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This Is Why Women's Shirt Buttons Are On The Left

Women have spent years buttoning their shirts a different way to men. But why?
PHOTO: Tamara Schlesinger

Have you ever wondered why men and women have shirts that are made to button up in completely opposite ways? 

If you think about it, something that you previously may not have questioned actually starts to seem ridiculouswhy make them different? What benefit could it ever be for women to have the buttons placed on the left of the shirt rather than the right? 

Well, Elle has rounded up a number of reasons as to why this clothing tradition, which has been around since the 1850s, was created in the first place.

According to Live Science, upper-class women historically had help getting dressed and so buttons were placed on the other side to make it easier for servants, who were mostly assumed to be right-handed. Men dressed themselves, so the buttons were on the right. 

Elle however points out that men were also dressed by servants in the 17th and 18th centuries, and buttons themselves didn't appear on women's clothing until 1860, 100 years after maids were first used for the task. Odd.

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And for those people who dressed themselves? Theories suggest that buttons stayed where they were so that poorer people could mimic the rich.

There's also one wild theory that Napoleon ordered the buttons to be moved so that women couldn't stick their right hand into their shirts in order to a mock a famous painting of the leader. 

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Maybe more realistically, some sources claim that women's buttons were on the left because it made breastfeeding easier, while men carried weapons in their right hand so found it easier to unbutton shirts with their left.

The last theory also sounds, sadly, fairly plausible. In Man and Woman: A Study of Secondary and Tertiary Sexual Characters, Havelock Ellis writes that the right to left buttoning of women's tops is to make a point that women "seem inferior to men" in "strength and in rapidity and precision of movement." As women began to borrow more of what were originally considered clothes for men e.g. trousers, shirts, the buttons were placed on a different side to signify a difference between the two.

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Whatever the reason, we're SO GOOD at buttoning our shirts, it doesn't really matter anyway.

This article originally appeared on Minor edits have been made by the editors.