What is a Button Hook?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A button hook is a device which is designed to assist people with buttoning their garments. Originally, they were used by the Victorians, who wore a large number of button up garments such as shoes and gloves that could take hours to put on without the assistance of a hook. The useful devices were adopted by the disabled community because they allow one-handed buttoning, highly useful to someone who has suffered from a stroke or who has otherwise limited mobility.


The basic design of a button hook has remained much the same since Victorian times. It incorporates a handle, made from wood, rubber, or metal, and a “hook” made from a loop of wire. The loop has a small protrusion to catch the button in. To use a button hook, the hook is threaded through the button hole and then over the button. The dresser pulls the hook through, bringing the button through the button hole as well, and then gently pulls the hook free to move on to the next button. The simple process greatly eases and speeds dressing.

Many arthritis patients use a button hook as a therapeutic device.
Many arthritis patients use a button hook as a therapeutic device.

The elderly and disabled communities both use button hooks when they have garments that need to be buttoned or zipped, as most hooks can also catch a zipper handle as well. Many individuals with arthritis in particular find this tool a very useful arthritis aid. While there are specially designed garments for the less mobile, many disabled individuals feel that being able to wear normal clothing is liberating and empowering.

Button hooks can also be used by other communities as well: groups who enjoy dressing up in vintage clothing, for example, often enjoy the use of these tools to cut down on dressing time. Traditionally styled wedding dresses also often have a large number of buttons. Sometimes a dressmaker will provide clients with a complimentary button hook for formal wear.

In addition to finding button hooks in stores specially geared at older clientèle, you can also order them over the Internet. Most are relatively inexpensive. If you are purchasing a button hook due to limited mobility issues, make sure to get accurate measurements for the handle to determine whether or not it provides enough of a surface to grip. Try finding an item of comparable size around the house to hold so that you can test out how it feels.

An individual suffering from arthritis may have difficulty performing basic tasks such as getting dressed.
An individual suffering from arthritis may have difficulty performing basic tasks such as getting dressed.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a EasyTechJunkie researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


@malmal: Yes, I think they still do make modern ones. Try looking on ebay.


Wow, buttonhooks could be pretty useful to disabled people or those who have trouble dressing themselves, couldn't they? I always just thought of them as something antique and Victorian -- neat, but not necessary anymore. WiseGEEK has made me think twice! In fact, I think I'm going to recommend that my grandma give buttonhooks a try. She has arthritis really bad in her hands, and buttoning up clothing can be a difficult process for her to do without pain. Buttonhooks just might be the answer!

Just one question -- anybody know where I could buy buttonhooks that aren't antique or super expensive? Do they make more "modern" ones?


As a very enthusiastic fan of renaissance faires, I can say that honestly, I've worn many, many, *many* outfits with ridiculous amounts of buttons on them. Actually, since I make my outfits myself, I've had lots of experience sewing buttons onto clothing as well. Having a button hook tool on hand is absolutely a requirement, even if you've got someone to help you get dressed.

Victorian and medieval style clothing, since there were no zippers back then as ahain pointed out below, fasten everything entirely with buttons, tied sashes, and belt-like straps and buckles.

Anyway, I used to struggle with getting dressed for my renaissance faires. There were a few particularly frustrating times when my well-meaning but hasty friends accidentally tore some of the buttons off, forcing me to sew them back on right there. Once I got myself a button hook tool, though, things got so much easier. If you're a fellow renaissance faire fan, you shouldn't be without one!


@gimbell - Correct, zippers weren't invented in Victorian days. Actually, the switch from buttons and button hook to zipper pull and zippers didn't take place in clothing mainstream until as late as the 1930s. It's bizarre to even imagine clothing without zippers around nowadays, but before the 1930s, buttons were the way to go, and the way things had always been!

Personally, I kind of prefer the look of buttons over zippers. A shiny zipper doesn't beat a leather button for elegance to me. Call me old-fashioned, it's just what I like best.


So this is how those Victorians could design so many outfits with lines and lines of buttons and still manage to get dressed in under a few hours! I've always enjoyed the look of long rows of buttons close together, but never thought it was very practical. Victorian styles weren't really about being practical, though, I guess. Or maybe they were -- now that I know about this buttonhook tool, maybe buttons were a lot easier to use than I've been thinking!

Zippers weren't invented back then, right? Maybe they also used so many buttons because they just plain didn't have any other choice. Hmm.

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