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What Can I Do If I Lose a Shirt Button and Don’t Have a Duplicate to Replace it With?

Don't get despair if ever you lose a shirt button and can't find any duplicate or replacement. Save your buttoned shirts with these clever hacks for missing buttons.

Man unbuttoning his white long sleeve shirt.

Losing a button on a shirt usually isn’t such a big deal if you have a spare. If you don’t have a matching button, though, it can be hard to figure out what to do. The answer will often depend on the type of shirt, your personal style, and what you have available. Consider these options if you have a shirt that’s lost a button.

1. Find a similar button.

A red button stands out against the white buttons.

If you’ve lost a button on a white dress shirt, odds are you can find a similar button in a fabric store. Plain white buttons are usually pretty easy to find, and even if you can’t get a perfect match it’s likely that you’ll come so close that no one will really notice. This isn’t really an option for shirts that have colored or unusual buttons, however. It’s also a bad idea for anyone who needs to restore a designer or vintage shirt.

In fact, this is the preferred method of many Home Economics teachers. Consider this example.

“head on over to your local fabric- or craft store (if it’s a craft store, make sure it’s one that sells sewing notions) with your shirt in hand. Locate the section of sewing notions (needles, Velcro, and buttons, oh my!) and find the buttons that best match your shirt’s original buttons. To be honest, the button don’t have to match perfectly, they just have to match well enough to pass at a glance. If the button is missing from your shirt’s placket rather than the sleeve, simply swap the mismatched placket button for one from the shirt’s cuff. (The not-quite-matching button will be much less noticeable on your sleeves.)”

2. Request a button from the manufacturer.  

Close-up of man arranging his cufflinks.

If you do have a designer shirt on which it’s important to have the buttons match exactly, then it might make sense to ask the manufacturer for a spare button. Check the tag for a lot or serial number for your shirt; some higher end designers will even give names to each of their designs. Then, go to the designer website and ask for a spare button. If you can’t find what type of shirt you have, take it to the store you bought it from.

It’s important to realize, however, that this will only work for high-end clothing. Shirts that are sold by lower-end manufacturers or are part of “fast fashion” will likely not be able to supply you with a new button. Typically, this is because once the company has run a lot of a particular shirt, they sell off any excess materials and move on to the next lot. They do not keep spare buttons around.

3. Go with non-matching buttons.  

Top view of a jar filled with various kinds of buttons.

If you have a casual shirt, or if you just want to be a little different, consider replacing your missing button with something completely different. This design idea is great for casual shirts, especially if you use fun novelty buttons. Consider using buttons that look like palm trees or tropical fish for a Hawaiian shirt. Depending on your style, you can replace just one button or all of them. On a more formal shirt, you have the option of replacing all the buttons, but making them all match each other.  

While this is a lot of work, it is also a way to make a piece of clothing truly unique. It is pretty rare to find a ready-to-wear shirt with different buttons, so if this look is pulled off correctly it can look like a custom-made shirt.

4. Remove the button and sew the hole closed.

Woman sewing her button shirt.

If the missing button is at the top or bottom of a shirt, consider sewing its buttonhole closed and leaving it off. If you tuck the shirt in and the missing button is at the base of the shirt, then no one will notice that it is missing. Removing the button from the top of the shirt is a good choice for polo shirts and other styles of shirts that are usually worn with the top button unbuttoned.

Do not remove the top button from a formal shirt. Even if you typically leave the top button unbuttoned, it will be obvious that the shirt is missing a button. For a formal shirt, replacing the button (even if it means replacing all the buttons) is the better option.

5. Remove all the buttons.

Man with unbuttoned flannel over a black sando poses against the brick wall.

This may seem a little extreme, but it can be a good way to save a shirt when all else fails. Once the buttons are all removed, wear the shirt over a sleeveless undershirt. This can be a great casual look.

There are plenty of ways to “fix” a shirt that has lost a button, even if there is no way to get a new button. Try out all of these ideas before you throw away your clothes.