What Are Fastenings in Textiles?

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

There's a lot that goes into textile design. In this lesson, we are going to explore fastenings and see how different kinds can completely change the function and appearance of a finished textile product.


There are a lot of decisions that go into making a clothing purchase. Imagine buying a pair of pants. You want to find something that fits you well, allows for an appropriate amount of movement, and looks good. You also want pants that won't fall down.

Textile designers have to take all of these needs into account, and that last one in particular can be resolved using fastenings. Fastenings are objects attached or built into a textile that allow the material to be fastened (just as the name implies). For those of us who prefer that our clothes not randomly fall apart, it's an important consideration.

Use of Fastenings

Let's start by talking about the uses of fastenings. Yes, the ultimate purpose is to keep the textile together, but textile designers need to think about this in a number of ways. First, they need to consider how a fastening will impact the function of a textile. Here are some of the basic questions a textile designer might ask when debating fastening function:

  • How quickly or often will this textile need to be fastened and unfastened? For example, when you put your pants on, you generally keep them on for a long time. That may be different than a light jacket you put on and take off multiple times a day. So, you may need a fastening that can be quickly used and undone on the jacket.
  • How secure does the fastening need to be? Some textiles are not used very heavily, so they don't need very strong fastenings. Others go through a lot of wear and tear, and the fastening has to be able to manage that.
  • How will the fastening impact the material or integrity of the textile? Most fastenings require creating a hole or adding an object to the textile, which can weaken it. A light jacket with a few holes might be okay, but would those same fastenings work for a raincoat?
  • How will the fastening impact the cost? This is important to consider as well. Some fastenings are cheaper than others, which will make the overall garment cheaper.

This sort of fastening impacts the usability of a textile in different ways than other fastenings.

Apart from these very important functional considerations, designers also have to worry about aesthetics. After all, who wants to buy a pair of pants that you'll be too embarrassed to wear? Some fastenings are discreet and covered. Others are large and prominent, becoming part of the aesthetic design.

In the early colonial era, for example, many European societies became obsessed with large buttons, which were sewn all over their clothing. There was not function to these buttons; it was all about the look. That was the height of fashion then, but if you wore suspenders with huge brass buttons today, you might raise a few eyebrows.

Are these buttons at all functional, or are they simply aesthetic?

Types of Fastenings

Each type of fastening has its own advantages and disadvantages. Let's get to know a few of them, and consider why designers might choose each one.

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