Proper Placements for Buttons & Buttonholes

Proper Placements for Buttons & Buttonholes

I always thought the positions of button and buttonhole are pretty self-explanatory. But more than one occasion, I have seen buttons that were placed a bit too close to the edge of a garment. I haven’t seen anyone discussing the topic in a blog post, so I thought I could contribute a little to the world of button and buttonhole placements.

Size Matters

Let’s talk about size. The rule of thumb is that the buttonhole is 1/8″ (3 mm) bigger than the button. Hence,

  • 1/2″ button uses 5/8″ buttonhole (1.25 cm button uses 1.6 cm buttonhole)
  • 5/8″ button uses 3/4″ buttonhole (1.6 cm button uses 1.9 cm buttonhole)
  • 3/4″ button uses 7/8″ buttonhole (1.9 cm button uses 2.2 cm buttonhole)

So on and so forth.

If your button is big (such as 1 1/2″ or 3.8 cm), then you could add 1/4″ (6 mm) instead of 1/8″ (3 mm).

Note that the size of the buttonhole is the actual opening. It doesn’t count the little bars before or after the actual hole.

Button Placement

From a design perspective, you could put buttons anywhere you’d like on a garment. But let’s talk about center front buttons as in a button-down shirt. I guess that is the most common placement of buttons.

In a button-down shirt, the buttons are placed in the center front. That makes perfect sense, right? You want the buttons to be exactly where the center is, not a little skewed to the right or a little skewed to the left (unless that’s the design element).

I may be Mrs. Obvious here, but only after spelling out the fact that center-front buttons are placed on the center front, then you can start to place the buttonholes accordingly.

Vertical Buttonhole Placement

When making a vertical buttonhole, the button should be sewn in the very center of the buttonhole. That means the length of the buttonhole is on the center front too in the case of a center front button down shirt.

Button & Buttonhole Placement - Vertical

Note that the black dot is not the entire button; it is just where I would sew the button on the corresponding side.

Horizontal Buttonhole Placement

A horizontal buttonhole, however, is different. We already established that the button is sewn on the center front. So now it’s a matter of how we place the corresponding buttonhole.

The buttonhole is not centered over the button; it is back off from the center front.

Button & Buttonhole Placement - Horizontal


  • the buttonhole start 1/8″ (3 mm) from the button (toward “Left-hand Side (as worn)”).
  • the rest of the buttonhole is at the right-hand side (as worn) of the button. For example, if your buttonhole is 3/4″ (1.9 cm), then 1/8″ (3 mm) is on the left-hand side of the button and 5/8″ (1.6 cm) is on the right-hand side of the button.

This makes sense because when you wear your button-down shirt, you will be moving around. Naturally, the front of the shirt will be pulled open until it is stopped. With this placement of the buttonhole, the button will not appear to jump out of the edge of the placket after moving around.

Hope it helps!

Happy sewing!