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  • Published: 15 May 2017
  • ISBN: 9780099593096
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 320
  • RRP: $22.99

The Button Box

Lifting the Lid on Women's Lives

An ingenious tour of domestic and social history over the last century (Guardian) - the story of women in the twentieth century told through the clothes they wore

A wooden box holds the buttons of three generations of women in Lynn Knight’s family – each one with its own tale to tell...

Tracing the story of women at home and in work, from the jet buttons of Victorian mourning, to the short skirts of the 1960s, taking in suffragettes, bachelor girls, little dressmakers, Biba and the hankering for vintage, The Button Box lifts the lid on women’s lives and their clothes with elegance and wit.

  • Published: 15 May 2017
  • ISBN: 9780099593096
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 320
  • RRP: $22.99

About the author

Lynn Knight

Lynn Knight was born in Derbyshire and lives in London. The women of her family, who have passed on many stories along with beaded bags and buttoned gauntlets, fostered her interest in the texture and narratives of women's lives. She is also the author of the biography Clarice Cliff (2005), and a memoir, Lemon Sherbet and Dolly Blue: The Story of an Accidental Family (2011).

Praise for The Button Box

A charming work of social history


Knight explores her own family's history and, in parallel, the intimate history of women in the 20th century. The politics of being a modern woman are revealed through changing fashions. In Knight's hands, buttons - the humblest of everyday objects - become portals into the past, charting our progress along that road.

Lucy Moore, Literary Review

Charming book. Knight's brilliant notion is to use the button box she inherited from her grandmother as a way of delving into the fabric, literal and metaphorical, of the women who wore them. A patchwork of memory, anecdote and deft quotation.

Daisy Goodwin, The Sunday Times

Inspired by her own shimmering box of toggles, clasps and buckles, Knight takes us on an ingenious tour of domestic and social history over the last century. From this core of very personal material, Knight writes more generally of ordinary women's lives and changing prospects over three generations, of clothes as self-expression, as defiance, as entertainment, as evidence of frugality and frivolity all rolled into one.

Claire Harman, Guardian

The drama of women's lives from the 19th to the mid-20th century was hidden in plain sight among the brightly coloured buttons that rattled so enticingly in [Knight's] grandmother's Quality Street tin. Fascinating social history.

Jane Shilling, Daily Mail

An unusual and irresistibly delightful account of more than a century's worth of women's lives. This is a book to make you smile, a story luminous with nostalgia. Delicious gem of a book.

Juliet Nicolson, Spectator

[Knight] quotes like a dream, cherry-picking bon mots from sources far, wide and delightful... There are plenty of curious and quirky details.

Shahidha Bari, Financial Times

A sweeping look at how women's clothing has developed as our place in society has evolved. A delight.

Shirley Whiteside, Independent

Broader social history is approached through the rich, vivid stories. These buttons.tell an intimate story of changing times.

Louise Carpenter, Sunday Telegraph

Each trinket of the past comes to life, giving a nice nostalgic and informative look into the history of fashion, the Great War and even a few comical anecdotes on sex and relationships.

Phil Robinson, Northern Echo

Lively trip through haberdashery history.

Iain Finlayson, Saga

I found this a great read for all ages and a genuine insight into the social history of different times.

Phil Robinson, Yorkshire Post

Knight is a lively minded writer. Knight trims her story with wonderful arcane clothes-related information.

Claire Harman, Guardian Weekly

If ever there was a case for book groups to abandon fiction. [This] is it. Irresistible.

WI Life

If you spent many happy hours as a child messing about with buttons, you'll love The Button Box


A box which contains the buttons of three generations of women in Lynn Knight's family is at the centre of this book, and is both ordinary and remarkable, prosaic and magical. The only illustrations of the buttons and clothes in the book appear on the dust jacket and at the start of each chapter, yet through Knight's prose we are able to vividly picture them and ourselves rummaging through an old button box, imagining the dresses and the lives that they once belonged to

Sophie Woodward, Times Literary Supplement

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