Generally speaking, button sizes fall into three basic categories – small, medium and large but they can be further broken down into precise diameter measurements. Buttons serve multiple functions as they fasten clothing and add decorative flair. They have evolved into one of the most versatile accessories for the dressmaker and home sewer.
Button Sizes Tutorial
The coming of age of plastics and mass production has allowed buttons to become affordable and infinitely varied in color, shape and button sizes. This tutorial will show you how buttons are measured, give a button sizes chart and answer some of your common questions about button sizes.
Button Sizes - How are Buttons Measured
Buttons are measured in "ligne" which is a French term to measure length. A ligne button measurement starts at 1 and is abbreviated to 1L. The L is measured across the diameter of the button using the widest portion.
Fashion buttons and designer buttons are manufactured in limited editions, and the sizes can vary from 10L up to 60L or larger.
Further Reading: Types of Buttons
Button Sizes Chart
Here is a button size chart with the ligne converted to inches and millimeters. Note there is a small amount of rounding in the conversions. You will notice that some of the measurements between buttons are very small.
What are Standard Button Sizes?
Shirts have a standard size of 16L, and a bigger button size 32L is the norm for jackets. Many of my kid's sewing patterns use 20L buttons which is the ½" size.
Although there are standard button sizes for specific patterns, it is always possible to change the size of your button for a bigger or smaller button and adjust the buttonhole length accordingly.
The spacing of the buttons and buttonholes on the article or garment is an important facet of using buttons to their full potential.
When choosing any button sizes including standard button sizes, look at the depth of the button as that will affect the look and the size of the buttonhole required.
Alternatives to Button Sizes
There are several alternatives to sewing buttons on your projects, including snaps, Velcro, zippers, and hooks. My favorite alternative to buttons is to use snaps.
- Alternatives to Buttons
- How to Use Kam Snaps
- Sewing Velcro
- How to Sew a Zipper
- How to Sew a Hook and Eye
- Sew on Snaps - Press Studs
Button Sizes FAQs
What Does the L Stand for in Button Sizes?
The L stands for Ligne, which is a French word denoting a code for button sizes. It measures the diameter of the button. 1 Ligne is equal to 1/40 of an inch
What Size is a 20mm Button?
A 20mm button is equal to 30 ligne or 30L and is ¾ inch in diameter. This is a common sizing button for jackets and larger items.
What Size Is a Small Button?
The term small button is quite subjective, but most small buttons are under ½ inch (12mm) in diameter. The typical business shirt has buttons that are around that popular size.
How Do You Measure the Diameter of a Button?
The diameter of a button is simply measured across its surface from one side to another. To get accurate measurements on rounded buttons, you can use a caliper which is a tool with adjustable jaws. Flat buttons can be measured with a ruler or tape measure.
Are Buttons Measured by Diameter or Circumference?
Button dimensions are measured by their diameter and not their circumference. This diameter is reported in ligne, which is a button code, inches or millimeters.
Button Sizes - In Conclusion
In your sewing notions stash, you can never have too many button sizes to mix and match on your garments.
However, if you suffer from koumpounophobia, the fear of buttons, you may want to avoid buttons regardless of their size!
More Button Tutorials
Here are more articles on sewing buttons and buttonholes: