the internet, via eBay. I got about 12 for £4, plus postage. Unfortunately some of them arrived broken. I felt a bit upset about the iridescent blue one as it had been a bit of a favourite.They broke because they are made out rather thin plastic that I think is known as bakelite.


However the silver one was perfect for my skirt and I pleased it was exactly the right size, phew. I think it looks like it comes from the 1960s whereas I am guessing most of the others come from the 1930s-1940s.

Spadea NS-249 Back buckle detail
Spadea NS-249 Back buckle detail

I only wanted one buckle but I bought a few because they are very lovely items. Here is a nice job lot that I turned down (at £20) because I just don’t need that many. You can see that metal, mother of pearl, leather, wood and horn were all used traditionally. Some of them have a pin in the middle so that they can fit multiple sizes (but made to measure clothes can just have one buckle hole!). I would love these beautiful items to have wider use. They really need to be deployed on fitted dresses with a fabric belt. I think they probably look best on skinny girls but our young women just don’t wear that sort of thing anymore, do they? I suppose there may be other purposes for them, but I can’t think of one, beyond keeping them in a box and admiring their lovely shapes, colours and materials.

Job lot of buckles on eBay (UK)
Job lot of buckles on eBay (UK)

Do you see yourself finding a role for these little beauties or is the buckle dead?

14 Responses

  1. Linde

    Ooooo my mouth is watering they are lovely especially the black ones. I used to have some lovely ones but they get used and if you give a garment away it’s not really possible to cut the buckle off! Bakelite is very brittle especially if it is thin so I’m not surprised some of them broke but it is a real shame.

  2. Karen Kayes

    I’m not really s buckle person, not because I don’t like them but because they usually go round your waist and it’s not an area where I need emphasis. Those are gorgeous though. Have you been to Bond’s in Farsley Leeds, yet? Their shop is jammed full of retro sewing supplies, at knock down prices too, including buckles. Might be worth visiting if you’re up North.

  3. DementedFairy

    Normal wear- definitely not, I like belts, but they don’t like me. However, once corseted and ready for steam punking, I have a waist, and belts look good…perhaps I should be browsing ebay for some goodies? Your skirt is looking lovely.

  4. LPC

    I spent a whole day trawling around 2 towns and 6 stores before I finally found the buckle I needed, to use as a slider to adjust the strap length of my messenger bag. Some of those buckles would look divine on bag straps I have to say…

  5. Kim Hood

    I have recently recommended a company called Harlequin ( ) from Manningtree in Essex to another blogger and they have buckles as they make belts from your fabric. They make great covered buttons and multiple other useful things. I have used them for years and feel very happy to recommend.

  6. Anne

    Lovely buckles! I wear belts with jeans and trousers but don’t tend to wear self fabric belts with dresses. I bought the Joan pattern though so might need one for that. I also have a couple of shirtwaisters to consider.
    I have loads of belts that have attracted me over the years but many are too wide to suit me. Some have nice buckles or clasps.

  7. Abbey

    What a shame that some of your buckles arrived broken, particularly your favorite one. Sadly, plastic from that era does become brittle over time, and celluloid in particular is delicate anyway, even when not 70 years old! I have a nice little stash of this type of buckle, primarily because of my interest in vintage clothing and sewing patterns. (That, and I cannot be bothered to set or sew eyelets on a belt–give me a sliding buckle any day!) I think they can add the perfect extra touch to a garment, particularly a dress with a self-fabric belt; some of those buckles are like having jewelry built right into your outfit!

    So no, not dead. =) There are some great suggestions above for more modern uses for these beauties, too!

  8. Stephanie

    As usual, I learned quite a bit from your readers! I like the idea of holding a scarf in place. Now I’m going to have to make a self belt for something, too, as these are so pretty.

  9. tamsinwp

    I have been having a bit of a sort out and am pretty sure I threw a buckle out…. I think I might have to dig it out of the bin! It’s not old or particularly pretty but it might be useful for someone.

  10. Alli

    Thank you for the reminder that I can find belt buckles on ebay! A few times recently, I’ve been looking at dress patterns with matching belts, but I dismiss the belt part immediately because I wouldn’t know where to get a buckle for it. doh!

  11. Gail

    We have some great stores that sell buckles and buttons. When I saw your image, I thought they’d look fantastic in a frame on the wall. There is something quite sculptural about them.

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