Antique, Modern and More at Tender Buttons

Antique, Modern and More at Tender Buttons

Celebrating their 50th anniversary this year, Tender Buttons calls the Upper East Side home and definitely does not sell zippers. “Zippers are the enemy,” owner Millicent Safro quipped, when I visited the shop last week. And why would you need them, when you can find thousands of antique, vintage and modern buttons lining the walls of Safro’s shop?

Tender Buttons receives new buttons everyday and many regulars come in frequently to find new accessories to add to their wardrobe. Safro explained that many designers shop at the store and come from all over the world. She also mentioned the surprising amount of male customers, who come to the shop to peruse its selection of over 500 styles of blazer buttons.

In addition to selling buttons, Tender Buttons also showcases antique pieces. Some of these are for sale, but Safro also collects them for display. Recent acquisitions include a French tortoise button (circa 1900-10), made of metal and paste. A set of miniature wooden faces was also recently displayed in the shop in honor of Nelson Mandela.

Other buttons are designed specially for the shop. One of my favorites was a decorative set of alphabetical birds. Safro showed me another set by the same designer, a selection of seed packets, and explained that the designer is currently working on a new series for Tender Buttons.

Safro’s favorites “vary from day to day,” she said, showing me some of her current picks: a set of inlaid wood buttons and one made of various French and American calico patterns (circa 1850-60).

Looking to update your wardrobe or find a present for your favorite seamstress? Visit for more information.

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